When BLUSH launched at Lititz Mennonite Church September 19, 2013, I, like any new author, was excited.
But I was also a little worried, as any memoir writer with extended family in the room will be!
My family’s response filled my heart with joy that night. I will always be grateful for their amazing support.
But I still felt a few other niggling questions. I wondered how two friends, Kathy and Eileen, sitting in the audience might react to Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Both of them wear head coverings.
My memoir is all about wanting choices and taking the choice, eventually, not to wear a prayer covering.
I knew they each had taken the opposite path. I hoped that my story would not cause them pain or separate us from each other.
As it turned out, my worry was displaced. They know who they are, what they have chosen, and neither has a desire to dictate to others. Both have many friends who made different choices.
In my last post I described stories of women who left the practice of plain dress, including the head covering. I promised to offer this space also as a forum for other perspectives. To prepare, I read articles by scholars Beth Graybill and Donald Kraybill.
Beth Graybil’s chapter in the book Strangers at Home: Amish and Mennonite Women in History (Johns Hopkins University Press 2002), based on interviews with Eastern Conference Mennonite women, lists reasons for wearing the covering and functions it serves in women’s lives. I summarized them below and then shared them with Kathy and Eileen:
- to show nonconformity to the world
- to follow the biblical command in I Corinthians 11: 5 to pray with her head covered
- to witness to the world — to open conversations about faith
- to show submission and to accept the divine order of God>man>woman
- to show uniformity in having a consistent witness with other women
- to remind oneself to have a meek and quiet spirit
- to make a statement against the fashion industry (in combination with plain dress)
- to protect oneself against sexual temptations or attacks
- to increase virtuous behavior. “We want people to look at us and think of God.”
- to be in contact with a sacred symbol that isn’t sold in stores
- to provide emotional security of knowing one’s role in the community as wife, mother, caregiver, and one who enjoys working hard to serve others
Last week I asked Kathy to respond to some questions specifically about the prayer covering she puts on every day.
Greetings to you from PA. I have been thinking about your questions this evening and no, I do not find them intrusive. I will be glad to respond, but am not sure how to condense all that in an e-mail. I guess we need a few hours sometime of a good discussion! I realize there are many things along the way in my spiritual journey that have impacted how I view wearing a headship veiling today. At times I have struggled with it, but can’t say I felt the “blush” that you described in your memoir. I will answer your first question tonight and then finish tomorrow after thinking about how to word my response to the statements that Beth Graybill received in her interviews.
We are members at Lime Rock Mennonite Church west of Lititz. It is not far from the Erb Mennonite Church. Our congregation is part of the Weaverland Conference which is still considered an Old Order Mennonite Church. Growing up in Lancaster County, you probably heard of the “Black Bumper” or Horning Mennonite. That is the same church we go to — although not many have the black bumpers anymore.Which statement (above) means the most to me personally? The one of being in submission to God’s divine order of God > man> and woman. That is because that is the one where I have struggled the most but also the one where God has revealed Himself so clearly to me. Too many times I felt women wore coverings because they were expected to or forced to. Women should feel honored and protected, respected and loved by the men in their lives for them to rest in the role they are in. Sadly, that is not always so.
I was single until I was 37 years old and let some of that fear bind me. “Would I be happy if I got married?” ” How would my husband treat me?” ” Could I be in my place as a wife and yet still feel alive as a woman and that I had a voice?” Thankfully, I can say that God has worked powerfully in our lives and I am blessed with a wonderful husband and can rest in that divine order.What reasons [above] do I reject? I don’t like the wording “to increase virtuous behavior” or “to remind oneself to have meek and quiet spirit” or “to make a statemant against the fashion industry.” All that feels draining to me. It feels performance- based. It feels like there is so much I need to “do” to be a godly woman. Sometimes Proverbs 31 has felt that way to me. I like a quote I once read ” Before you can be a Proverbs 31 woman, you need to be Psalms 1 woman.” Read it and place “she” where there is the word “he”. [“She shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.”]
I like to think of my dress corresponding with what is coming from my heart. Does my face show that I am at peace? Am I warm and welcoming to anyone I meet? Does who I am as a person show that I know the Lord? Women can wear a covering and a cape dress, but have a hard face and a bitter spirit.I know that I can be a godly woman and live for the Lord without wearing a covering. But God chose my family, my home, and the culture and placed me here “for such a time as this.” As I live my life for God as an adult, I choose to follow the scriptural teaching of wearing a head covering. But even more than my dress, I want to live out what God calls me to be as a woman fully alive for Him in my femininity.
Being separated by dress is a visible symbol, but truly being transformed by the work of God and his Son Jesus calls me to show Himself to others.Blessings to you,Kathy
I think you can see why I respect Kathy. And I think you can see on her face the Spirit she serves. I’d love to know what you felt as you read her words.
Do you have any other questions to ask her? I’m sure she will respond to you in the same thoughtful, kind, and open way she answered my questions. She also welcomes guests at Forgotten Seasons to ask questions about any of the Old Order practices she and her husband Jay honor and adhere to.