Maundy Thursday

Holy Week 2018 Worship Planning Series

Holy/Maundy Thursday 2018, Year B

Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, marks the last conversation Jesus has with his disciples, a conversation grounded in what he calls a new commandment (mandatum in Latin, hence our English word “Maundy”). He illustrates and underscores the new commandment by washing their feet: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 


Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Calendar Notes

Red continues to be used through the end of this service, when all paraments, altarware, and other adornments are removed.

For Your Planning Team — Holy/Maundy Thursday

In This Series

This is the second major service in Holy Week.

This is the most intense week in the Christian year. It confronts us with the violence we inflict upon each other and our faithlessness toward God, juxtaposed dramatically against the love of God and the hope God's kingdom offers our world.

by Taylor Burton-Edwards

While we have built this service around and after a shared meal, we implore you not to treat this shared meal as in any way a Seder. It is not. The Book of Worship has this to say about Christians observing a Seder, particularly on this day and at this time of the year (p 350):

“United Methodists are encouraged to celebrate the Seder as invited guests in a Jewish home or in consultation with representatives of the Jewish community, thus respecting the integrity of what is a Jewish tradition and continuing the worthy practice of Jews and Christians sharing at table together. Celebrating the modern meal without a Jewish family as host is an affront to Jewish tradition and sometimes creates misunderstanding about the meaning of the Lord's Supper” (emphasis added).

For additional historical reflection on the impropriety of Christians observing a Seder themselves, see 2 Things to Do, 2 Things to Quit Doing in Maundy Thursday Services.”


On Palm/Passion Sunday we glimpsed the processions that marked the beginning and the end of the events of this week in the life of Jesus. Today we find ourselves in the midst of these events. Sunday was about movement, getting to a destination, or the hope of getting there. It was about our feet in motion. Today is about presence, community, our feet or hands held and lovingly washed by another. We wash our feet (or hands) because we have been on the move, and now are ready to sit down and be together, united with Christ and one another.

We have structured this service differently from a traditional service in the worship space. If you want a more traditional service for use in your worship space, we highly commend the version in the Book of Worship, 351-354.

We have built this service around a shared meal. It is a service of word, washing, and watching, modeled on the actions of Jesus with his disciples before his betrayal as recorded in the gospel of John. It does not include Eucharist. If you wish to include the Eucharist, do so after the Washing and before the first dismissal. The Book of Worship provides a Great Thanksgiving for Holy Thursday. You may also use the Great Thanksgiving for Maundy Thursday in an Alternative/ Emergent Mode.

Logistics: In the Dining/Washing Space

This service is about love, mutual care, and unity in Christ. Be sure to express that love in tangible ways. Have greeters posted at the doors, just as you would in your regular worship space. Take time during the meal to thank your kitchen staff and table staff for their role in helping the meal and the service flow smoothly.

Be sure to consult with your kitchen/catering volunteers about the best way for them to enable persons to get their meals and clear the tables efficiently in the space you have available. And rehearse your table staff (those who will bring out the second pitchers of water, the basins, and the towels to each table) so this operation can happen quickly and smoothly. If your space and crowd are small enough, it may be possible for each table to send someone to a central location to pick up these items. For larger gatherings, it may be essential to have dedicated table server teams for this to be handled efficiently.

There is one more team that will be essential for this service to conclude well: the altar guild or an extended altar guild who will "strip the sanctuary." If they desire to remove items in a certain order, it will be important for them to organize how they will do so, and rehearse these actions (even if in mime) before the service so this action proceeds with the intended solemnity.

Additional Resources 2015 Planning Helps

2015 Planning Helps for Holy/Maundy Thursday

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle

In This Series...

Passion/Palm Sunday 2018 — Planning Notes Holy/Good Friday 2018 — Planning Notes Easter Sunday 2018 — Planning Notes Easter Morning 2018 Sunrise Service — Planning Notes