Her Head Covering and Congregational Activities
1, 2. In what ways may a head covering enhance the attractiveness of the Christian woman, and what matters having to do with head covering will now be discussed?
A HEAD covering that is well chosen can do much to enhance the natural beauty and attractiveness of a woman. When worn as a sign of Christian subjection it enhances her more valuable spiritual attractiveness. While for this latter purpose the Christian woman would not want to wear as a head covering some frivolous and eye-catching “creation,” yet there is no reason why her head covering should not at the same time contribute to her outward appearance in a modest and becoming way.
2 In the previous article (paragraph 3) three basic situations were mentioned that would require a woman to wear a head covering as a sign of Christian subjection. The first of these has been fully discussed, so we can now take up a consideration of the other two. These have to do with the woman’s activities in relation to the congregation.
3. (a) Does a sister need to wear a head covering when in house-to-house work accompanied by a brother, and why so? (b) But what else needs to be kept in mind?
3 First, we might consider the matter from the standpoint of the field ministry of Jehovah’s witnesses, from house to house, making return visits and conducting home Bible studies. For example, would it be necessary for a woman to wear a head covering while in the house-to-house ministry if she is accompanied by a male dedicated minister, and where she gives a sermon? No, there does not seem to be any Scriptural reason that would require this. It is part of her assignment to preach the good news. (Matt. 24:14) She is not usurping the position of a brother. He is merely accompanying her, perhaps as a circuit servant or as the local congregation overseer, to assist her in the ministry, not to be taught by her. The same would apply to the back-call ministry. However, let us keep in mind the matter of conscience. It may be that some sisters feel that they should wear a head covering under these circumstances, and certainly there is no objection to their doing so if this is the way their conscience directs.
4. (a) May a sister ever offer prayer in the presence of a dedicated brother? (b) Why should the sister conducting a Bible study with a dedicated brother present wear a head covering?
4 However, when it comes to the Bible study work, we have a somewhat different situation. If a dedicated brother accompanies a sister to a home Bible study, then he should offer prayer, since a sister would never pray in the presence of a dedicated brother, even with a head covering, unless there were some exceptional reason, such as the brother’s having lost the physical power of speech. But, for the purpose of training, the sister may conduct the study, though she would do so with her head covered. Why so? This is more than giving a sermon from house to house or on a return visit. It is a prearranged session for Bible study and is formally opened with prayer. The one conducting the study is really presiding at a meeting where there is a dedicated male member of the congregation present. Normally, the dedicated brother would preside at such a meeting, which involves teaching in an organized way. (1 Tim. 2:12) However, because of the exceptional circumstance, that of providing training for the sister in the Bible study ministry, the sister may conduct the study. But, out of respect for the male member of the congregation present, she would wear a head covering while doing so.
5. (a) If an undedicated male publisher accompanies a sister on a Bible study, who should offer prayer? (b) Would the circumstances require the sister to wear a head covering, and why?
5 It may be on occasions that a sister is accompanied on a Bible study by a male associate of the congregation who is not yet baptized, though he is reporting to the congregation as a publisher of the good news. What should be the procedure? Since he is not dedicated he could not properly represent the dedicated sister in prayer to Jehovah, so it would be proper for her to offer prayer at the study. However, he might conduct the study. The sister, though, when praying, and also if she conducted the study, would properly do so with her head covered. While not yet in the fullest sense a member of the congregation, yet this man is prospectively so, and as far as those on the outside are concerned he is identified with the congregation due to his preaching activity, and he is showing an obedient course of action.
6. What procedure would be followed where a sister has to conduct a Bible study for the benefit of a newly dedicated brother?
6 The circumstance might arise where a sister actually conducts a home Bible study for the benefit of a dedicated brother. She may have preached the truth to this man, studied with him and helped him to dedication and baptism and into the service. Due to the lack of a male publisher she herself might have to continue the home Bible study with this new brother to complete the books “Let God Be True” and “This Means Everlasting Life.” He needs to learn these things, and in this case she is the only one there to help him. Under such circumstances she would properly wear a head covering while conducting the study, though prayer should be handled by the newly dedicated brother.
