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Ladies of Our Lord

Women's head covering at church.

Here's one for the ladies, written by my lovely wife, Catherine.

I grew up in a church where it was required that women and girls cover their heads during the church service. It was perfectly normal for me growing up to see my mother and other ladies wearing hats or some other head covering at church. When I inquired about this practice, I was shown 1 Corinthians 11:5-10. It reads as follows:

But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Those who know me, I am very passionate about the truth of Scripture, and always find my answers there. Through my journey, both as a student and now a lecturer, at the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), I have learnt to appreciate the importance of reading Scripture in its literary and historical-cultural context. And 1 Corinthians 11:5-10, as you might expect is embedded in such a context which is why women and girls no longer wear head coverings in most churches today (very few churches, however, continue the tradition).

Paul spoke about the woman’s head covering being a symbol of her husband’s authority on her head. Even if we don’t wear hats to church today, the principle of valuing our husbands and male leadership still holds true, and we ought to hold them up in prayer in their leadership and encourage and support them. God created us in his image, male and female with unique purposes respectively, in such a way that we complement one another.

My heart’s desire is that we strive to be Christlike, and so as women, how do we conform to the image of Christ? We do this by reflecting his love, kindness, gentleness, and beauty, and at the same time live in his purposes. Part of living in this Christlikeness is the matter of how we adorn ourselves and both the Apostles Peter and Paul offer us guidance when they say, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4), and “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2:9).

The idea is that women ought to dress modestly. This has two purposes, the first is that it places the focus on the woman’s inward beauty which is to reflect the beauty of Christ, and secondly to avoid causing a brother in Christ to stumble. This is how we become ladies of the Lord. Does this mean that we can’t wear make-up or jewelry, or that we should start wearing boring clothing—certainly not! But as I said, we need to dress modestly, in such a way that is beautiful, and yet still honors God and our brothers in Christ.

Women were created to be helpers for our husbands (Gen 2:18). However, we were also created to be attractive and beautiful. But our inward beauty of love and purity is even more important, and we can cultivate that through intimacy with Christ Jesus. And when we face all kinds of trials and we put our faith and hope in Christ, the kind of Christlike beauty will become evident to others. For those women who are single, I encourage you to foster this kind of beauty in yourself and to nurture and protect it for the glory of God and his church. The primary purpose is for you to serve God in his church and your community humbly and faithfully in the love of Christ. And if you marry one day, you will be a delight to your husband as the two of you serve one another.

I was single for a long time; I married my husband at the age of 36. So, I know what it’s like to be single, to serve under male leadership, but also to lead mission teams with both men and women. Talking about my husband, when Robert first met me, he treated me like a lady, opening my car door and cherishing me for who I am. It felt good to be his lady. He liked calling me Lady Cath, and one year, for the fun of it, he purchased a tiny piece (more like a souvenir plot) of land in Scotland making me Lady Catherine Anne Falconer among the community of other plot owners. It has pretty cool signed and sealed documents. Tongue-in-cheek though it was, it was such a fun and special gift. But it was a reminder of his value to me as a woman. We serve, support, and affirm one another in our work and passions. We enjoy how we complement one another in our marriage. Yet, I am also mindful that Robert likes me with long hair and that he likes it when I dress beautifully yet modestly. It is important that women are beautiful both inwardly and outwardly.

Oh, and did I mention that Robert has never asked me to wear a head covering to church…

Photo of woman in church with a head covering by Mikhail Nilov Available here:


Sep 18, 2023

Thanks Cath, So good to have these type of potentially offensive passages clearly explained. And I found your tone so positive and encouraging. One other thought that came to mind is how the 'modesty' in dress may also indicate steering away from material extravagance. Bests and blessings, Jill

Robert Falconer
Robert Falconer
Sep 18, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, Jill. I'll pass your message on to Cath.


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