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  • Canon Adrian Daffern

On the avoidance of spiritual bunions


I enjoyed sharing a piece from The Times with my ordained colleagues a couple of weeks ago. Titled 'Clergy were martyrs to medieval fashion', it highlighted the discovery by a University archaeologist that the trend for pointy shoes amongst 13th century Cambridge friars - despite such shoes being banned by the Pope - resulted in them getting bunions. You can read the University of Cambridge's story at this link here.


Medieval Cambridge had friars galore, and it is easy to have a good giggle at their cheek in eschewing poverty in order to look cool. The clergy of Great St Mary's, while always immaculately attired, are not known for being outlandishly shod; though, being human, we are more than capable on occasion of putting our foot in it.


We don't know what Jesus wore on his feet: probably some sort of sandal (see Mark 1.7; 6.7-9). Feet got dirty and smelly very fast, hence the hospitality of foot-washing on arrival indoors - not least when it is Jesus himself performing the task (John 13).


Isaiah proclaims that the feet of the one who preaches the gospel of peace are beautiful (Isaiah 52.7). He doesn't mean that the preacher has just returned from the podiatrist; rather, that the feet which bring this good news are blessed because of the message they bear.


On Maundy Thursday next year perhaps I shall be able to wash your feet. If I do, I won't be inspecting your bunions, ingrowing toenails, or any other delightful features your tootsies might possess. And even though there's an obvious joke I could make about the state of your sole, I won't be doing that either. As I pour water, I shall pray that you might be a person who preaches the gospel of peace - a person whose feet are truly beautiful, because of what you say, and the way that you say it.




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