7. (a) What can be said about a sister’s helping a new brother in the field service? (b) While not counseling the brother, how can the sister help him to improve in the ministry?
7 Of course, to start with, she might also have to help him in the ministry, though circumstances would determine to what extent she could do so and she would have to use discretion. The situation of a man’s going alone with a woman in the ministry, especially if one or both of them are married, could easily be misunderstood and is to be avoided, if possible. In some countries it would be altogether unsuitable. So some other arrangement should be made if at all possible, and in most congregations there are brothers available who can help this new one. If there is no brother available in the congregation, perhaps a second sister could go along as well. Should the sister, under these circumstances, take the new brother in the service, this would not be a regular training program assignment, but the sister could help the new brother by letting him observe her own method of preaching. She should not offer counsel on his presentation the way a brother would, and, since she would not do so, a head covering would not be necessary, though again conscience might affect the matter. If the brother does ask for some suggestions, she can always refer to the Society’s publications, or perhaps explain how she handles various situations, but avoiding criticizing his presentation of the good news. Having a proper sense of the fitness of things and having in mind the Scriptural principles of headship will help a sister under these circumstances to conduct herself in a way that is both helpful and yet respectful of the situation.
AT CONGREGATION MEETINGS
8. (a) What principle applies to women requiring a head covering at congregation meetings? (b) What situation may arise at meetings for field service, what procedure should be followed, and why?
8 As to the need for women to wear head coverings at meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, this would not normally arise in the majority of congregations. As has been already noted, the principle that applies is: A head covering is required where, in the absence of a qualified male, a sister has to pray or preside at a congregation meeting. This situation might arise, for example, at a meeting for field service, perhaps in midweek, and which is attended only by sisters. On such occasions prayer should be offered on behalf of the group before setting out to share in Jehovah’s service, and someone would have to preside at or conduct the meeting. (Eph. 6:18) Since this is a congregationally arranged meeting, the sisters who preside or pray are handling duties that usually would be performed by brothers, and so they should have their heads covered, even though only sisters are present. A sister who is an appointed book study conductor would also have to wear a head covering while conducting the study and also while praying, if there is no dedicated brother present to care for this.
9. How should sisters view parts they may have in the service meeting and ministry school, and would these normally require them to wear a head covering?
9 No head covering is required for sisters taking part in demonstrations, relating experiences, or when handling student talks as demonstrations at the congregation’s ministry school. In such cases the sisters are not presiding in the congregation. They are not trying to instruct the brothers or direct them in what they should do, and so, in not wearing a head covering, there is no violation of Scriptural principle. However, the sisters do greatly contribute to the upbuilding of all in the congregation. For that reason a sister should never underestimate the benefit of any part she may have in the program, either by giving an experience or sharing in a demonstration.
WOMEN MINISTERS OF CONGREGATIONS
10. (a) As illustrated by Romans 16:1, what situation sometimes occurs today in congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) What does the Greek word for overseer mean, and to whom does it apply?
10 At Romans 16:1 Phoebe is spoken of as “a minister of the congregation that is in Cenchreae.” Just what her duties were we do not know, but, as apparently was the case with Phoebe, so today, due to a shortage of qualified brothers, sisters may have to be used to fill servant positions in a congregation. This may even include caring for the duties of the congregation servant. However, in such cases we would not speak of a sister as an overseer, since the very meaning of the Greek word epískopos, “one who visits for the purpose of inspecting,” indicates that such a position could be properly filled only by a dedicated male, who, if married, must be the husband of only one woman. Appropriately, we read at 1 Timothy 3:1: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.”
11. What purposes does the head covering serve when the woman prays or presides at a congregation meeting?
11 When, in discharging her duties, the sister congregation servant, or any other sister who is dedicated and baptized, handles duties of a presiding nature, which would normally be performed by an overseer, ministerial assistant or a study conductor, then a head covering is necessary for her. The sister is serving temporarily or circumstantially in the place of a man, and by wearing a head covering she is showing proper conscientious regard for her relationship to the theocratic organization. The head covering also, you might say, acts as a caution not to try to run ahead or exert any untheocratic influence on the congregation, as was the case in the congregation at Thyatira described in Revelation 2:20.
