Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/June 1891/Correspondence

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IN his article on Greeting by Gesture, in The Popular Science Monthly for February, Colonel Garrick Mallery gave some three pages to the usages in respect to kissing, and said among other things, "Some religious sects—e. g., the Dunkers—also kiss one another's feet—after washing them."

The following note has been sent us respecting this statement.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

My dear Sir: In the Chicago Tribune of January 31st, I notice an article from your periodical, entitled Kissing has a History. In it occurs the following: "Dunkers also kiss one another's feet when they have washed them." Your historian lacks information, both on the teachings of the Bible and the practice of the Tunker Church which follows strictly the instructions of the former. I have been a member of the Tunker Church over thirty-five years, and have many times taken part in the Bible command, "Wash one another's feet" (John, xiii, 14), and the injunction, "Salute one another with a holy kiss"; but I never saw them "kiss one another's feet," as your historian states. I send you herewith a proof of an article found in our own Church Almanac for 1891. It will give you and your people some idea of our people. I shall be pleased to make a correction if you feel so disposed. Hoping that I may not be misunderstood, I remain,

Yours truly,
J. G. Roger,
Professor of Mental and Moral Science,
Mount Morris College.

The article mentioned in the note is an account of the history, doctrine, and usages of the Brethren or Dunkers, compiled by Mr. D. L. Miller. It says, concerning the particular point to which attention is turned:

"The love-feast, which they believe to be patterned after the Supper of the Lord, is a full meal, prepared and placed upon the table used for that purpose in the church, and is partaken by all the members to the satisfying of hunger. It is preceded by the religious rite of washing feet—a service emblematical, as originally described in John, xiii, of the equality of all the members in service, and "bears no more relation to personal cleanliness than the act of baptism does to a bath ... In its practice, at the love-feast occasions, water is poured into a basin, and a towel or apron is girded about the brother, and, from the example given by Christ, he typically washes his brother's bared feet, as an evidence that he is his servant, and the other his master. The relations are then reversed, and the servant then becomes the master. . . . The sisters wash the sisters' feet, and all the proprieties of the sexes are most rigidly observed. After observing the ceremony of feet-washing, a blessing is asked upon the simple meal spread on the tables, and it is eaten with solemnity. ... At the conclusion of the meal thanks are returned, and then, as the members are seated around the tables, the right hand of fellowship and the kiss of charity are given. The salutation of the kiss of love in worship and in customary greetings, as enjoined by the apostle, is never observed between the sexes."

The administration of the communion follows.

Colonel Mallery, to whom we sent Prof. Roger's letter and inclosure, explains that his reference to the Dunkers was a merely incidental illustration of the principles he was setting forth in his article. It is a matter of his recollection, his early life having been passed in Philadelphia, now including Germantown—places which are mentioned in Mr. Miller's paper as the earliest American seats of the Dunkers. He distinctly remembers having heard the practice spoken of more than forty years ago by persons who witnessed the ceremony.

Though our correspondent," he says, "has not heard of kissing the feet in connection with their ceremonial washing among the Dunkers during the thirty-five years in which he has been connected with them, that does not prove that the kissing part of the ceremony was not practiced forty years ago, and that it has not continued later in parts of the country with which he has not been familiar. The Dunkers, popularly known also by other titles, have probably not long enjoined a ritual so immutable and distinct that it could not be varied at their scattered seats by the influence of tradition or individual taste. We have been informed by a frequent visitor to Germantown, Pa., before 1847, that foot-kissing was then and there commonly reported to be practiced among the Dunkers; we are also furnished with the statement of a resident of Allentown, Pa., that he witnessed that performance by them. "It would be strange if foot-kissing as a further exhibition of brotherly love had not survived with the foot-washing into this century, through such regions as Pennsylvania, to which the Dunkers had very early brought the Old World rites. Anciently in the Roman Catholic Church, when foot-washing was regularly performed on Maunday or Holy Thursday, the officiating priest kissed the feet that he had washed. Though in the Catholic countries where foot-washing is still observed, their kissing has perhaps generally ceased, it continued even among English Protestants until the time of Queen Elizabeth. An elaborate account of it in 1572 appears in Brand's Popular Antiquities, vol. i, p. 145 et seq. (Bohn's edition), in which the kissing of the feet is twice mentioned. It is also specified in Cavendish's Life of Wolsey as practiced by the cardinal in 1530."

After preparing the above statement, Colonel Mallery received two further accounts of kissing in connection with feet-washing among the Dunkers; one was from Philadelphia by an eye-witness, who thoroughly bears out his own statement and recollection. He has also been told by a gentleman from St. Louis, who called upon him, that on the last Holy Thursday, March 26th, the kissing of feet in connection with the foot-washing ceremony was performed there by the Roman Catholic archbishop, and that there were full accounts of that kissing in the papers of the next day. It is really curious, Colonel Mallery adds—and more is in the matter than he at first thought—that in parts of the United States the ceremony goes on in 1891 as a histrionic presentment of traditions generally abandoned.