Robin and I help out with the 2-3 year old class at church. It’s really, really fun. Their chatter and their ideas about life make me laugh many times. Today the story was about how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and how Jesus tells us to serve (help) others. I asked how they help their moms at home and one little guy says, “I build Lego houses.” I’m not sure he gets the concept yet.
Then the message was about service as well. The pastor spoke about washing feet as a symbol of how we are to sacrificially serve the church. I sat there in my theater seat remembering those years of growing up when foot washing was not a symbolic rendering of Biblical truth, but a very real and literal practice. More literal than I wanted it to be most of the time. Growing up in the Mennonite church/community that I did meant that foot washing was a regular part of communion. Every quarter or so, we would break the bread, drink the juice, and then split up by gender with a few basins of warm water to take turns washing the feet of others. As a teenager, this was not something I looked forward to or appreciated. Most of the time I had forgotten to take off the nail polish and was afraid I would end up paired with the pastor’s wife. It always felt awkward to kneel in front of someone and bath their feet. How do I manage the towel? What if I’m too fast or too slow? And when you are symbolically washing someone’s feet, do you dry between their toes? I would breathe a sigh of relief when it was over.
Looking back on it now, however, I feel steeped in a sense of nostalgia and the recognition that this was/is a valuable part of my heritage. I miss it. I remember the women lined up, barefoot and singing, waiting their turn at the basin. I remember the soft conversation, the post foot-washing hugs, and the gentle reassurances of love and prayers. I think it is valuable to re-enact Christ’s example of service. It’s a good reminder again to treasure those things about my growing-up experience of church and culture that are beautiful and valuable.
Here’s another one: quilting.
Robin and I went up to Lancaster a few weeks ago to see my aunt Ada, and mom came too with a quilt – my Christmas present – in tow. It was amazing to me how that quilt was like a magnet for female family members: aunts, grandmas, and even distant cousins. They all appeared, bearing thimbles, needles, scissors, and a hunger for the latest updates on everyone’s lives. We worked on it for two days.
By the time we left it was almost done:
I remember as a little girl, going to sewing circle with Mom or Grandma, and running around the quilts and sewing machines with the other little kiddos. I never really thought about why “sewing circle” happened or why women would come together around the quilt frame. Looking at it now I think that it’s probably because someone realized that young stay-at-home mothers need to get out of the house. It’s brilliant, really.
I marveled to be part of a quilting party again. This is community in its purest sense. In the midst of listening to an audiobook of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Grandma’s persistent chime of “Let’s vickle” (roll the quilt frame), we can find ourselves a part of the project, a part of the work of art, a part of the conversation.
We all need that, don’t we? Watch out Eastern Panhandle women, because I want to do this here. It’s a tradition worth holding on to.