Maundy Thursday with Children – Practical Suggestions

bread and wine

“We taught the children to sing “Ubi Caritas,” which they continued to chant throughout the foot-washing…”

Editors note: The services of the Triduum are the holiest of our church year. We know it’s vitally important to include all of our congregants…but what do you do with the non-reading crowd? At St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in College Park, Md, where there are nearly three dozen children aged eight and under, Elizabeth Ewing offers a special opportunity on Maundy Thursday.

A new service takes shape
St. Andrew’s has a traditional Maundy Thursday service and foot-washing, and for Holy Week 2013 a committee of parents and I developed a service open to the entire congregation, but especially suited to children.

The early evening service had three stations:  a long, common table for Eucharist and our shared meal; an area for foot-washing; and an area for drawing our footprints on a large cloth. (The cloth has become an altar hanging.)

We began our meal with the Eucharist, during which we told the story of the Last Supper according to the Gospel of John and sang “This is My Commandment that you love one another.” One parent baked challah bread for the occasion, marking this as a special evening.

Ewing Maundy Thursday 3

Foot tracing and foot washing
After supper we moved to the footprint and foot-washing stations. We had a large cloth of heavy white cotton, and children and adults used fabric markers to trace their feet and color in the footprints on the cloth.

After tracing our feet, we moved to the foot-washing. A wise parent suggested that we use damp washcloths placed in warming crockpots, thus preventing any major water spills from water pitchers. One of my favorite moments was when a young boy shouted out early on to his very well-dressed mother, “I want to wash your feet, Mommy.” We taught the children to sing “Ubi Caritas,” which they continued to chant throughout the foot-washing.

Maundy Thursday cloth from Elizabeth

Leaving the space
Closing in prayer, we said together:

Jesus, You showed us how much you love us and taught us to love You, ourselves and one another.   We pray that all people may live together joyously, giving and receiving love.  In your Holy Name, AMEN.

And we departed in (near) silence.

Elizabeth Ewing is the Assistant Rector and Director of Children and Youth Ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in College Park, Md.  She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary.  

This article originally appeared in the Episcopal Teacher, published by the Center for the Ministry of Teaching.

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