The Prophecy of Headcovering

freshly washed kapps

 I’m sure a number of people wonder why it is that an educated woman like myself would choose to cover. Surely, after seven years of liberal theological education, I would not be so retrograde as to adopt a way of life and dress so – conservative. And conservative, to many moderns, of the worst kind, associated with lack of education, even ignorance. It’s a step backward, even a blow to progressive thought.

I’m not a progressive. I’m more likely post-post-modern. I reject the ephemera of culture.

Paul, in I Corinthians, scolds that church for their innovations in meeting. Perhaps they are trying to incorporate practices from pagan worship; perhaps they are being flamboyant in some way. (One writer, Thomas Cahill, speculates that that there might even be some cross-dressing. I can see his point; some of the Corinthians may have been attracted to a community where the outcasts were accepted. Paul needs to explain to them they have to give up their old ways, though.) Paul tells the men to uncover their heads in worship – could they have been imitating pious Pharisees and draping themselves dramatically in their tallit? Or worse, were some of them wearing women’s shawls to cover elaborately dressed hair? In Corinth, it was probably the latter. And some of the women were cutting their hair short like men, and refusing to cover, as modest women almost always did. Paul emphasizes that the covering is an honour given women (much as Moses veiled his face after meeting with YHWH), probably as a way to admit them into the assembly with the men. If they start throwing off their coverings, what next? Paul knows that men and women mixing in the ecclesia will scandalize the synagogue.

Both men and women are to be modest, plain in dress, and to reject cultural ostentation. They are to dedicate themselves to the way of the Lord, not some worldly way of living.

Christians today certainly struggle with that issue. Who can pick out a group of Christians in the mall, or at a theatre? Most Christians in our culture buy into that culture, literally. We look worldly, act worldly, dress worldly. There is little to say, “We’ve found a better way.” And although Christians invented the word “Charity” to mean inclusion, kindness and generosity to the poor, we are as caught up in the cycle of spending and debt as the rest of society. We have little to give, so millions around the globe are hungry, sick, and desperate.

This is the prophecy of headcovering: Paul had no clue that he was speaking to us. He thought he was trying to get the Corinthians back in line. But his strong words to them, to live as Christ lived – simply, modestly, generously – are words to us. And we need to demonstrate that Way and Paul’s prophecy to the rest of the world. They, including the churches, have lost direction. I hear preaching and see the printed word telling Christians that God will bless them with goods, with worldly prosperity – not with the persecutions and trials that Jesus warned about. Christianity is not a cargo cult.

I am not concerned about proving that God wants women to cover, or that He wants us to be modest and counter-cultural. The teaching of the Bible is that we are to do these things; the reasons haven’t gone away just because we are somehow better educated. Our witness is against the prince of this world and his evil. One of Satan’s lies is that everything has changed, that what was wrong before is right now, because we are moderate, intelligent, enlightened people. God save us from this falsehood, that the dimming of our reason is the same as enlightenment!

It doesn’t matter if we are male or female, old or young, highly educated or barely literate; the Lord has called us all to witness in every place. The world, drifted so far from His Way, needs the sharp surprise of the visual witness – the modest, Plain, simple Christian.

If we walk in His Light, we can see the error of the world. And should we not warn others that they are stumbling in the dark?

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13 thoughts on “The Prophecy of Headcovering

  1. Magdalena,

    this is a powerful message and reminder – We must decrease so that He may increase… as women, educated or otherwise, we are acutely aware that secular society (especially that of our fellow sisters) puts great store in impressions – the ‘fashionable’, the ‘beautiful’, the ‘alluring’ as ‘we’ allow ourselves to be divested of our dignity and sexualized by a culture bent on satisfying its appetites – the more ‘enlightened’ call this type of thing ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’.

    The plain witness, including the headcovering (a gift to us; something that men are not directed to embrace as a spiritual discipline) is (to coin an indigenous Australian term) Secret Womens’ business – that is also sacred womens’ business. As travellers upon the Plain, Modest, Covered path, we are about the King’s business. Each one of us is an ambassador. Each one of us is a witness to the true freedom to be found in taking up our cross and following jesus Christ as we embrace matt 25: 34-40, Acts 2: 42-47, the book of James, plus 1 Cor 11 1-16, much of 1 Peter 3, along with the writings credited to Titus and Timothy.

