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Converts wearing headcoverings= legalists?

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jaderook

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So, I don't wear a headcovering.  There are a few women in my parish who do, but most don't.  I've worn one before when visiting places where it is expected and found it to be a gigantic hassle- if you had my mane of crazy hair, you'd understand.  I also don't like to draw undue attention to myself.  Unfortunately, there's a perv in my parish (not Orthodox himself) who is fascinated with my hair and comes up behind me to touch it sometimes and gushes about how much he loves it- I avoid him and have told him to leave me alone and so have other people.  I have people compliment my hair a lot and a teenage girl or two have told me how they envy my hair and one even said how she loved staring at it during liturgy.  This makes me uncomfortable.  Personally, I don't see the fascination because I don't like my hair and it is difficult to deal with as it's curly.

Moving on- It's in scripture and technically women are supposed to do this, right?  I'm far from eager about the prospect, but there's been this increasing conviction and I've been considering it.  I have this fear about what other people might say or think, and I don't want to draw even more attention to myself.  So, the next logical step was to ask my priest about it.  He didn't say no, but he might as well have.  Apparently, that's just not our culture in the U.S. and sometimes people get very legalistic about things like dress.

Right, I get that.  I've seen four recent converts start dressing znius as if they were frum.  Possibly overboard stuff going on there, I don't know for sure.  However, I don't own skirts that long, I wear pants quite often, and I certainly wouldn't be begging for my husband to put me away in a monastery if I started to wear a headcovering.  I have a hard enough time trying to fast and following my prayer rule, etc.  My life is far from being a paragon of holiness.  I don't think thousands around me will likely ever be saved from observing my not so holy life.  You get the idea.

However, the implication was that I would be seen as a legalist, and my feelings were hurt.  I don't find anything about Orthodoxy to be particularly easy- it's all a struggle for me really- but seriously?  Why is this in the bible then if it is optional?
 

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Although I hate the use of the concept of Western vs Eastern mindset, but I think looking at this concept as "optional" may seep in to your understanding of other concepts in the church. Just because some people do not have to do something does not mean it is optional. For instance many people have different dietary requirements therefore when they fast they may be less strict in food choices or may even abstain from the fast completely. Remember why legalism is wrong, because it views the activity your doing as an end in itself when the end is really loving God more. For instance I heard a story of a parishioner that said when he first converted he couldn't wait to do the fast, the reason being he was a martial arts expert and was already used to fasting and conditioning his body and in his mind he would be a professional at it, the wise priest noticing this would lead to prideful thoughts and behavior forbid him in partaking in the fast with everyone and in this way it humbled him (this story is from Turbo from the podcast Generation Orthodox).
 

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So, it's not truly optional and I should wear a headcovering even if others might think I'm being legalistic?  I'm confused.
 

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There are cultural aspects to it, and St. Paul may have been working off of certain cultural ideas common to that era, but it's also a custom that promotes modesty during prayer.  You have attractive hair, apparently, and so a head covering may serve to help not only yourself, but others as well.  My wife's just bought some headscarves herself; she and I have talked about taking the tradition as a whole rather than distinguishing between so-called "Big-T" and "little-t" traditions.  Just take it all in as much as you can (which is slowly at first, and at the discretion of your priest) and let God sort you out, as it were.
 

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jaderook said:
So, it's not truly optional and I should wear a headcovering even if others might think I'm being legalistic?  I'm confused.
Don't worry if others think you're being legalistic; what you are doing is not the stumbling block, it's their pride.  Don't let the judgment of others be a stumbling block to you; if it is an aid to your prayer life, then you should utilize it.  If you're afraid about drawing attention, then sit in the back of the Church.  Be mindful of prayer always.
 

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jaderook said:
So, it's not truly optional and I should wear a headcovering even if others might think I'm being legalistic?  I'm confused.
Sorry jaderook I wasn't really giving an answer :D just a different perspective.
 

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jaderook said:
So, it's not truly optional and I should wear a headcovering even if others might think I'm being legalistic?  I'm confused.
If you feel an inner conviction to cover your head, then I would do it.  It is an honor for a woman to cover her head when she prays.  We men are not allowed to do this!
 

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My daughter and my wife will be attending the Vigil of the Nativity this year. I notice there is a box of scarves as you enter the 'temple' ?

