Songs for a Foot-Washing Service on Maundy Thursday

Greg Scheer, friend at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, has this suggestion:

As you scramble for that last minute footwashing or Easter Vigil song, don’t forget a few tricks has up its sleeve. You can search by topic (, by scripture (, or even full text ( I don’t always get a direct hit, but it will often remind me of another song or set me in the direction of a related theme that ends up working. Happy hymn hunting!”

My favorite is a song composed by Jennifer Martin of [Anglican] Church of the Redeemer in Nashville. Titled “On a Cross, On a Hill,” it was profiled earlier here:

 Andy Piercy (producer of albums by Delirious? and now worship director of Anglican Mission in America churches) suggests using a song by Graham Kendricks, “Love Each Other.”

Here’s one from Ghana, suggested by Greg and others:

"Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love." Verse 1: “Kneels at the feet of his friends, silently washes their feet; Master who acts as a slave to them”. (From Ghana; collected and translated by Tom Colvin; published in “World Praise” (HarperCollins).

My own take on that song: good English lyrics, usually sung sweetly and gently in American churches. I think that Ghanaians would hardly be able to recognize the song as coming from Ghana, says I … who has studied musics from Ghana for decades, lived there for 7 years, and got my doctorate in African Music Studies/Ethnomusicology from the University of Ghana.

So, it can be used in a Maundy Thursday service and counts at least on paper as a “global hymn” … but I wish to heaven that someday we’ll make it sound like an African song. There’s my soapbox for today.

My own second favorite song for a Maundy Thursday Service is "How Beautiful" by Twila Paris.

Greg Scheer recommends a hymn text called “Jesus, Greatest at the Table.”

Greg composed a great tune for those lyrics; find the PDF score and mp3 demo at

A friend points out that this hymn text can also easily be sung to the tune ‘Picardy’ used for “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

And David Lee has made 2 musical settings of relevant lyrics:

Timothy Dudley-Smith text: “As in that upper room you left your seat, and took a towel and chose a servant’s part”:

and his version of the Stephen Starke text above: “Jesus, greatest at the table”:

Here’s the biblical scene as contextually painted by an artist in Ethiopia:

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