Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Friends - For more than a year now I have been dressing variations on Quaker Plain. I have gone past the stage of feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable generally, but I am still a bit at a loss when people ask questions. Most commonly they will ask "Are you Amish? (or Mennonite?)" I reply, "No, I'm Quaker." Now one problem is that I'm immediately aware that this does not answer their question, which really was "Why are you dressed that way?" They then either say something like "Oh. I have a friend who is Quaker and she doesn't dress like that," or "What is that?" The first question requires a complicated answer that I am never completely satisfied with. I could explain that not all Quakers dress plain, but then that still leaves them wondering why I do. So I then fumble and mumble about leadings and individual choice, and no, it is not required of Quakers etc. And though not complete this is okay cause the person is really just curious, not deeply interested. The other question gives me more trouble: "What is a Quaker?".....Okay, go for it!
I have given some very unsatisfactory answers to this question which always leaving me wishing I had gotten their email address so I could correct whatever I said! One girl, who really wanted to know, said "So, is it a religion?" after my long-winded and confused attempt to encompass the life-changing importance of Quakerism in a paragraph or two - so you can see what a botched job I did.
So my question for you is, what do you say to these inquiries? I feel we have an opportunity to witness here, and also to spread awareness of Quakers, which ups the ante and the pressure on me to make sense! Do you have good answers ready? Do you feel you are communicating something?
And, by the way, I really only get these questions if I am wearing a cap and not a veil or snood.
Best to all,
Barbara Smith said:
Patrice - Your post made me smile cause I have felt much of what you are going through. I recently came across some things I had written a few years ago about my leading to plain dress and head covering and my reservations, no actually fears, about it. For me it concerned me that it might look to others that I was taking a "holier than thou" attitude, which I absolutely was NOT! So I wrestled with that for a while. I also had the fear of being judged a fundamentalist, and it was only when Isabel, who is clearly not a fundamentalist, pointed out to me that that is the other person's problem, not mine, that I felt okay with that aspect. It is not our concern how others will judge us, and in fact my experience has been that the majority of folks I run into are MORE comfortable with me in this garb than in my upper-middle class intellingensia clothing that I may have worn before (not that I have ever been stylish, but I'm sure to our local neighbors my clothing had college graduate written all over it). Now I must look somewhat classless, which seems to be a relief to many, though it makes the "class" I came from more uncomfortable. They are the ones most likely to judge others as fundamentalist - should we be modifying our behavior to accommodate that failing of theirs?
I have finally, after much laboring as the Quakers say, come to an understanding of my headcovering for me. And that is that Paul said to wear it "because of the angels". Now I have no idea what that means but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I had such a longing to wear one I really had no choice but to give in - it wouldn't go away basically. And this is a long-standing thing with me. It probably dates back more than 30 years in some ways. I have been through various styles to see what feels authentic and right and not what I think I should wear. So now mostly I wear either a snood I ordered from Garlands of Grace, or a kerchief style that I sewed from a pattern from Candle on the Hill. Both are nice to me and satisfy me, but are not so blatantly Amish that I feel I am sending confusing messages. But in combination with my long dresses, mostly jumpers, and dark colors, it looks very plain.
I will also share that my daughter, who is an Anthroposophist (Rudolf Steiner follower) started covering when she read that passage in the Bible. She told me that it had a powerful positive effect on her prayer time, and has led her to be more open to God's leadings in the areas of mothering and caring for her husband. My teenage daughters spoke of a calming effect, and I heard from Isabel of a woman who had chronic nightmares go away. I take all these to mean that women may be intended to have a covering, but of course I would never say that all women should do this categorically. Only if led. Very interesting to me.
But it did indeed help me to know that Quaker women who cover are not fundamentalists. And as long as I knew that inside I was okay, especially after I met a number of them and they became friends!
Hope some of this is helpful. God will show you what is right for you. Keep listening to that still small voice. That is all we are to do.
PS Have you been on Quaker Jane on Facebook? If you would post this same post there I know you would get some affirming support. There are an amazing variety of folks there and they cover a wide range - some may be fundamentalist, so you might want to change how you say that if you know what I mean. maybe to just that you don't want people to make assumptions about your beliefs or some such. Would love to have you over there - we all need each other.
Hello Friend Patrice,
I was once where you are now. And there is nothing at all wrong with where you are. Plain dress is just as different as there are differences in people.
I was drawn to the head covering for a variety of reasons, too many to list, but to me it is religious obedience as set forth in the Bible. I am now uncomfortable without it.
