History of Feet Washing

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by rlvaughn, Mar 27, 2002.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    On a communion topic in the Theology forum, rsr suggested the possibility of discussing some history of feet washing. I am taking the liberty to start such a topic. I usually refer to this as "feet washing", though probably more people refer to it as "foot washing". I sure that either is probably acceptable, but over 20 years ago an old preacher told me it should be referred to as "feet washing" because you wash both feet, not just one. I have since always tried to consistently refer to it in this manner, because he was right. [​IMG]

    I hope in this topic to explore feet washing and its history as it relates to Baptists, rather than discussing it from a theological perspective. If we want to do that also, we can start a topic in the "Baptist Theology and Bible Study" forum.

    [ March 27, 2002, 10:43 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  2. rlvaughn

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    One thing that was brought up in the other forum was brief mention of which Baptists may or may not practice feet washing. Two groups that are probably most widely known as feetwashers are Primitive Baptists and Free Will Baptists. The practice is not 100% consistent among either of these. The vast majority of Primitive Baptists practice feet washing, but a few do not. Hassell mentions this in his History of the Church of God. I think you will find many Primitive Baptists refer to feetwashing as an "example". Feetwashing is a majority practice also among the Free Wills, though, for example, it has been a little weak among Texas Free Will Baptists because of a strong link to the northern (Randall) version of Free Will Baptists. I know of a Free Will Baptist church near here that hasn't observed it in a number of years, though their statement still expresses a belief in it. I think that Free Will Baptists consistently refer to feet washing as an "ordinance".

    Other lesser known or smaller groups of Baptists are fairly consistent "feetwashers", such as: Old Regular Baptists, United Baptists, Regular Baptists, General Baptists, Separate Baptists, and Interstate & Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptist Association.

    Some other groups where one can find remnants of the practice are: missionary Baptists, Southern Baptists, and independent Baptists. It is has fairly strong minority following in these churches that are in the Applachia region or its foothills (e.g., the Blue Ridge of north Georgia). A minority of country churches affiliated with the American Baptist Association and the Baptist Missionary Association used to practice feet washing, although I think the practice had been "rooted out" by mid-20th century. The last actual practice I have confirmed was a BMAA church in east Texas in 1954. A few local associations carried it in their minutes until the early 1960's. The split of the ABA in 1950, and the subsequent withdrawal of the majority of the "feetwashers" into the Interstate and Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptist Association probably finished what the seminaries had not done. I also have an old issue of J. Frank Norris' paper (I think called The Fundamentalist, I'll try to find it) in which, in the early stages of the World Baptist Fellowship (then called the World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship), Norris mentions that some of the churches practiced feet washing. I'm almost positive none do now.

    A few resources off the top of my head: History of Middle Tennessee Baptists, by J. H. Grime [SBC], has a short chapter on the subject; The Lord's Table by W. J. Burgess [BMAA]; History of the Church of God by C. B. & Sylvester Hassell [Primitive Baptist]; History of the Franklin Association of United Baptists by W. P. Throgmorton [SBC]; The Baptists of Virginia by Garnett Ryland; The History of the English Baptists by Underwood; The Primitive Baptist newspaper, article by C. H. Cayce, Feb. 9. 1933; Foxfire 7

    In general, look for the strength of feet washing in the United States to be in the south, largely due to the influence of Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptists, but also know that early on in the highly influential Philadelphia Baptist Association, they also approved it.

    [ April 03, 2002, 09:20 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  3. tyndale1946

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    I'm a feet washing Primitive Baptist as was my father before me. My grandfather on my Dads side was also a feet washing Primitive Baptist as were all my dads brothers. I've never been to a church in the state of California that didn't wash feet. I'm sure they exist but I've never been to one in my 34 years in the church! I know we hold our communion service twice a year and I don't know if that is the norm among all Primitive Baptist! btw All Dads brothers were from various parts of Texas...Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ March 28, 2002, 01:28 AM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  4. tyndale1946

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    Sorry Brother Robert I got carried away but wanted to give reference to where the foot washing came from in scripture. I know there are three Primitive Baptist preachers on this board and they need to give their views. I going to remind them I will email them now!... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  5. Jeff Weaver

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    Feet/footwashing is something that I would put in the category of an ordinance, in light of John 13, but not everyone would agree. I pastored a Primitive Baptist church for awhile that was one of those that didn't wash feet, never had in their 220 year history, and it was originally in the Philadelphia Association. Primitive Baptists in the northeast generally don't wash feet, unless the majority of their membership migrated here from Appalachia. The church we attend now was a native Maryland church, but all the native members died out, and let us Appalachian migrants as the members, and when that was done, we added foot/feetwashing to the service. Most of the Primitive Baptists in Northern Virginia do not practice footwashing.
     
  6. Jeff Weaver

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    I forgot to add, that the Old Regulars, Mountain Union Baptists, and at least some, if not all, Separate Baptists make foot/feet washing an ordinance and requirement for full fellowship. This requirement was put in the articles of faith of the Mountain Union Association when it was formed in 1867, and all its daughter associations have adopted it as well.
     
  7. bushprsdnt

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    >>>> I'm a feet washing Primitive Baptist as was my father before me. My grandfather on
    my Dads side was also a feet washing Primitive Baptist as were all my dads brothers.<<<

    Well, it is practically an inherited trait with you now, isn't it?
     
  8. tyndale1946

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    Now that you mention it I did inherit it from my ELDER BROTHER !... You might say we are related by BLOOD... HIS! ... Brother Glen :D

    [ March 28, 2002, 04:15 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  9. bushprsdnt

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    Tyndale,

    I can just see you waking up each morning, thinking; "Feet, feet, lemme at those feet".
     