Should they wear head coverings?
 

Alveus Lacuna

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ignatius said:
My daughter and my wife will be attending the Vigil of the Nativity this year. I notice there is a box of scarves as you enter the 'temple' ?

Should they wear head coverings?
It really just depends on the expectations of the parish.  If they have scarves at the front, then I would guess that they should.
 

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jaderook said:
So, it's not truly optional and I should wear a headcovering even if others might think I'm being legalistic?  I'm confused.
I hate to confuse you as well, but it's sound advice. Believe it or not. It all depends on the circumstances. If people think it's too legalistic. That is there problem and not yours. Wear it.  If you are being legalistic than it's your spiritual problem. Don't wear it. Or don't wear it until you get over your legalism. Sounds a little bipolar? It is. ;)
 

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Oh, I can relate!

I always have to wear my hair covered or at least bound in strange places because strangers are forever touching it without asking.  Since we attend an ethnic parish, I stand out like a sore thumb (my hair is naturally blonde and past my fingertips).  I found I attract attention either way, so I wear a headcovering.  Not alot of women at my home parish do, so I did worry about it abit at first.  I try to select a inconspicuous headcovering for that reason at home.  (Usually a simple black mantilla). 
 

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An interesting note about some Orthodox Jewish groups:

One of my professors is a conservative Jew, and he made a point to mention something that I think highlights real legalism (meaning understanding a commandment in a purely legal sense).

Women are commanded in Jewish law as well to cover their heads, but I am not sure of the context as to when, where, and why.  Anyway, many Orthodox Jewish woman fulfill this command by wearing a wig.  The law is obeyed, and the contract is still upheld.  That, my friends, is legalism.
 

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A headdress isn't going to stop some person from acting inappropriately.

I never view someone wearing a headdress as a legalist, fwiw.  Have you informed an usher or a Parish Council member or even your Priest about this individual's behavior?
 

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Jaderook,

I wrote an article on headcovering in the Antiochian Church, once you read it you will find the reason your priest did not openly say yes or no, basically it is because the Antiochian bishops have left it to the discretion of the woman:

The Tradition of Women Covering their Head when They Pray

For nearly two thousand years, Orthodox women, according to the words of the holy Apostle Paul, have gone to God's church with covered heads.  Until recently, this custom has been kept by faithful women and has been handed down from generation to generation. It is a custom not only of the local churches, but also in world-wide Orthodox churches,  whether one is in the Greek, Antiochian, Russian, eastern European, or African Orthodox Church, women in the church have their heads covered.

In the United States since the 1960s ( after the Roman Catholic decision of Vatican II that women did not have to cover their heads), some Orthodox women have chosen not to follow this custom.  They have felt that it was dated custom that had no place in the practice of modern Orthopraxis. While head coverings are still the norm in the "old World", the response to this is varied by the jurisdictions in the United States.  In most Russian and Slavic Churches, head coverings are still required and a woman is not communed without a head covering. In the Greek, Antiochian, and many OCA parishes head coverings are not required and the practice is left as a pious custom that women may use or not use as they wish. Many parishes, like ours, have head coverings for women who wish them but do not require them.

SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR WOMEN COVERING THEIR HEADS
We find the basis for this pious custom of covering the head in Sacred Scripture itself, in the New Testament. The Most Holy Virgin Mary covered her head in the holy temple from her young years. According to tradition, her veil (head covering) in the Jerusalem temple was light blue; therefore, on the feast days of the Theotokos, Orthodox clergy often wear light blue vestments. The Most Holy Theotokos wore a veil (head covering) as a sign of her humility and submissiveness to God's will, which was manifested on the day of the Annunciation. Later the Apostle Paul reiterated the importance of this when he addressed the model for men and women as they prayed: 
"Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head: because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man [c.f. Genesis 2-3]. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels. But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church of God [i.e., if anyone want to complain about this, we have no other way of doing things, this is our practice; all the churches believe the same way]. Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together, not for the better, but for the worse. " (1 Corinthians 11:1-17)

According to St. Paul, Orthodox Women veil themselves as a sign that His glory, not theirs, should be the focus at worship, and as a sign of our submission to authority. It is an outward sign of our recognizing headship, both of God and man, and a sign of our respecting the presence of the Heavenly Hosts at the Divine Liturgy. In veiling, we reflect the divine invisible order and make it visible. This St. Paul presents clearly as a practice of all the churches of his time.