    We should never be ashamed or afraid of the King’s uniform.

    The Plain witness also reaches out, acting as a gentle circuit breaker to the careening madness of wider society and not a small portion of Christianity. It gives back dignity, freedom and speaks true caritas. Nobody has been exploited to make this attire working as a slave to some multi national corporation. if we choose our fabrics carefully, either for our own sewing efforts or when purchasing from modest clothierres we are also practicing mindfulness concerning the resources we have been gifted with.

    Remember, materialism, debasement of humanity (happening in different yet no less dramatic ways in both Majority and Minority nations), looking longingly after the systems and ways of the world, consumerism etc only leads to Rev 11: 18 becoming a reality.

    Plainness is also tender and gentle to one’s esteem and worth. When we are thus attired, the flaws each one of us carries that are so harshly judged by our sisters especially, and the frippery known as popular culture cease to matter. We are preserved and reserved for those who genuinely love and cherrish us most.

    Anglicans, the Peace denominations, Catholics, Messianic, the denominations that sprang from the US mid 19th century revival, Baptists and Lutherans are, often independant of one another, across cultural and national boundaries, discovering the liberation and freedom to be found in the plain walk, men and women both. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even some Plain Orthodox out there who I haven’t encountered yet. Headcovering groups across the board are receiving new members every week from all corners of the globe and all denominations. This is growing, driven by we women ourselves who often come to this realization with only Holy Scripture and dedicated prayer as our guide.

    May you continue to champion the liberating Truth, I cannot thank you enough for your tireless work!

    • I point out to those who are skeptical of our life changes that many are following them outside the traditional covering churches. There are Plain Orthodox around, too. They may look more like Beachy Amish or observant Jews, though, usually in toned-down store clothes – women in long sleeves and long skirts, men in jeans and plain shirts. The women often cover with something liek the teitchel (sp?), the Eastern European starched kerchief.

      Would you share the addresses of some of these groups you know of?

  2. Magdalena,

    It was a little less then a year ago when I found your blog by researching this same issue. I am a highly educated woman (I have 4 college degrees) and yet I was called to head covering. I have a relatively successful business where perception is everything and yet I was called to be modest and plain. To say that it took some sole searching and prayer would be an understatement. I kept thinking it was just a hang over from a visit to Lancaster, PA and a trip to the oldest church of my faith located in Philadelphia.

    Almost a year later, I am comfortable with my headcovering and skirts. The thought of wearing jeans or a pants suit repulses me. My husband is not of my faith so there have been moments but I think he is beginning to accept. My friends, who were my true friends, embraced me and one even gave me a new shawl for Christmas.

    I feel I am better for my new, outward and visible walk with the Lord.
    God Bless you, my friend, Always.

  3. Thank you so very much, you have no idea how encouraging I find your writings!
    I pray for blessing on you and all who read and follow your site.

  4. Both men and women are to be modest, plain in dress, and to reject cultural ostentation. They are to dedicate themselves to the way of the Lord, not some worldly way of living.

    Christians today certainly struggle with that issue. Who can pick out a group of Christians in the mall, or at a theatre? Most Christians in our culture buy into that culture, literally. We look worldly, act worldly, dress worldly. There is little to say, “We’ve found a better way.” And although Christians invented the word “Charity” to mean inclusion, kindness and generosity to the poor, we are as caught up in the cycle of spending and debt as the rest of society. We have little to give, so millions around the globe are hungry, sick, and desperate.

    Amen and amen …to both of these paragraphs!

