Questions From Readers
Is it appropriate for a sister to wear a head covering when interpreting Bible discourses into sign language at Christian meetings, assemblies, or conventions?
Generally speaking, a Christian woman ought to wear a head covering when she cares for matters that are normally the responsibility of her husband or a brother in the congregation. This is in harmony with the principle stated by the apostle Paul that “every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head” because “the head of a woman is the man.” (1 Cor. 11:3-10) When a sister wears a modest and appropriate head covering in such situations, it is a sign of submission to the theocratic arrangement in the Christian congregation.—1 Tim. 2:11, 12.*
What, though, of situations in which a sister interprets into sign language for a brother who is delivering a discourse? True, the sister is merely acting as a linguistic intermediary. That is to say, the teaching is not her own but that of the brother for whom she is interpreting. However, sign-language interpretation is very different from interpretation between spoken languages. With spoken languages, the audience can focus on the speaker and still listen to the interpreter. Also, unlike sign-language interpretation, sisters who interpret spoken languages are usually not situated so prominently. At times, they may even have the option of being seated while interpreting or, if they are standing, of facing the speaker rather than the audience. So it would not be necessary for a sister interpreting into a spoken language to wear a head covering.
In addition to this, because of developments in the technology used when talks are interpreted into sign language, the interpreter’s role may become even more magnified. An image of the signer’s interpretation is commonly featured on a large screen, while the speaker himself may not even be visible to the audience. With these factors in mind, it would thus seem appropriate for the sister who interprets into sign language to acknowledge her secondary role as an interpreter by wearing a head covering.
How does this revised direction affect the interpretation into sign language of parts on the Theocratic Ministry School, demonstrations, and comments during the Congregation Bible Study, the Service Meeting, and the Watchtower Study? Should a sister who is a sign-language interpreter on such occasions also wear a head covering? It would appear that the sister’s use of a head covering in some circumstances is not necessary, since all in attendance should be able to appreciate that she is not actually conducting the meeting. This would be the case, for example, when she interprets comments from the audience, talks given by sisters, or demonstrations. However, when interpreting talks for brothers during these meetings, when interpreting for the Watchtower Study conductor or the conductor of the Congregation Bible Study, or when taking the lead in signing songs, she should wear a head covering. During the course of a meeting, a sister may have to interpret for brothers, sisters, children, and elders. In view of this, it may be more practical to wear a head covering during the entire meeting.
For a detailed discussion of the topic of head coverings for Christian women, see pages 209 to 212 of “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love.”