Maundy Thursday

Communion Service

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton

Rev. Douglas Taylor and Aileen Fitzke


Chalice Lighting

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”  (John 13:34) We light our chalice to remember the call to serve love.  May the fire within our chalice cup inspire us to fill our own cups with mercy, peace and love.

(ring bowl)

Call to Worship             O Come You Longing Thirsty Souls

(1st vs only, sung acapella)

Invocation                                                  -by Ruppert Lovely

O, Spirit which commends us to the world and it to us, make known to us the many varieties of human aspiration; open our eyes that we may see beyond the obvious, through the might of worldly powers, and find guidance in the many ways you are revealed.  Bend our compassion to all who suffer because of greed and arrogant pride.  Help us to find still the work in the world which restored hope to the hopeless, courage to the fearful, and trust to the betrayed.  Amen.

Hymn #47   Now on Land and Sea Descending

Foot Washing                         An Invitation

Maundy Thursday re-creates the Passover meal celebrated by Jesus just before he was arrested and crucified.  Traditionally, before a ritual meal in the first century, when the guests entered the home, a servant washed their feet.  In the passage from the Gospel of John, which we are about to read, we will hear about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  It is symbolic of the idea of servant leadership; that life is about service and about love of neighbor. In these times, when authoritarian leadership is dominant in our consciousness, it is important for leaders to model this kind of service.   In traditional Christian churches the priest or minister takes on the role of Jesus and washes the feet of select congregants to welcome them to the Maundy Thursday service.  Tonight, immediately following our opening readings, we will be inviting you to come forward and allow Douglas and me to wash your feet. 

Foot Washing                                   Scripture

John 13:4-17 (NRSV)

4[Jesus] got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Foot Washing                                   Reading

by Amy Jill-Levine (Commentary) from Entering the Passion Of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week

“Foot Washing takes on different symbolism depending on whose feet are being washed and who is doing the washing.  Foot washing…is a sign of humility.  It’s a sign of service, and it is an action regularly in the first century performed by slaves.  Jesus’ point: No one is to lord it over another, and that those who claim to be his followers should do what he does in service to others…More this service involves intimacy…service is up close and personal; service is something others can see and appreciate; service means getting down off one’s high horse and manifesting meekness and humility.  It teaches us that we are not the important ones: the ones we serve are the ones who are important.  And, we, in turn, might receive that same service when we need it.  The foot washing may be a singular event, but its meaning should permeate one’s life.”

Instructions for Foot Washing

We invite you to come forward and be seated in the front row.  Please remove your socks and shoes and place them next to you.  Aileen will hand you a towel which you will place on your lap.  Then Douglas and Aileen will kneel before you, pour water on your feet and dry them with the towel.  When we are finished washing everyone’s feet, you can put your shoes back on and return to your seats.

Musical Interlude         

(People come forward for the foot washing ritual)

Responsive Reading       by Robert Eller-Isaacs (based on Matthew 25)

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.

I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit.

Let all who hunger come and eat.

Here is the fruit of the vine, pressed and poured out for us.

Let all who thirst now come and drink.

We come to break bread.  We come to drink the fruit of the vine.  We come to make peace.

May we never praise God with our mouths while denying in our hearts or by our acts the love that is our common speech.

I come to be restored in the love of God.  I come to be made new as an instrument of that love.

I know I am worthy.  I know that I am welcome. 

All are worthy.

All are welcome.

Come into the embrace and remembrance of this communion.

Affirmation                   by Douglas Taylor

What sacrifices would you make for freedom? 

The Seder meal commemorating the flight of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt is a meal of remembrance.  It is a meal to remember the sacrifice and the loss and the journey and the promise.  The Jewish people to this day share this Passover meal to remember and be renewed.

What discipline do you share that renews your spirit? 

The meal Jesus shared with his disciples was a Seder meal.  As these thirteen Jews sat and ate, the meaning of the meal shifted and grew into something new.  And Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Thereby taking the suffering and the promise upon himself.  We find the word Maundy, for so this service is named, comes from the Latin root Mandatum commandment, in reference to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”  The Christian people to this day share this meal to remember the call to love and the promise of connection to the divine.

Do you feel the connection that binds you to all, that binds you to freedom? 

Unitarian Universalists see and respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  The meal we now share together is a communion meal.  Again as a group of people gather and eat, the meaning of the meal is shifting and growing into something more.  Communion shall not be contained to eating and drinking, communion shall not be limited to this small hour.  As you take food and drink into yourself, the food and the drink become a part of you, and you become part of the food and the drink.  As we share the meal, we also share of each other.  You become the bread, you become the juice or wine.  You become your neighbor, and shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I become you and you become me as we share together this food which is us.  We are the universe eating universe.

We become one with the poor and the dis-empowered, we become one with the suffering and the promise.  We become one with all who share food together and we become one with all who have none.  We become one with the trees and the hills and the vines and the fields.  And we become one with our God. 

Hymn #406          Let us Break Bread Together


We gather at this table to celebrate our community, and our communion with sacred sun and soil and the Spirit which sustains all.  The breaking of bread is a sign of our community.  The sharing of juice or wine is a mark of our communion.  We enact a model of action which can redeem the world.  We share this food and drink as a visible sign beyond the spoken word, as an act of power and empowerment.  We partake of this food and drink as a sign of our covenant with all humanity, as an expression of our sacred concern for one another, as a symbol of our commitment to live in peace with all beings.  As we prepare this table of life and unity, may we join our hearts with those who have so loved the world that they have been willing to live and die in its behalf.  All are welcome at this table, without regard for class or creed, belief or unbelief, for the community we share is larger than these.  Let us render thanks for life, and let us keep the feast.

I invite you to read with me the Unison Thanksgiving printed in the order of service:

For this gift of life,

we give thanks

For the opportunities to sow the seeds

of love and justice, we give thanks

For our hunger and thirst that spurs us

into deeper understanding, we give thanks

For all that sustains us in our search of

the good and the holy, we give thanks

You are invited to come forward and up to the table one at a time to receive the bread or gluten free cracker as well as the wine or juice. You may then partake here at the front or return to your seat to partake in your own time.

Let the people come forth and receive the gifts of the earth and of the spirit

Musical Interlude

(People come forward to receive communion)

“The bread of life broken open for you”

“The blood of life poured out for you”

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Gracious and loving God

From Whom all things come

And to Whom all things return

We who gather this hour,

sharing in the blessings of life and love,

give thanks to all that is holy

that we are at one with thee. 

As we partake of the good earth,

may the good earth become one with each of us.

As we share together this meal of blessings,

may we each become one with each other. 

As we eat and drink

may the God that is known by many names

though contained by none of them,

become one with each hungering, thirsting, longing, loving, searching soul. 

May this hour give this people

and indeed the whole world

a greater abundance of

life-giving truth and goodwill. 

In the name of all that is holy, may it be so.


Hymn #123          Spirit of Life

Benediction                             by Marcel Duhamel

The feast is now ended, let us depart in peace.  May we go forth from our time together with willing hands and honest minds, with faith in the power of goodness, ready to take our place in the world.  May it be so.  Amen and blessed be.