  5. Magdalena, you are the principle advocate of headcovering, plainness and modesty within the Anglican denomination.

    The owner http://www.prayercoverings.com is also relatively recently Anglican, I think. Of interest, she is providing a distinctive Anglican cover known as a ladies’ choir cap’ that may be acceptable for general wear also.

    http://www.quakerjane.com
    http://www.quakeranne.com
    and
    Martin Kelley over at http://www.quakerranter.org/2010/11/a-traveling-bus-museum-visits-quakerranter-hq/
    I have come across what could only be described as a ‘new monastic community’ that is conservative Quaker based (think QA links to it) and a search of intentional Christian community shows a veritable explosion in ‘New Monasticism’ and other intentional community for both men and women, often modest and plain also, often covered, some large, long-time established groups, others more frail, it would seem, in their formation.

    Re the 19th Century American revival denominations, Seventh Day Adventists have the most organized identifiably plain group, see http://www.plainlydressedocom and the Yahoo Group ‘Headcovering Seventh Day Annabaptists’. Most of us would be familliar with the FLDS (fundamental latter Day Saints’ for good or ill…I personally found it curious that during the crisis that surrounded this group around three years ago now many were ready to cast judgement against them, yet had not a word to say against other more established ‘herritage’ Plain intentional faith communities’ but that is irrelevant re this list, to a fair degree. I know the Jehova’s Witnesses have a precedent for covering (women teaching in a corporate or group setting where men are present) JW readers may wish to elabourate on this. As for the fourth denomination that arose during this time, the Christian Scientists, I am not sure whether individuals or groups within this denomination cover or dress plainly; I would be surprised if there was not at least one. I know the Christadelphians practice modesty and covering for corporate worship. then there’s the Brethren, both Open and Exclusive. In Australia, the Open brethren have long dispensed with covering and the Exclusive brethren use a hairband with micro-kerchief to cover. Not sure if these latter two have plain adherrants, I think there might be at least some.

    I am not certain about conservative Lutheran; I think the owners of the former ‘Headcoverings.com’ site are Lutheran, though cannot be 100% certain of this.

    Now to representatives from Catholic Christianity

    http://plaincatholic.tripod.com/

    is a fantastic starting point that sums up the Plain Catholic ethos very succinctly.
    Here is another resource:

    http://plaincatholic.webs.com/ourclothing.htm

    Of course, members of third orders, such as the Brothers and sisters of Penitence though not Plain persay, often have a rule concerning simplicity in dress. Furthermore, in Catholic circles, both within Eastern and Western rites, the Mantilla is making a comeback with gen X and Y women.

    Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox Religious by default, if they haven’t junked the habit, are for want of a better term, Plain. Some individual ‘monastics’ (anchoresses and the like) may also wear a habbit under certain conditions, though Magdalena, I defer humbly to your expertise in this area.

    Here’s another resource:
    http://www.thoseheadcoverings.blogspot.com
    This is incredible!

    I hope these help. Sarah.

    • I don’t find the choir cap all that appealing, although it’s got a good, simple English look to it. But I am considering the straw spoon bonnet for summer wear!

      Monastics, as far as I know, have the option in Anglican dioceses to choose their own manner of dress. I believe that all Anglican orders are under the diocesan bishop where they reside. So technically th ebishop would have to approve of habit.

  6. Thank you, Magdalena, for being such an inspiration to us all, as somebody else has also commented. I am being called to “plain contemporary” – which in my book includes jeans :) – and your blog helps me to stay focussed.

    And what you say about popular culture is so true. This Christmas, I was unwise enough to rent some DVDs and I can honestly say I wish I hadn’t. With the exception of one, they were silly and vacuous. No doubt they cost a fortune to make and no doubt the people in them got paid a fortune. All part of the decay that marks contemporary society. I will not be giving this industry my support in future.

    As far as your wrestling with the decision to return to the ministry is concerned, you’re in my thoughts. Don’t be too hard on yourself. No matter how plain and simple one is, life is expensive and bills have to be paid.

    Jane Smith (Pretoria, South Africa)

    • My son works in the film industry and usually out of loyalty I will see the movies he was in – but I don’t care for most of them. And he wishes he got paid a fortune – that’s the other side of Hollywood folks! The big names get the big money, the support people get about what they would make in a day at McDonald’s.

      I’m trying to get settled in here before approaching the bishop, but I need to do it soon!

      Thanks for your kind words.

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