THE ARGUMENT AGAINST HEADCOVERINGS
Faithful Orthodox women who choose to not cover their head in church note that they believe that St. Paul was speaking as a man of his time, and that this ordinance no longer applies in modern context.  They view this often more as a custom from the old world and not one that translates well into modern life. An example given is that in the "Old Country", Orthodox married women always had a head covering on to identify themselves as married and to help them protect themselves from the elements (much like to bonnets of pioneer women in the early US history). Women who choose not to wear a head covering note that several jurisdictions in the United States no longer require this custom after 1960s choosing to leave it a practice of personal piety.  As a result of these issues they see no mandate for the continued veiling of American Orthodox women.

Often the detractors of those women who choose not to veil will judge them by saying their only reason for not veiling is that "veils and headscarves are not in style" or "I don't want to spoil my hair style". The reality is that for the faithful Orthodox Woman, who chooses not cover her head, there is no spiritual value to their covering their heads and so they choose to not cover their heads.

THE ARGUMENT FOR HEADCOVERINGS
Faithful Orthodox women who choose to wear a head covering (veil) believe that in doing so she recalls the image of her who was vouchsafed to carry the Savior Himself. If the Most Pure and Most Blessed One herself had a covered head, shall we really consider the imitation of her as foolish or old fashioned?  To these women every outward action, accompanied by the correct Christian inward disposition, brings benefit to the soul. The action of wearing a head covering is one of obedience to the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church. The act is so rich with symbolism to these women. They often note that it is a "submission to authority", "a surrender to God", "an imitation of the Most Holy Theotokos as a woman who uttered her "fiat!"; "the covering of my glory for His glory", and a sign of modesty and chastity. Many converts feel that the veil is a symbol of their adoption into the Holy Orthodox Church through all of the ages and the women who are their spiritual ancestors and examples.  One person interviewed noted that in all the icons of Holy women, the one common point of most is the covering of their head by veil or scarf.

Just as there are detractors for those who choose not veil, those who choose to cover the head in church have their detractors who will judge them as "old fashioned and out of touch with the modern church", or " too legalistic".  The reality is that for the Orthodox Woman, who chooses to cover her head, there is real spiritual value and identification with the Church in the covering of their head and so they cover their heads.

TO VEIL OR NOT TO VEIL?
The Antiochian Archdiocese does not require women to cover their heads in church. Our bishops have wisely determined that this act is a voluntary pious act that has meaning to one who does it and understands why they do it. They do not require it, as an act of obedience, for those to whom it has no spiritual value. The greatest danger to our spiritual life is not whether a woman chooses to veil or not veil herself when praying, but lies in our judging her decision to do so, for when we so judge we put our own  salvation in peril.

IN Christ,
Thomas
 

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The "it's just culture" argument does seem a bit lame to me.

However, why is it that Orthodox clergy grow their hair long when this verse calls it a shame?  Should not the same apply to them?  I've always found this confusing as God Himself wore long hair as a man.
 

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Thank you all for the thoughtful replies.  I have a lot to think about.  :)
 

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jaderook said:
Thank you all for the thoughtful replies.  I have a lot to think about.  :)
Wear a hat/scarf if you wish.  People shouldn't be focusing on your scarf, that's not the point of being in communal prayer such as the Divine Liturgy.  The focus is on Christ.  So wear a scarf if you want or don't but who cares what other people think, you're there for Christ.
 

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ignatius said:
My daughter and my wife will be attending the Vigil of the Nativity this year. I notice there is a box of scarves as you enter the 'temple' ?

Should they wear head coverings?
If that is the expectation of that particular church.  Here is an exception, If your daughter is under the age of the age of "maturity" then it is usually not expected little girls to cover their heads.
 

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Thomas said:
Jaderook,

I wrote an article on headcovering in the Antiochian Church, once you read it you will find the reason your priest did not openly say yes or no, basically it is because the Antiochian bishops have left it to the discretion of the woman:
Thomas - that is one of the most simple, direct, explanations of headcoverings I've read.  I practice headcovering and I will plan on using your explanations if I am ever questioned why I veil.  Thank you for sharing with us. 
 

