Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Let Us Worship Barefoot

By Gail Forsyth-Vail

bare feet (2)

bare feet (2)

Let us worship with our eyes and ears and fingertips; let us love the world through heart and mind and body.
Reverend Kenneth Patton

In May, my daughter was married in an outdoor ceremony in Vermont. She and her new husband walked barefoot over a grassy pathway marked with hyacinth petals to reach the waiting officiant. It was lovely and appropriate; their bare feet symbolized both the solemnity and the playful joy of the occasion.

There is something profoundly spiritual about touching the earth with bare feet. There’s a solidity there, and an unmediated connection with the Spirit of Life, with all that is.

In Hebrew scripture, when Moses approached the burning bush he heard the voice of G-d telling him to put off his shoes. The place where he was standing was holy ground. I AM was present there, the Ground of Being, and Moses, in awe, removed his shoes. When I tell that familiar story in multigenerational worship settings, I ask people of all ages to remove their shoes, to feel their feet against the floor, connecting through it to the earth below. In that act, I ask them to understand that when we are in worship, experiencing the call to be fully present, fully loved and fully loving, that place is holy ground.

Many of us spend a good deal of time barefoot in the summer, enjoying the playfulness and ease of moving across or through grass, sand, smooth rocks, and shallow water. Can you imagine moments of barefoot family worship? Wiggle your toes, the whole family together. Feel the air against your foot, the warmth of the sun, the dampness of the grass or sand or stones. Remember that the air that touches you, that moves around your wiggling toes, is the same air that has been cycling through the breath of animals, plants, and other creatures for millions of years. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Is it smooth or rough, warm or cold, damp or dry? Feel your connection with the whole earth and with all that is. Imagine that through the earth you are connected to all beings and to the Ground of Being, the Spirit of Life, G-d.

Walk, run, or simply remain in one place, the flesh of your feet against the solidity of the earth. Be fully present, fully loved, and fully loving. Enjoy the moment in silence, in awe, and then in playful joy.

Let us worship with our eyes and ears and fingertips – and with bare feet! Happy Summer!

About the Author

Gail Forsyth-Vail

Gail Forsyth-Vail, a credentialed religious educator, master level, is the author or developmental editor of several UU history curricula and resources. Before retiring, she served as interim director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Lifespan Faith Engagement Office.


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