12. What procedure would be followed at a Watchtower study where no capable brothers are present, and what can be said as to head covering for the sister conducting and the one doing the reading of the paragraphs?
12 To illustrate: A sister who conducts the congregation Watchtower study or, as has already been mentioned, a congregation book study, should wear a head covering while doing so, as should a sister who offers prayer at such meetings, and they would do so even though being seated at the time. In most cases where a sister presides at a meeting with her head covered the number in attendance is quite small, and it would normally not be necessary for her to stand while conducting. Even at the Watchtower study the attendance may not be more than what is usually to be found at a congregation book study, so those attending can be grouped around in a similar way to that of such a study, and the conductor, while facing the audience, can remain seated in almost all instances. The sister reading the paragraphs can do so from her seat, and, as the one reading, she does not need to have her head covered. The Watchtower is doing the teaching. Even if, due to a larger attendance and with no qualified brother available, the sister had to stand to read in order for all to hear, she would not necessarily have to wear a head covering since she is not teaching or presiding at the meeting. She is not giving a talk, only reading a summary from The Watchtower. However, here again the sister may prefer to wear a head covering as being suitable for the occasion, and so this would be according to her conscience in the matter. If a sister is wearing a head covering as her normal practice she certainly does not have to remove it at any time while carrying on true worship.
13. At service meetings how can material usually handled in discourse form be considered?
13 What should be the procedure at the service meeting and theocratic ministry school in the absence of dedicated male members? The sister presiding at these meetings would do so while wearing a head covering. In presenting material it should be kept in mind that teaching in the congregation is an assignment for male members, and so anything in the nature of presenting material to the congregation in discourse form by a sister should be avoided. Where the Kingdom Ministry calls for the consideration of some item in the form of a discourse, for example, a talk based on material in The Watchtower, the article in the magazine, or portions thereof, can be read by one of the sisters from her seat in the audience. The time available would determine what portions of the article can be handled, and the specific paragraphs can be assigned in advance so that the matter is not left to the discretion of the sister reading the material.
14, 15. (a) How can material assigned for the instruction talk and first and second student talks be handled in the ministry school? (b) What about question-and-answer reviews?
14 The same method should be followed when presenting the material for the instruction talk and other talks usually assigned to brothers in the ministry school. The material can be read from the assigned publications by sisters from their seats in the audience, and in such cases no head covering is necessary. In this way the congregation, though composed entirely of sisters, will not miss any of the information being presented in other congregations.
15 Where a sister is assigned to conduct a question-and-answer review, and this is always beneficial for audience participation, she would perform this assignment with her head covered, since it is in the nature of presiding, even though she may conduct the review from a seated position.
16, 17. How may the sister acting as school servant help (a) sisters enrolled in the school? (b) a new brother who associates with the congregation and enrolls in the school?
16 As to the sister acting as school servant, how can she counsel the students without actually teaching in the congregation? She will certainly want to avoid giving any impression of acting as a critic or instructor. But she can still help the other sisters by offering suggestions, quoting directly from the Society’s publications, thus letting the Society’s publications do the teaching. She can also mark the counsel slip, and she can always give further help privately to the students who request this assistance.
17 But what if a man begins to associate, dedicates himself and enrolls in the school? Until he qualifies to handle the duties of the school servant, the sister may have to continue to care for this assignment for some time. But she will not counsel the brother when he gives a talk, nor for that matter should she mark his counsel slip. However, in order for this new brother to get some help to improve his speaking ability, it would be well for him to have a speaking assignment during the visit of the circuit servant, and then the circuit servant can give him counsel and mark his counsel slip. Of course, this new brother may wish to get some additional help between such visits, and he may approach the sister who is the school servant for some suggestions, perhaps in regard to some specific difficulty. She can certainly help him locate helpful points in the Society’s publications and possibly assist him in understanding the principles of speaking discussed there, but without giving him direct counsel.