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Upon attending the Divine Liturgy at the nearest Church to where I live my girlfriend was told to cover her head and we were told that I must stand on the right hand side of the Church and her on the left. I had assumed this was the usual practice until reading this thread! It did always strike me as a little strange...
 

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"But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: "

Okay so I normally wear a headdress to church, ever since coming across this scripture. I personally feel it was very direct and simple. So I feel good about it. Now my question is: are we supposed to wear them during ALL prayer? i.e. I find myself praying often, speaking to God frequently through out my day. Does this mean I am supposed to wear a prayer cap or head covering all the time just in case I pray? Which I do often, or is it a cover your head whn you pray more formally sort of situation? Thanks in advance y'all!
 

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Karaleighmum said:
"But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: "

Okay so I normally wear a headdress to church, ever since coming across this scripture. I personally feel it was very direct and simple. So I feel good about it. Now my question is: are we supposed to wear them during ALL prayer? i.e. I find myself praying often, speaking to God frequently through out my day. Does this mean I am supposed to wear a prayer cap or head covering all the time just in case I pray? Which I do often, or is it a cover your head whn you pray more formally sort of situation? Thanks in advance y'all!
I knew a girl that always covered her head because she thought she was called to ceaseless prayer. She's now a monastic novice.
 

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Fr. George said:
jaderook said:
So, it's not truly optional and I should wear a headcovering even if others might think I'm being legalistic?  I'm confused.
Don't worry if others think you're being legalistic; what you are doing is not the stumbling block, it's their pride.  Don't let the judgment of others be a stumbling block to you; if it is an aid to your prayer life, then you should utilize it.  If you're afraid about drawing attention, then sit in the back of the Church.  Be mindful of prayer always.
Great advice. Thanks, Father.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
An interesting note about some Orthodox Jewish groups:

One of my professors is a conservative Jew, and he made a point to mention something that I think highlights real legalism (meaning understanding a commandment in a purely legal sense).

Women are commanded in Jewish law as well to cover their heads, but I am not sure of the context as to when, where, and why.  Anyway, many Orthodox Jewish woman fulfill this command by wearing a wig.  The law is obeyed, and the contract is still upheld.  That, my friends, is legalism.
:laugh:

Of course, if the wig is a long glorious blonde one complete with natural curls, then it will draw attention, and defeat the purpose of wearing a simple head scarf.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
Karaleighmum said:
"But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: "

Okay so I normally wear a headdress to church, ever since coming across this scripture. I personally feel it was very direct and simple. So I feel good about it. Now my question is: are we supposed to wear them during ALL prayer? i.e. I find myself praying often, speaking to God frequently through out my day. Does this mean I am supposed to wear a prayer cap or head covering all the time just in case I pray? Which I do often, or is it a cover your head whn you pray more formally sort of situation? Thanks in advance y'all!
I knew a girl that always covered her head because she thought she was called to ceaseless prayer. She's now a monastic novice.
Thanks for that. But what does the Church say about this matter? I am new to Orthodoxy, and am eager to learn. I feel really humble when wearing one but also have a ten month old who makes it a bit difficult to wear one all the time. I have heard the argument that Mother Mary wore hers all the time and she being the Great Examply of Women, ought to serve as a reason to wear one all the time?
 

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Karaleighmum said:
I have heard the argument that Mother Mary wore hers all the time and she being the Great Examply of Women, ought to serve as a reason to wear one all the time?
Probably only nuns cover their heads all the time (including the time when they sleep). Orthodox women that cover they head do it only for church services. Of course, in country a lot of old grannies wear a headscarf all the time, but it's not only in Orthodox villages.

I wear a headscarf only for pilgrimages (beside the religious aspect, it's very useful then) and sometimes when I visit monasteries. I had much more problems with wearing skirts than with head covering. For me it doesn't matter if somebody wears a head covering or not, as I said, on some occasions I like to wear it, but in 90% I don't do it just because I like my short hair (usually I use some gel but it rather does not look "rebellious"). If I were asked to do it because of a real reason, no problem. I think it's quite personal because it can be a sign not only of humility, but also of being proud. 
 