  10. tyndale1946

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    To primitives the one thing the Lord blessed us with is our sense of humor... That was a good one!... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ March 28, 2002, 06:07 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  11. rlvaughn

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    SIDE NOTE TO FEET WASHING

    Not Baptist history, but...

    Today (3/28, Thursday before Easter) is Maundy Thursday. This is the day the Catholic Church observes their ritual of feet washing, also called by the Latin "pedilavium." The Catholic Church here in the town where I work will observe the service tonight. Don't know how they do it at the local level, but the Pope is supposed to wash the feet of 12 poor men.
     
  12. Clint Kritzer

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    Perhaps it's a topic for the all other religions forum, Brother Robert, but how are those men selected and at what level of poverty are the candidates chosen?
     
  13. rlvaughn

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    Clint, I'm not that familiar with it. It's just something I have run across over the years in studying about feet washing. This Link might help a little.
     
  14. tyndale1946

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    Brother Robert and Clint how would you feel if your church adding feet washing into your communion service? I just wondered how your thoughts are on this matter... Your feet washing PB friend... Brother Glen :D

    btw... I bet you Jeff is curious too!
     
  15. Clint Kritzer

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    The obvious humorous answer, Brother Glen, is, "Would this be before or after we eat?"

    As I once told Brother Robert, I had attended an Independent Baptist Church in Michigan where we had an impromptu feetwashing ceremony. I described it to Brother Robert by e-mail and he said it was more in line with a Catholic style ceremony.

    I had also told Mr. Vaughn that there was an older lady here in town who knew of a nearby church that performed feetwashing in her younger days and I feel guilty that I never followed up on pressing her for info and contact with Robert. :(

    As for how I would feel about it in my church, I suppose if it added to the reverence of the service and was conducted in a way that glorified God, I would have no objections. I'm not so sure how it would go over with my fellow members, however. You know how slow Baptist are to accept change. I'm still upset about the air-conditioning that they put in the church back in 1978!!!

    - Clint
     
  16. Clint Kritzer

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    Perhaps, Brother Glen, you could give us a description of how the service is performed. Is it done by hand or cloth? Is it one foot at a time or both together? Is there prayer that accompanies? What is the pace of the ceremony? What kind of vessel holds the water? Is it done by the pastor or by the members? Is it every member that receives the washing or a select few?
     
  17. Jeff Weaver

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    Im not Bro. G, but I have answered your questions below, of how it is generally done where ever I have been.

    Is it done by hand or cloth?

    Hand

    Is it one foot at a time or both together?

    One at a time

    Is there prayer that accompanies?

    Yes

    What is the pace of the ceremony?

    Slow

    What kind of vessel holds the water?

    A wash basin, usually metal, but sometimes china.

    Is it done by the pastor or by the members?

    Every one, pastor and members

    Is it every member that receives the washing or a select few?

    Everyone.

    Jeff
     
  18. tyndale1946

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    Here is a testimony and a sample of a song Lead Me To The Rock by country western singer Ricky Skaggs who was raised as a feet washing baptist. I hope its appropriate for our topic... Brother Glen [​IMG]
    http://www.behindthebeat.net/genre.asp?g=36
     
  19. Clint Kritzer

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    So are there many vessels for the water or does everyone wash from the same vessel? Do people pair up? How is the service organized?
     
  20. Jeff Weaver

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    Clint wrote:
    There are many vessels, and people pair up to wash.

    The service in the Appalachain Primitive Baptist Tradition is this:

    Usually begins at 10:00 am., sometimes at 10:30.
    30 minutes of congregational hymns
    The deacons of the church get together to decide the order of service, and choose with input from the congregations on who they want to hear preach. There are usually multiple elders present.
    One will introduce the service with a hymn, and line it out, during which everyone in the house will shake hands/hug everyone else in the house. We don't go around and have the preachers in front, and just shake hands with them. After this is over, the person introducing the service will have public prayer.

    Then will come 2-3-4 preachers and sermons. After this is done, there is 15 minute intermission so that the folks can go to the restrooms, stretch, etc.

    The communion service is called together by another hymn, at the sound of which folks are expected to return to their seats. The peace of the church is inquired, and if all are in peace, the service continues, usually using the account of the last supper in John as a guide.

    A minister who was chosen for the purpose will then take the unleavened bread, have prayer, make a few remarks, and it is passed around.

    A minister, a different one, will then take the wine (real wine), have prayer, make a few remarks and then the chalice will be passed around. (One large common cup rather than individual cuplets)

    A minister, yet a different one, will then read the passage about foot/feet washing in John, and then pass around basins, tie a large towel around his waist, and start dipping water for the basins. Folks will pair up and wash one anothers feet. Men only wash the feet of men, women only wash the feet of women. If someone has had a difficulty with another member during the year, they are usually washing one anothers feet. You can't stay mad at someone after washing their feet-- it can't be done. The windows of the meeting house are opened, and the used windows tossed out. Since not everyone washes at the same speed, those that finish first will raise a hymn, and it will be joined in as others finished, and when everyone is finished, the congregation simply goes out. No invitation, no closing prayer, just go out.

    As usual, there are no musical instruments in Old School Primitive Baptist churches, so no organist or pianist to worry about. We dont pass a collection plate, so don't worry about that either, no sunday school, so no worries there.

    The only order of business normally attended to in our normal service omitted is a dismission prayer, and invitation to speak to the church. We usually ask if anyone has any reason to speak to the church before dismission in regular meetings. This might include someone asking for a home with the church, or asking apology for some offense.

    Bro. Clint, we will be having our communion meeting at Mt. Airy, Maryland, 2nd Sunday in May. Come on up and be with us, and you can see how it is done in person. Mt. Airy is between Frederick and Baltimore, and would be about a 3-4 hour drive from Fluvanna. Come the night before and stay with us.
     

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