by Kochurani Abraham
The foot washing ritual of women and other marginalized sections organized by the ecumenical feminist women's fellowship 'Women's Lives Matter' ( a local unit of ICWM), at Santwanam Center for battered women and children, Kottayam, was a meaningful, joyful and liberative experience for the women and children who participated in this event and the women who conducted it. The inmates of Santhwanam participated wholeheartedly in this celebration irrespective of their age, religion or caste factors. The children joyfully joined in the singing and then competed to wash the feet of the elders. Even the tiny tots between the age of two and three sat on the chairs and stretched their feet saying they also want to be washed. No wonder Jesus Christ made them the pillars of the Reign of God!
For the members of' ‘Women's Lives Matter' who conducted this ritual, this celebration served a two-fold purpose. First and foremost, enacting this ritual meant sharing the grace of this gesture of Jesus Christ with a public who are broken and marginalized, drawing inspiration from the initiatives taken by Pope Francis. Since the mainstream churches in Kerala are bound by the so called ‘eastern tradition’ that restricts foot-washing only to men and boys, for us women, it was an occasion to channelize the Spirit beyond the confines of the Church through this ritual. Secondly, this celebration also gave an opportunity for women and others who are excluded, not just to remain recipients of grace, but also to become mediators of this grace. Outside the official liturgy and its politics of exclusion, this was an inclusive gesture to realize the 'politics of the Reign of God' . It was an occasion for women to affirm ‘we are the Church’ with prophetic commitment and a liberative thrust !