Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faithful Journeys: A Program about Pilgrimages of Faith in Action for Grades 2-3

Alternate Activity 1: Foot-Washing Ceremony

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Liquid soap, preferably ecologically friendly
  • Dish pans or other large basins, one for every three participants
  • Paper towels for wiping the basins
  • Washcloths, one per participant
  • Hand towels, one per participant
  • Unscented lotion
  • One child-size chair for every three children

Preparation for Activity

  • Identify a water source near the meeting space where you can fill, empty, and refill basins.
  • Shortly before beginning this activity, fill the basins with hot water so the water will be comfortably warm for use.
  • Set each basin in front of a chair. Next to each chair place three washcloths and three hand towels.

Description of Activity

In this activity, participants experience giving and receiving respect and caring from peers by washing one another's feet.

Have participants take off their shoes and socks. Then, form trios by counting off ones, twos and threes. (Or, you may wish to form groups of children who will likely work well together in this activity.) Ask all the "ones" to sit in a chair and the "twos" and "threes" to sit at the seated child's feet.

Explain, in your own words:

The Christian bible has a story about how Jesus washed the feet of his apostles, the people who followed him. Jesus did this to show he was not more important than the others, even though many thought he was a special teacher. He wanted people to realize that none of us is more important or valuable than another.

Because of this story about Jesus, foot washing is a Christian ritual. When we wash each other's feet today, it is a way to show we are being humble, like Jesus was in the story. Unitarian Universalists do not think one person is more important or worthwhile than another. We will each have a chance to give and receive respect.

Tell the children if something tickles they should ask their foot-washers to press a little harder. Emphasize that when it is their turn to be a foot-washer, children should be gentle and respectful.

Have the children on the floor each wash one foot of the child in the chair, using the soap and washcloth. After a few minutes of washing, one foot-washer should towel the child's feet dry with the seated child's hand towel and rub lotion on both feet. The other foot-washer should dump out the dirty water and fill the basin with warm, clean water. If the water source is far away or the basin heavy, co-leaders should do this job.

Once there is a second basin full of clean water, one of the foot-washers should now sit in the chair. Repeat the process until all children in the trio have had an opportunity to have their feet washed.

Including All Participants

If any in the group are especially ticklish, unable to feel their feet, or squeamish about the foot-washing ceremony, have the children wash one another's hands instead.