Maundy Thursday 2015 {+ Foot Washing Altarscape)

Let’s continue making our way through Holy Week, shall we?  I love that I can chronicle my crazy journey through ministry in this space – if it only means that I can look back on it next year when I’m out of ideas and pulling my hair out!

We had one mid-week Holy Week service – Maundy Thursday Worship & Service of Tenebrae.  Because we were telling both the story of Jesus’ last night and his death in one service, I wanted to find a way to honor both stories.  So here’s what we did …

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I set up the altar to tell the story of the foot washing.  New Englanders aren’t big on actually participating in a foot washing (not yet anyway!) but it is such an important story to tell.  I read the the story before communion and before I started I said something akin too:

“Our first scripture reading tonight comes from the Gospel of John.  It tells the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, a story we see displayed on the altar.”

That added a really nice depth to the story!  It just kind of reminded people of what they were listening to before I started.

Follow this reading, we sang a hymn and then shared communion.  This is how I had the communion table set up!


I don’t have a great photo of this because I kept the platters of cheese and grapes in the refrigerator until right before the service started (food safety > altar design).  By the time we brought out the platters there were people in the sanctuary preparing for their worship experience and it wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to pull out my big camera.  Essentially I covered the communion table in black fabric and then made a runner out of purple fabric.  I put risers underneath the fabric so the platters would be at different heights and there would be some depth to the table.

After communion we stripped the altar.  Here’s how we did it!

  • The congregation sang Go To Dark Gethsemane while we did this.  When the song was over, Jordan just improvised on the piano until we finished.
  • Three deacons took out the three chalices and the platters with the cheese, crackers and grapes.  They took one of each down the aisle and put them in the narthex.
  • I had someone lined up with a big basket in hand.  She and I piled everything else from the table in the basket and she took it down the aisle and into the narthex.
  • Bruce and I took down the altar by taking the white pitcher and basin and putting them in the big wooden basin with all the fabric.  He took the basin down the aisle and I followed him.
  • There were two people lined up behind him to take the purple fabric + risers off the altar and they followed us.
  • At this point  the only thing that was left on the altar was the Christ candle, lit.
  • I walked back in with the cross – it had the crown of thorns on it.  I put it behind the Christ candle.
  • Someone followed me with the Tenebrae Candelabra and put it on the communion table (that the Deacons would be sitting around for the Tenebrae reading).  I lit the seven Tenebrae candles off of the Christ candle.
  • The Deacons all walked down the aisle and sat around the table.  I blew out the Christcandle and that signaled the start of Tenebrae.

This all went much faster than it reads, I promise!  It did not last much longer than the hymn did, actually.

While the Deacons were reading the Service of Tenebrae, Bruce and I quietly cleaned up everything in the narthex.  We did the traditional extinguishing of candle / dimming of lights after each reading and at the end sat in dark silence.  After a moment of darkness, one of the Deacons walked up to the altar and lit the Christ candle – this signaled a quartet to gather around the piano for a beautiful a capella rendition of Amazing Grace.

It was a wonderful service!  I was anticipating 30-40 people and we had 52 – I was so pleased!  This is always one of my favorite services and I am so glad there were so many people wanting to experience it too.  I have some liturgy that I wrote that I will share later in the week (it’s trapped on my computer at church at the moment!).

Up next – Easter Egg Hunt pictures!

2 thoughts on “Maundy Thursday 2015 {+ Foot Washing Altarscape)

  1. As usual, this is a beautiful altarscape, glorious in its simplicity. A little over a year ago, I was invited to be a part of a very small team of women who prepare the altar at our church. I grew up in a very different faith denomination who did nothing like this; in fact, women were ‘not allowed’ upon the altar. So I’d never even heard of the term ‘altarscape’, let alone be a part of creating one. I’m continuing to learn from the two other wonderful women I get to partner with, and I’m personally inspired by many of your altars, AND I’m impressed that you do them all yourself. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve shared quite a few of them on Pinterest on my Creative Church board, always making sure you get full credit with links back to you blog. Others are inspired by your altars as well. Thanks for all you do, Rev. Sarah. I look forward to your photos and your Bible study recap emails!

    Pam Manners
    Hamilton Twp., NJ

    1. Hi Pam! Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I always say that I get so much inspiration from others online that I can only pray to pay it forward to others! It sounds like you have been able to partner with amazing women along your journey that have helped you grow into the minister (we’re all ministers, ordained or not!) God has always called you into! Please, “pin” away! I love seeing pinterest referrals in the statistics on my blog (and have been known to take screenshots of someone else pinning something of mine and texting them to my husband!). It encourages me to keep at it in my own setting and to keep sharing on here. Thank you so much for reading! Blessings!

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