18. How about head covering for a sister acting as translator for a brother giving a discourse?
18 Some have wondered about the question of a head covering for a sister who might be called on to act as an interpreter for a brother who is delivering a talk. Well, the sister is not originating the material; she is just relaying it. So from this standpoint it would seem that a head covering is not required. At the same time the woman doing the interpreting might feel more at ease if she had a head covering. After all, she may be in a position of some prominence before a large audience and she would want to put feeling and urgency in the translation to copy faithfully the feelings of the speaker who may be giving exhortation and pointed counsel. To avoid the appearance of being a teacher to the brothers she might wish to wear a head covering. So in this case, again, the sister would have to decide according to her conscience.
19. (a) What has been the purposes of these articles on head covering? (b) How can a sister know how to act as to a head covering in most circumstances?
19 These articles on godly women have not attempted to discuss every possible situation where the question of head covering might arise, and then to set a rule for each one. Rather, they have set forth, as far as possible, the principles with regard to headship and the use of a head covering and illustrations of how these principles are to be applied in the congregation of God’s people in order that all things may “take place decently and by arrangement,” and that faithful women ministers in the New World society may know how to conduct themselves in Jehovah’s service with a good conscience and with theocratic attractiveness. (1 Cor. 14:40) If one has in mind the purpose of a head covering and the basic situations that require a woman to wear such, there should be little difficulty in determining what to do in most circumstances.—See paragraph 3 of previous article.
20. (a) What may conscience direct for some sisters, and how should this be viewed? (b) Where a headdress is customarily worn, what does the dedicated Christian woman have to keep in mind? (c) When a head covering is required where a headdress is not customarily worn, what is it wise to do?
20 When it is said that a head covering is not required under certain circumstances, this is not in any way a criticism of those sisters who feel more at ease wearing a head covering at such times. We certainly respect their conscience and their desire to avoid any offense in such matters. Indeed, in some countries it is the custom for women always to wear a head covering when in public or in the presence of men. The important thing is that, where a head covering is Scripturally required as an evidence of subjection to a husbandly head or to male members of the Christian congregation, the sister should be conscious of this, even though she might normally wear a head covering at other times too. Where a head covering is not the everyday custom, then where there is the possibility of a woman’s requiring a head covering, either in order to offer prayer or to preside over part of a meeting in the absence of a dedicated male, it would be well to advise the sister in advance so as to avoid any embarrassment.
21. What tests of faith do Christian women face today, and how are they overcoming them?
21 We give thanks to Jehovah for his making provision for faithful women to have such a grand share in the final witness being given in these last days. The faithful women ministers in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses have many problems to overcome, and by Jehovah’s help they are overcoming them. Many come from divided homes, where, because of the need for them to render relative subjection to an undedicated man, there is a constant test of their faith, and day by day they may be required to face opposition to their meeting with Jehovah’s people and their sharing in the public preaching of the good news. In Russia, Eastern Germany and other Communist and dictatorial lands faithful women endure the hardship of prison and camp life, and even risk their lives along with their brothers as they continue loyal to their dedication to do Jehovah’s will.
22. What is accomplished by women ministers in the New World society, in evidence of what?
22 In most countries it can truly be said that the main burden of the house-to-house ministry and the Bible study work of Jehovah’s witnesses is taken up by these faithful women ministers. At times they outnumber the male members of the congregations. Also, the women often have more time available for sharing in the ministry. By the wise use of this time, and by the kindness, patience, sympathy and understanding they show as they call on the people, these faithful women ministers accomplish much in making the territory more receptive to the Kingdom message as they turn many to the truth and build them up in right knowledge by means of the home Bible studies they conduct. All this is evidence of their loyal support for the local congregation organizations in getting the good news of the Kingdom preached in the assigned territory.
23. How does the New World society regard its women ministers, and what may they continue to do, with what results?
23 Proverbs chapter 31 speaks of the blessing that an industrious, faithful woman can be to her family and to others, and then shows how she in turn is blessed. Pr 31 Verses 28 and 31 read: “Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her. Give her of the fruitage of her hands, and let her works praise her even in the gates.” The New World society values highly all the faithful women ministers in its midst. (1 Pet. 3:4) May they continue to enjoy good fruitage from their works. May they continue to beautify the New World society with their theocratic attractiveness as they hold their assigned place in Jehovah’s arrangement of things, to his praise and to their own eternal blessing.
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No head covering required for house-to-house preaching
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Head covered when presiding or praying at a congregation meeting for field ministry