When the Very Reverend Tomu Asioli of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia knelt and washed the feet of students from the Pacific Theological College, it symbolized humility, service and love for others, as the Lord Jesus taught.
A spirit of reverence and worship pervaded the grand halls of the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Anglican Church in Suva, Fiji, during the Maundy or Holy Thursday celebration service on April 18, commemorating the Washing of the Feet and the Last Supper of the Lord Jesus with the Apostles.
‘Service to others strengthens growth in God’s kingdom,” the Very Reverend Asioli said.
Principal of PTC, Rev. Dr. Upolu Luma Vaai echoed his sentiments in his call to Christians to be hospitable and extend God’s divine hospitality.
The Cross, Rev. Dr. Vaai preached, symbolizes the full extent of that divine hospitality, a love that is deeply inclusive and that begins and ends with God – from God to us, to others who are different from us like our enemies, to the natural world and back to God in a cyclic manner that is complete.
However, included as well in that circle, Rev. Dr. Upolu said was a brand of hospitality that Christians and churches must embody and that is ‘to touch the muddy ground’ or having ‘dirt moments.’
‘More of the dirt approach to hospitality is needed, where the church gets involved in freeing people from oppression and having dirt moments with others who need help,’ Rev. Dr. Vaai said.
‘A church without a muddy moment or not ready to be involved in the dirt experiences of its grassroots communities especially those that need to be liberated from the oppression on them, is a church that still centralizes hospitality on itself, locking it within its doors.
‘As we try to reflect on how we wash each other’s feet tonight we are invited to pour out hospitality by acknowledging our place in the dirt, in the mud, in the soso.
‘It’s not just about self denial, but also should be about having dirt moments with others who need help,’ Rev. Dr. Vaai added.
The multi ethnically diverse PTC community including the students, their families, staff members and faculty joined members of the Anglican Church at the service, an act of ecumenism that is centered on love, working and worshiping together despite our denominational differences as the cross teaches.
Hymns of worship like ‘Brother let me be your servant’, the Fijian iTaukei ‘Sa Lomani Yau’ and songs in Maohi Nui and Samoan, sung together in one beautiful melody. Together, participating in the Eucharist or sacrament and together maintaining a one hour vigil, remembering the desolation and pain of Jesus at Gethsemane. The spirit of oneness of the Body of Christ and hospitality for one another was profound.
‘Foot washing is a cultural concept owned by Jesus to frame his message, a love that is deeply inclusive that begins with God and ends with God,’ shared Rev. Dr. Upolu Luma Vaai, the Principal of the PTC.
‘When we allow ourselves to value the other, the different other or our enemy we offer them the full extent of our love and we become the means of extending divine fellowship, love and inclusive hospitality.’
‘As the full extent of hospitality flows from God to us, then to the other, then to the whole of creation and back to God – hospitality exists in a circle, it as to flow otherwise it’s not full stretched.’
Rev. Dr. Vaai said in this day and age, the full hospitality that God wants to see in us is not so visible.
‘We limit hospitality to those we know and benefit from. We limit hospitality to only our kind,’ Rev. Dr. Vaai said.
Some examples of inhospitable attitudes and behaviors he identified include the men’s unequal treatment of women and the stereotypical thinking of educated people others as backwards and primitive.
‘As Christians we spread the fundamentalist extremist ideology that is centered on sin and burning in hell against vulnerable people who are not our kind.’
‘As the church we sometimes place other religions in stereotypical frameworks such as terrorists or heretics.’
‘Even the earth is not included in our circle of hospitality. We destroy the earth everyday by using plastics, allowing mining companies and rich corporations to mine our land on which many poor people depend on for their livelihood.’
After the service, the PTC community observed a one vigil of praying and remembering Jesus moments of loneliness and desolation, the night before he was crucified.