How is the feet-washing ritual observed during Lent? How many denominations actually do this, besides the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England? What is significance of maintaining this tradition to the modern era, and can anyone get its feet washed or wash the feet of others?

  • This question is specifically mentioned in a Meta question but its scope has expanded considerably from what was suggested there. The "How many denominations" part is problematic. Jul 24 '13 at 9:50

When tied to a specific day of the church calendar, foot-washing is most often observed on Maundy Thursday, often in the evening. This day commemorates Jesus' Last Supper with the disciples before his crucifixion the next day. The Last Supper is the day Jesus washed his disciples' feet (see John 13:1-17).

Outside the more traditional churches, there is probably less consistency between local congregations as to whether the practice is observed. The manner of the foot-washing depends on the denomination as well as the local congregation. For example, the Pope traditionally washes the feet of twelve representative people. In an Anglican church, the minister may wash the feet of the whole congregation.

For further information, see Rev. Ken Collins' page How to conduct a foot-washing service.


According to en.wikipedia.org , Foot washing is observed by many denominations, not only Roman Catholics. But in non-catholic denominations, the rite is not necessarily observed during Lent only.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Protestant practice:

Foot washing is observed by numerous Protestant and proto-Protestant groups, including Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal, and Pietistic groups, some Anabaptists, and several types of Baptists. Foot washing rites are also practiced by many Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches, whereby foot washing is most often experienced in connection with Maundy Thursday services and, sometimes, at ordination services where the Bishop may wash the feet of those who are to be ordained. Though history shows that foot washing has at times been practiced in connection with baptism, and at times as a separate occasion, by far its most common practice has been in connection with the Lord's supper service. The Moravian Church practiced Foot Washing until 1818. There has been some revival of the practice as other liturgical churches have also rediscovered the practice.

The observance of washing the saints' feet is quite varied, but a typical service follows the partaking of unleavened bread and wine. Deacons (in many cases) place pans of water in front of pews that have been arranged for the service. The men and women participate in separate groups, men washing men's feet and women washing women's feet. Each member of the congregation takes a turn washing the feet of another member. Each foot is placed one at a time into the basin of water, is washed by cupping the hand and pouring water over the foot, and is dried with a long towel girded around the waist of the member performing the washing. Most of these services appear to be quite moving to the participants.

In some churches, the Bishop may wash the feet of those newly ordained deacons.


  1. Unification Church USA. Source
  2. The Church of England: Source (Notes 14)

    14 Foot-washing

    Before the Welcome, the bishop may wash the feet of the newly ordained deacons. Appropriate hymns or chants such as Ubi Caritas may be sung. After the foot-washing, John 13.12-17 may be read.


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