Footwashing and Forgiveness

Susan J. Reinhardt wrote: I've been researching the Amish Communion Service. As part of the preparation, do they go to each other and mend broken relationships? I found references to reading the Ordnung and going over the rules, but nothing about making things right with each other. Is the footwashing part of this?

Susan, very good questions. The Amish look at Communion Service differently than one would guess. The fact that a given congregation is actually having Communion, means that there are no unresolved "church matters." In other words, a Communion Service does not happen, UNTIL all is right. If there is "church trouble," which usually comes of church members disagreeing with the bishop about a church matter, then Communion is "held up" until the matter is resolved. I don't know whether this would include a dispute between two church members. Perhaps there is the threat of withholding communion, which would be enough to make two people mend their fences — no two people would want to deter Communion, for that is considered a grave thing when a district cannot have communion. Having said that, most resentments in my home community stayed under the surface. The Amish are stoic about many things, and to allow differences to surface would be considered unkind and too temperamental. Because of this stoicism, "church troubles" are usually the reason for withholding Communion.

I've described what happened in my home district some years after I left the Amish here. Even though the Amish may not seek one another out to mend their fences in preparation of Communion, they consider their Communion a symbolic cleansing of the soul. And yes, the ritual of footwashing is a way for Amish church members of being humble with one another, signifying that there is harmony among them. This usually takes place at the very end of the Communion Service. 

So, in a way, the act of forgiveness among the Amish is as stoic as the resentments. Without speaking a word and through the act of washing one another's feet, they humble themselves before one another. Isn't this what forgiveness and reconciliation are really all about? 

I am often surprised that more Christian churches don't practice footwashing. I actually miss this ritual.

I've been hearing about a conference that took place in Switzerland in 2003, in which Reformed Church leaders met with Anabaptists to reconcile 500 years after the Anabaptists were being persecuted by the state churches in Switzerland. I understand 800 people gathered at the conference. As part of the process of forgiveness, the Reformed church leaders washed the feet of the Anabaptists who were present. I understand this was a powerful experience for everyone and is described here. I wish I could have been there.


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1 thought on “Footwashing and Forgiveness”

  1. is there something that you still hold onto from your youth? Are you still religious at all? if so what aspects of religion do you practice now? do you believe in god? do you agree with any Amish values?

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