A Wash to Remember: Feet Washing Ceremony and New Members’ Dinner 2022
24 Jan 2022
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
– John 13:12-17 –
Like all churches, CERC has its own traditions, and the Feet Washing Ceremony and New Members’ Dinner are much beloved and anticipated. These two have always been, and are token expressions of the calling of Christ to His people to be His faithful servants and that of one another within the body of Christ. Feet washing symbolizes a willingness of members to love and serve one another whilst working together to grow the church, year after year. Such is the nature of relationships within the family of Christ. Such relationships are rooted in each individual understanding that he or she has received grace from God through their undeserved adoption into God’s family, and that one servant is no greater than another; both are now fellow servants to one another.
Having waited out the pandemic for the last two years, the Feet Washing Ceremony of CERC’s latest group of new members on the evening of 22 January 2022 at No. 32 was much celebrated, and was followed by New Members’ Dinner at a restaurant. Those who had their feet washed were the last two batches of new members sworn in on October 2021 and January 2022, a total of 39 new members, although only 35 of them were able to make it to the physical ceremony as four others were out of the state or were under COVID restrictions (Jared, De Ying, Qing Yi and Hong Wei). More than 100 church members turned up to witness the ceremony and also joined the dinner afterwards.
Given the number of physical attendees for the gatherings, the Pastoral Care for the Sick (PCS) team ensured that proper screening and RTK antigen testing were done for the members who came for the two events as a precautionary step to minimise any risk of COVID infections from the gatherings.
It used to be that the New Members’ Dinner and the Feet Washing Ceremony would be held in the elder’s house, a gesture that allowed the new members to feel at home in church. Over a homecooked lamb roast dinner, members would mingle, some playing German board games, others playing the guitar, or just talking in the kitchen and living room while helping with dinner preparations. As older members wash the new members’ feet, the memories of their own Feet Washing Ceremony would come to mind, a heart-warming reminder of the victorious reality won by the work of Christ that keeps them persevering, in spite of the cold, hard realities of striving together as a congregation of sinners saved by God. Although traditions have the tendency to lose their meaning over time, even after thirteen years of membership, older members still speak of its weight in glad seriousness, evidence of an active and real pursuit of servanthood till the present day.
“It was more intimate back then because we knew everyone and somebody was probably someone you had already discipled and read the bible with before, but the gathering and Feet Washing Ceremony today is meaningful for me because this is the first time I’ve gathered with the church since I gave birth before the lockdown,” said Erin Miller, mother of two and pioneering Batch A member of CERC. Batch A had been the members who had started CERC 14 years ago with Robin Gan, the founding elder. Other older members like Joy Gan (2008), Natalie Ooi (2008), Joshua Johnson (2012) and Ryan Fong (2014) also expressed their gladness at being able to celebrate the growth of the church family in 2022.
CERC had also gone through a natural growth spurt from younger couples having had children during the last two years of the pandemic. Unlike previous Feet Washing Ceremonies before COVID, this time, Elder Robin gathered most of the young families together to introduce themselves and their little ones to the wider congregation before the usual proceedings. Among the infants and toddlers introduced were Abigail Kuok (parents – David and Emerlyn Kuok), Micaiah David and his not-yet-born sibling (parents – Melvin and Andrea David), Naomi and Elizabeth Oui (parents – Eldwin and Melissa Oui), Augustine Tan (parents – James and Jan Tie), Calvin Ng (parents – Wei Chong and Yee Li) and Elliot Tan (parents – Philip and Lilian).
After the introduction of children, Elder Robin (pictured below) proceeded to read John 13 and exhorted the congregation not to forget the servanthood Christ calls all Christians to. He reminded the members that Jesus’ love for them did not end at the Cross but was to continue in love towards the church.
Then, Elder Robin exhorted the members by quoting 2 Peter 1:3-9 as below:
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Afterwards, Elder Robin ended his message with two pressing warnings and rebuke to the church;
1) To reject the prioritisation of self-happiness and self-centeredness and to stop seeing the church through the lens of personal goals and desires
2) To let love be genuine, not to compartmentalise their service to the church as mere ‘duty’ and not to become urban middle class church-goers who only ‘do their bit’
Thereafter, the members proceeded to wash the feet of the new members seated around the garden of No. 32 as a pledge to serve the new younger members as needed to bring about his or her sanctification and obedience to Christ.
“It was a wash to remember,” said Chan Jo-Ann, a new member sworn-in on January 2022. “ – [a reminder] to be like the Servant King who humbled Himself to make us clean.”
Charlotte Liew, another new member said, “I was touched, sitting there while others washed my feet because it’s just not common in the modern world for other people to exhibit such acts of humble service to one another, and there’s something about the posture of those who scrubbed my feet. Church members also said encouraging words to me. I thought it was very sweet but I also felt a good sense of burden during the ceremony, because there’s the need and calling for me to love and serve others even more now.”
The Feet Washing Ceremony extended till late evening, before the church adjourned to a nearby restaurant for dinner and continued fellowship there.