In my last post, I mentioned head coverings – and the fact I was wearing one. In this post, I want to share just how that came about.
When I ordered some curriculum and story books from Rod and Staff for my children, one of the things I noticed straight away was the odd little ‘hat’ things the women wore on their heads in the pictures. I later discovered that these were called coverings, prayer coverings or headship coverings. There were also some leaflets/booklets about it in the pack of tracts. One of these was called ‘The Significance of the Christian Woman’s Veiling’ by Merle Ruth, which explained in clear detail the reasons behind having one’s head covered.
There is an online copy of that leaflet available here:
I had always followed the custom of wearing some kind of hat at church on Sundays. Many years earlier, while on a summer evangelistic team, I had come across one person who put on a headscarf when she read her Bible in her private study times too. Having moved house several times, I had also moved churches and some encouraged wearing a hat, some didn’t. In like manner, I sometimes had and sometimes hadn’t.
While reading the booklets, in conjunction with the Bible, I became convinced that not only should I wear something while at church, but that I should wear it all the time. Of course, I did not have a ‘proper’ covering, like the ones I had seen in the pictures, and I had no way of getting one at that time, either. So in an attempt to be obedient to what I had read in the Bible, I compromised and started wearing a beret. The Bible clearly taught that a woman should be covered, in 1 Corinthians 11.
I guess I could have timed it better from the family’s point of view. Our daughter was away on a summer evangelism team and our son was in Sweden with the scouts. That meant I had no opportunity to explain to either of them what I was doing and why. It came as a complete shock to them. When we went to visit our daughter on the team, I was wearing the beret. As a teenager, she was less than impressed. It is always harder to explain why you are doing something after the event than before; I don’t think our daughter ever really accepted me wearing a covering. In more recent years, there have been times I did not wear it, but when I reverted to wearing it, I explained to her what I was going to do and her reaction was one of dismay, saying it was a symbol of repression and oppression. I assured her I was wearing it because I wanted to and believed it to be right and she was satisfied with that response, but she is clearly still not happy about it.
Soon after I started wearing a covering, circumstances meant we moved churches. The new church did not encourage even wearing a hat for prayer on Sundays, which meant I really stood out. It also soon became clear that I did not just wear it at church, but was wearing it all the time. They began to get a bit funny with me because of it, to the extent that I began to feel criticised and pressured to stop.
One deacon commented what a shame it was that no-one could see my ‘lovely curly hair,’ while the minister frequently preached about not drawing attention to ourselves for the wrong reasons, for example by the way we dress, and not setting ourselves up as better than others! When we spoke about it, he simply said that I ‘must be under conviction’ to stop. He even suggested I had fallen prey to some kind of cult. Yet I was absolutely certain that God meant what He said in the Bible and that we could not just decide to ignore subjects because they didn’t fit with our preconceived ideas, or were uncomfortable for us. I didn’t make a big deal of it and, unless I was asked specifically, I did not speak about it. It was not my place to convince people of what I myself had been convinced of; the church did not teach the wearing of a covering and I did not want to undermine the church leaders. So I kept quiet.The church we now attend teaches that women should be covered for the church services. They know I wear my covering all the time and they accept that I do. Again, I don’t emphasise my own convictions; it is not my place to teach them, or to criticise them for not wearing a covering.
But how I long for a church or community like the Amish, where everyone wears a covering all the time and support one another in so doing. It is very hard being ‘different’.I can well understand how the Amish must feel when tourists stare at them, as if they are exhibits in a show of some kind.