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Btw, is it customary for women of any Orthodox country to wear a hat instead of a scarf during services?
 

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I will be honest I really enjoy seeing women wearing headscarves.  I don’t know why, but it just seems right, modest, and gracious.
 

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Alpo said:
Btw, is it customary for women of any Orthodox country to wear a hat instead of a scarf during services?
In Greece, it isn't. Scarves aren't common either; it's mainly the older women who wear them, especially in the countryside. Only the Old Calendarists require scarves, even from young girls. But hats are virtually nonexistent, not even for formal occasions like weddings and christenings.
 

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Asteriktos said:
Kerdy said:
I will be honest I really enjoy seeing women wearing headscarves.
I certainly like Helpmeet Helena in one  :)
But her arms are uncovered! IS OUTRAGE! :eek: :eek: :laugh:
 

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Kerdy said:
I will be honest I really enjoy seeing women wearing headscarves.  I don’t know why, but it just seems right, modest, and gracious.
It's called "feminine".

But I like scarves too altough I wouldn't mind hats either.
 

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I'm rubbish at tying, so, if I have to cover at all, I use a circle scarf.

One day, though, I have to manage a Glitter Glamour or Ribbon effect. :)

http://www.tznius.com/cgi-bin/tying.pl
 

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I know some Greek girls who will wear headscarves when praying at home due to the words of St. Paul, but who don't do so in church because they don't wish to attract attention to themselves. We should be sensitive to the weaknesses both of those in the congregation who, thinking headscarves to be an outdated cultural thing, would judge others as legalistic, and those who avoid wearing them out of fear to be subjected to such judgment. However, this does not mean it is optional.
 
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FWIW, in Greece it's customary for married women to cover their hair, but unmarried girls not to. This tradition is apparently fading out though. In my parish (Greek Orthodox church in Australia) I have seen only two women wearing head-scarves, and I'm still baffled by it as one was wearing a miniskirt? So perhaps this had some significance I'm not aware of.

In my opinion, if the purpose of wearing a veil is modesty, then wearing one in an environment where people would find it odd/not understand it would attract more attention and therefore defeat the purpose.
 

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AustralianDiaspora said:
In my opinion, if the purpose of wearing a veil is modesty, then wearing one in an environment where people would find it odd/not understand it would attract more attention and therefore defeat the purpose.
Everything religious attracts every kind of attention in every Western country. I don't want to get into discussion about whether women should cover their head or not but this is really a rather bad argument for anything considering how secularized Western countries are.
 

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AustralianDiaspora said:
I have seen only two women wearing head-scarves, and I'm still baffled by it as one was wearing a miniskirt? So perhaps this had some significance I'm not aware of.
It's not surprising at all. It's very typical for Russia an Ukraine (don't know about Belarus). But I didn't know it happens among Greeks too. However, of course it's a bit hypocritical. As I said, I very rarely wear a veil, but I never put on miniskirts or big decolletages. Of course, it doesn't mean I'm modest and humble woman, but I think it's more important than headscarfs, because the rules (certainly many times not written down) of the length of skirts and decolletages are not only for church situations - they're more universal.
 

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Dominika said:
AustralianDiaspora said:
I have seen only two women wearing head-scarves, and I'm still baffled by it as one was wearing a miniskirt? So perhaps this had some significance I'm not aware of.
It's not surprising at all. It's very typical for Russia an Ukraine (don't know about Belarus). But I didn't know it happens among Greeks too. However, of course it's a bit hypocritical. As I said, I very rarely wear a veil, but I never put on miniskirts or big decolletages. Of course, it doesn't mean I'm modest and humble woman, but I think it's more important than headscarfs, because the rules (certainly many times not written down) of the length of skirts and decolletages are not only for church situations - they're more universal.
I agree.  My bishop says that when he visits the parish in Las Vegas, some of the Russian women make sure that they have a headcovering on their heads but the rest of them is barely covered (they are wearing very short skirts and tank tops).  He would much rather they forego the headcovering and wear much more modest clothing. 
 

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Karaleighmum said:
So wait it is appropriate to use a hat in stead of a scarf?
Why it would be somehow wrong? I could imagine priests raising their eyebrows if teenage girls arrived to the services while wearing baseball caps but I can't come up with any reason why more traditional headhear was wrong.
 
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