Maundy Thursday reflections from Dean Singletary

April 9, 2020
His love endures forever

Maundy Thursday didn’t come naturally to me. Growing up Southern Baptist, we didn’t celebrate Holy Week, or much of anything from the church calendar, except for Christmas and Easter. In seminary, I remember being asked how you get to Easter if you don’t recognize Good Friday or Maundy Thursday.

More Baptist churches practice these now, more than ever before. In my church, Maundy Thursday is what I refer to as the foot-washing service. It’s my least favorite church meeting of the year! The celebration of Passover and the Last Supper are part of it too, but I can’t get past the dirty feet (you can start praying for me now).

This year, Holy Week services in our churches are particularly complicated, but pastors are being particularly creative. Maundy Thursday included—it’s hard to wash feet while #socialdistancing, don’t you know. In thinking about this day, I went back to scripture and tradition to see what the roots of this gathering are meant to be. “Maundy” is from the Latin translation of John 13: Mandatum novum do vobis… A new commandment I give to you, Jesus says, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Here in the Garland School, it is not uncommon for us to pray together and share reflections on our faith, seeking to offer care and support to one another. This week, this entire month of Lent, we have had the needs of students on our minds and more than ever we are hoping to love them as Christ loves us. We have never practiced foot washing as a school (perhaps we should), but over the years our faculty and staff live out the ‘new mandate’ of love in the most beautiful ways. We pray, we offer meals, we drive students around, we purchase books, computers, bicycles, and so many other resources they need. You participate in much of this. Our Excellence Fund helps us extend our support in very real and tangible ways. Thank you for helping us love our students as Christ has loved us.

I recently heard of a British tradition in Holy Week that includes “Royal Maundy”, alms given to the elderly in need. This year, we just so happen to be spending Lent and Holy Week during a Coronavirus shutdown. Students are losing wages across our programs. They are trying to make ends meet, but they are facing devastating choices. We know several who have had no income for 3-4 weeks now. Some can return home, but many are young adults with independent lives figuring out how to make it on their own. We don’t have Royal Maundy, but we do have the President’s Excellence Fund. It has supported more than 1,000 students so far at a total cost of nearly $1M. Our social work students benefit from this fund, and I want to say thank you for supporting it.

While some of you have supported this fund, others may have students in your lives who benefit from it. Some of you are serving in organizations where you are also facing tough choices and making difficult decisions. Like the early church, we are in a new situation where some have needs and others can help to meet them. I am grateful we are loving one another in new ways. My prayer is that we face this special week with courage, hope, and a renewed sense of God’s presence in our lives and the care and love of one another. May you find new ways to live the new mandate to love one another. And may you rest renewed in the blessing that Christ has first and fully loved us in a way that will carry us through this, together, in Him.

Grace and peace,