Taking a knee

If you are a regular reader of this Living God blog you will have got to know bits and pieces about me quite well.  I can’t remember everything I’ve shared with you over the years that I’ve been doing this but there isn’t very much that I haven’t been honest about, to be honest! So I must have said before, and excuse me for repeating myself if I have, that I am no real fan of football .  At home, when I was a kid, dad was a season ticket holder for Leicester City Football Club.  Those were the great days of Gordon Banks who was goalie between 1959 and 1967, ten years before Gary Lineker began his Leicester career.  Anyway, I never went to a match with him and never really enjoyed having to watch ‘Match of the Day’ on a Saturday evening.  The only consolation was that dad always reappeared after a match with a big bag of sweets for us all, which I think must have been to calm my mum down.


But despite this odd relationship with the ‘Beautiful Game’ I have been so impressed in the last week by our footballers.  Marcus Rashford has done an amazing job in single-handedly changing the mind of the Government with regard to what we now call ‘Holiday Hunger’.  Speaking out of his own experience as a child it was a calm and powerful intervention.  Then, as matches began again, we saw what were incredibly moving pictures of the players ‘taking a knee’ distanced on the pitch before play began, in their shirts, with #BlackLivesMatter emblazoned on them.  I found it humbling and it made me proud of these people who are proving to be such an influence for good.

Though I didn’t go to a match I did go to church and I was very quickly taught to ‘take the knee’ or what we call in church, genuflection.  Each year I help those who are preparing for ordination as priest in the Diocese of Southwark to think about how they will preside at the Eucharist.  So I give them lots of practical tips that will help them ‘do it properly’ (in my terms of course) with a bit of theology as well.  As part of it I always show them how to genuflect.  Because the group contains high, low and inbetweeners there are some who would never dream of doing it, some who are horrified and inclined to turn to the ‘Articles of Religion’ in the Prayer Book immediately and some for whom this is already second nature.  But it is what some of us were taught to do, to go down on one knee in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Single gen

Of course, there is a right and wrong way to do this.  The tradition is that it’s the right knee that touches the floor, against the instep of the left foot.  I was taught, but I can’t find anything official to back this up, though no doubt someone will put me right on this, that the right knee is reserved for the Blessed Sacrament and the left knee for relics.  What I do know for certain is that on the most solemn occasions, such as the Watch of the Passion on Maundy Thursday, a double genuflection is called for, which means going down on both knees in a quite intricate move which would dazzle even stars of ‘Strictly’!

Double gen

But whatever the knee, what do I mean when I am doing it?  I do it, I take a knee, in adoration, in honouring, in love, in humility, in response to the one who took the knee before his disciples in the Upper Room on the night when he was betrayed.

During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (John 13.2-5)

Jesus takes the role of the servant and in order to wash their feet must kneel before them.  And when Peter objects, when the others look incredulous he says to them

“If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13.14)

‘If I have knelt, you should kneel; if I have taken a knee so should you.’

There is nothing submissive, nothing degrading about the act, it is powerful humility, an exercise in honouring the other and that is why seeing a circle of 22 men on a pitch taking a knee is so incredibly moving at this time. The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians expresses it all so perfectly and, rather than end with a prayer of my own writing, I want to end with this incredible prayer which moves me to kneel again.

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3.14-19)

Amen to that.

Previous Post
Next Post
Comments are closed.
Holy Land

A pilgrimage for returning pilgrims

My Lent Diary

A journey from ashes to a garden

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017


Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark

%d bloggers like this: