STEUBENVILLE - Just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper the day before his crucifixion on the cross, volunteers with Urban Mission Ministries spent some of Maundy Thursday doing likewise.
Ninety minutes into the four-hour "Soul to Sole" foot-washing service, more than 40 people from throughout the community had come to the mission's Unity Kitchen, accepting an open invitation "to travel back to the time when Jesus walked the Earth."
The event included the foot-washing service, prayer, a luncheon featuring foods from biblical times and the distribution of more than 100 free bags of toiletry items made possible by donations.
HUMBLING EXPERIENCE — Prenilla Taylor of Steubenville was among the many participants to have her feet washed during the Urban Mission Ministries’ first “Soul to Sole” foot-washing service held Thursday at the mission. Debra Bryan, a mission representative, was among several who washed feet in commemoration of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. The event included prayer, a lunch featuring foods from Biblical times and free bags of toiletry items. -- Janice Kiaski
The first-time event, part of the mission's "Campaign for Good, Spreading Goodness," was hailed a success by the Rev. Ashley Steele, the mission's executive director.
"We started at 10, and people were already waiting at the door to come in, and so that excited us," Steele said in the moments after the Rev. Toni Hubbard, former Unity Kitchen director, had offered prayer before lunch was served.
The lunch fare, which was organized by Linda Smith, the mission's program director, featured such food items as unleavened bread, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, cucumber dip, a lamb dish, soups and desserts.
"We're serving I don't know how many people for food, but we know it's a pretty full house, so this really has exceeded our expectations of what this day would be, and it's been surrounded in prayer," Steele said as she glanced at the crowd assembled in the Unity Kitchen lining up to eat. "It's been staffed by lots of different volunteers from many different places, and I truly think that God is working today in a pretty significant way," she said.
"My whole hope would be that people would know that we're here to serve and to serve the community. I hope that people are feeling like God is at work," Steele said.
Steele was helping with the footwashing, as were mission staff representatives Debra Bryan, Susan Targoss and Angie Brown, who said one of the most touching moments for her was when she washed the feet of a grandmother who in turn washed the feet of her grandson in a demonstration of servanthood.
The Rev. Ron Miller of the First Church of the Nazarene in Steubenville also was among those washing and anointing feet.
"It was placed on my heart years ago when my wife and I were at a preachers and wives retreat, and I had my feet washed by an elder, and I felt so humbled. I thought if I ever get a chance I want to do that," Miller said.
When he learned that the mission was conducting such an event, he immediately volunteered.
"People say that they're blessed (by the footwashing), and I'm sure that they are, and it's very humbling, but for those of us washing the feet, I don't have words to describe it," Miller said. "It's just a great privilege to follow the command of Jesus."
Miller said that Jesus, in washing the disciples' feet, instructed them to do likewise.
"We have this sense that we're also disciples of Jesus and the command to be followed was also a command to us," Miller said. "We feel we're following that, and what a great blessing, what a privilege. I say that to everyone whose feet I have washed - thank you for the privilege of washing your feet."
(Kiaski can be contacted a firstname.lastname@example.org)