Maundy Thursday

Service Summary

Maundy Thursday in Holy week: service in Wren; foot washing at 10 PM followed by all night silent vigil. Morning prayer the next morning.


Maundy Thursday consists of three consecutive services: the foot washing, the vigil, and Morning Prayer. Only the foot washing needs any setup, though all three require a little preparation. Make sure the Wren Chapel has been reserved for this evening, typically from 9 PM Thursday to around 7 AM on Friday, dependent on when Morning Prayer is scheduled.

The foot washing service, which is held in the Wren Chapel, generally begins around 10 PM. A short half-page bulletin should be used. An example of such a bulletin may be found in the appendix of this guide. The main part of the service is, naturally, the foot washing, which takes about an hour for setup. Gather a large metal tub or other basin to hold water for the foot washing. Usually, such a basin can be found in the kitchen at the Parish House. It would not hurt to ask someone to make sure a suitable basin will be in the kitchen that evening. Make sure to wash it. So people do not scream when dipping their feet into the water, some means of heating the water prior to the service is necessary. The best way is to borrow a coffee percolator from the kitchen in the Parish House. It takes about 15 minutes to heat up water in a small percolator. There is no reliable supply of hot water in the Wren building. A secondary container for carrying water – a plastic gallon jug seems to work well – may be helpful. Plenty of clean towels are also needed. These may be found in the Holy Week supply container in the Canterbury room. Make sure these are washed, folded, and put away after the service. The chaplain will need to bring unction oil to anoint the feet, and a black shroud for the cross. Make sure both of these are brought.

At the conclusion of the service, the altar will be stripped and cleaned. This will be done by the chaplain. Make sure at least one towel remains for this portion of the service. Also, soap suitable for cleaning wood is needed. A bottle of such soap may be found in the Holy Week supply container in the Canterbury room.

As mentioned, set up should take around an hour. Put bulletins on the table as is done for a normal Tuesday service. Set out the basin and towels. Begin heating the water. Because the water should not be scalding, use another container to bring cool water from another source to help fill up the basin. The basin should contain enough water to cover the feet, but not too much to make it unwieldy when dumping out the water at the conclusion of the service. Set out the soap and set aside a towel or two for the stripping of the altar. This all should be done early enough as to allow for a quiet and reflective atmosphere when people begin to arrive.

During the foot washing portion of the service, psalms should be read, slowly and purposefully. In the appendix of this guide, nine suitable psalms have been included. This should be plenty to cover the entire foot washing service. Additional psalms may be added or substituted, but should be appropriate for Holy Week.

After the service, clean everything up. Make sure the water is dumped outside. Clean up any bulletins. Return the basin, percolator, towels, and any other supplies to the Canterbury room.

The second service, which begins as soon as the foot washing service concludes, is a silent all-night vigil, also held in the Wren Chapel. At least two weeks prior to Holy Week, create a signup sheet for the vigil. At least one person needs to be designated to attend the vigil for each hour-long slot. Send out a reminder email a day or so in advance. The foot washing service usually is completed a little before 11 PM, and the vigil usually ends with Morning Prayer – as will be described below – around 6:30 AM. Other than the signup sheet, little preparation is needed for the vigil. Other Christian groups on campus may be invited to the vigil. Silence should be held throughout the vigil. In the past, we have had trouble with outside groups coming and “taking over” the vigil. As long as invitations include a friendly reminder that it is a silent vigil, there should not be any problems. Set out a few prayer books and bibles. Liturgy Committee members should be prepared to fill any empty spots as necessary.

The vigil concludes with Morning Prayer in the Wren Chapel. A bulletin is not required for this service, though, if desired, a brief bulletin may be printed on the reverse of the foot washing service bulletin. A Liturgy Committee member should prepare and officiate the service. Afterwards, make sure the chapel has been cleaned properly. Usually, a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts is in order after Morning Prayer. Make sure enough people with cars are there to help with transportation.

Date or Feast Day

Maundy Thursday

Who is needed

Chaplain; liturgy committee member(s); readers; prayer leader; people to hold vigil

What is needed

Foot washing

  • Metal basin
  • Percolator to heat water
  • Several towels
  • Wood soap
  • Chrism Oil to anoint feet
  • Black veil for cross
  • Bulletins


  • Signup sheet, available several weeks in advance
  • Books of Common Prayer
  • Bibles

What worked

What did not work

Things to change


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