Long gone are the days of ladies wearing hats to church.
Or are they? If an online campaign has its way, church-going women will soon return to wearing head coverings during worship. The recently launched Head Covering Movement, as it’s called, uses a quote from theologian, author and pastor R.C. Sproul on its website, www.headcoveringmovement.com, to summarize its viewpoint on this issue.
“The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the 20th century,” the quote reads. “What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church?”
The practice of head covering is drawn from 1 Corinthians 11, which states in verses 7 through 10a (NLT): “A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory. For the first man didn’t come from woman, but the first woman came from man. And man was not made for woman, but woman was made for man. For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority.”
While many today do not see this as a command pertaining to the present, some women do practice it — although there’s no overwhelming consensus concerning how to carry it out. Among the women featured on The Head Covering Movement’s website are a number of different methods of covering, including headbands, hats, scarves, bandanas and bonnets. Some wear them only during public worship, while others wear them all the time.
Still other women understand the 1 Corinthians passage to call not for a cloth covering but simply for uncut hair. Calandra King, along with a number of other women belonging to her church, The Pentecostals of St. Joseph, adheres to this understanding.
“The Bible says that I have spiritual power when I pray with my covering of uncut hair and also refers to it as my glory,” Ms. King says, adding that her denomination’s interpretation is drawn from 1 Corinthians 11:15 and its use of the word “uncut” in the original Greek. “… I’ve done this all my life; even from childhood, my parents never cut my hair. Growing up, I studied the Word of God and continued to practice it because I wanted to be obedient to the Bible by living a holy and dedicated life to God.”
Some women begin wearing head coverings later in life — including Lindsey Bachman, a St. Joseph attorney who attends St. James Catholic Church. Ms. Bachman notes that she began wearing a mantilla (a lace or silk veil worn over the head and shoulders) when she converted to Catholicism three years ago.
“For me, veiling is a sign of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament,” she says. “1 Corinthians 11 speaks of women covering their heads in church, and the Catholic Church adhered to this practice for over 2,000 years. Only after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s has the tradition fallen out of practice.”
She also notes that her decision to wear a mantilla was influenced by her growing devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the fact that artistic depictions of her usually show her with her head covered. In addition, Ms. Bachman has found that wearing a head covering comes with practical benefits — including minimizing distractions and helping her keep her eyes fixed on the altar during Mass.
“I am definitely in the minority, but I am not the only one,” who wears a head covering at her church, she adds. “… I think there is a growing trend of women returning to the practice.”