Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Foot Washing for the Soul

Mountpottinger Unitarian

In the name of theatre, and as a good audience member, I have done some bizarre things.

I've allowed myself to be blindfolded and led about the Ormeau Baths Gallery (bad idea), I have tramped round Canterbury Cathedral to watch a blinding performance of Murder in the Cathedral (good idea). But being bathed hasn't come into the contract. Until now. With Adrian Howell's foot washing (punningly called Foot Washing for the Sole) on day one of the 2010 Belfast Festival at Queen's, some kind of new point had been reached.

What was it like? And did it recall Christ's moving washing of the disciples' feet at the end of his ministry? In the small sacristry of the Mountpottinger Unitarian Church, via the ancient ritual of my naked feet being gently washed, soaped, then coated with frankincense and finally kissed, something remarkable happened.

The here and now became a beautiful, timeless space and I found myself listening to the urban symphony outside as if a motor bike were a musical instrument.

This is much more than a post-hippy exercise in universal love and acceptance, it's a genuine attempt to use one of the most ancient and symbolic acts to undo some of the strain of modern life.

Adrian asks you if you would be able to do the same for someone else and Rev John Heron, vicar of Mountpottinger who was first in the queue said Yes. Maybe Messrs McGuinness and Robinson should have reserved slots.

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