Never would I presume to judge you or anyone over their choice of attire, for after all, it is just that: a choice. I was basically plain before the head covering, always loving the long skirts and the simple dresses. Not everyone likes cape dresses, for example, but I have some that are, several that aren't. As long as what needs to be covered gets covered and their are no gaps between snaps I am happy. I try to match what is worn and love the half-aprons the same material as the dress. If not the same material, then I wear white like the cap. Being pretty fundamental anyway leaves me with the personal opinion I don't care if anyone mistakes me for that. I had some memory loss from that pneumonia I was stricken with and a tracheotomy being planned by the attending physicians. Well I woke from the coma before they got to that because one Dr. had a day off. Lucky me! The tie-in here with the memory loss, etc. is I have had to push forward and become a "new me" in many ways, so adding my prayer covering just doesn't seem that drastic. My hair had thinned, for example, from Prednisone. Soon as I started contemplating that prayer covering, my hair started to grow. And it got thicker. Now it goes under my kapp easily and continues to grow just like a blessing. Nobody would ever guess it had been thin. The me of two years ago to now is completely different. OK, I gained 30# on Neurontin and have to lose that (never, ever take that medicine if there is something else they can use for you or if you can go without it!) so I probably look different because of that too yet like Barb said, we have to sometimes give ourselves a break. I sooo agree with her!
Where you say you like about the head covering that it is a sign of faith, and "a good reminder to be in submission to the Lord", I concur completely. Mine reminds me to contemplate the state of my heart and is a constant, consistent reminder to behave the way Jesus teaches, or at least try to. My temperament has changed for the better, my very 'state of being' has changed. If a thing like a prayer covering actually makes you happier, then you know it is for you if you have prayed over the option before you act upon it and feel a leading. I felt that leading long before acting on it, so when I came across the websites to look, one in particular stood out and that one had the right kapp. Then I ordered six at once, had to wait about six weeks to get them, and prayed for that to be according to what God has for me. Its been some months now and yes, they are for me. Can hardly believe the way my hair is growing. I decided to give our family hairstylist a bit of a vacation and that for me is the right choice. The others can go if they like and I will if/when the need arises. I like the hair growth.
So for me the whole experience has been spiritually enlightening, healing, and positive. All things I know the Lord approves of. There is no other way I would rather live. Every day is an adventure, a laid-back time of life to learn to discern, live, love, and Follow my Father's Footsteps.
Blessings, Friend Patrice
Carolyn - You said: " Every day is an adventure, a laid-back time of life to learn to discern, live, love, and Follow my Father's Footsteps." This is a beautiful thought. thanks for that, Barb
Friends - Covering my head has actually made a profound difference in me, in my relationships, in my ability to follow the Light of Christ, in my tempermant. It is hard to describe, and would be discounted by some, but since you all seem like a receptive audience I will share. When I first, FINALLY, put on the head covering I had had stuffed in the back of my drawer for years I heard the words "merciful Jesus". This was such a surprise to me as I did not at the time believe in Jesus, God yes, but not Jesus! That moment started a journey that led to a major conversion experience a while later. So this was a confirmation for me that head covering was on my to-do list. However, I was scared and so put the covering back in my drawer and turned away from it. It was not till AFTER the above-mentioned mystical experience that I had the confidence to get it out and put it on for good!! I noticed pretty quickly that I was calmer, less likely to blab, to talk harshly, even the way I stood felt different, more contained and reserved. More at peace. Okay, now I was more convinced, though still apprehensive. The reactions of my loving family were not encouraging ("You look older with that on!" - I'm 59 and this is not good!). But the other thing I distinctly remember was that it felt like a restraining hand was on top of my head, like protecting hand that was always there and keeping me. Later on my daughter reported the same feeling, and in fact did not like the looser veils because they lacked that feeling of protection. So all these things helped me along my way to being the person Christ has been forming me into.
And, surprise, surprise, this even involved a clear and joyful acceptance of my role as a wife who is in submission to my husband the head! This was a total shock (not at all my upbringing) - but it has changed my whole life and brought incredible joy to our lives together. I never thought we would be this close and our marriage this good!
So that is a bit of what I have found in head covering. A journey that God apparently has been guiding me through for many years.
Joan - Nice to see you here. I know exactly what you mean about some days you look good and not others. That happens to me as well. (what is the Plain equivalent of a bad hair day?) Some days I feel it is all a big mistake (as I look in the mirror) and other days it is the real me and I look so loving and kind to myself.... these are very funny confessions really! It is all very humbling.
Life is never what you have anticipated though, is it?
I am kind of tickled by the discussion too. What is fundamentalist to me may not be to someone else.
My world is not just black and white but has every color of the rainbow in it. We are tolerant folk who like to meet people right where they are (and that has been some very interesting places, to be sure.) We have friends from all walks of life, and dealing with a very Asperger's young daughter is not the easiest existence. Right now she has her days and nights mixed up and it is getting rather difficult trying to get her on a 'sleep all night' schedule. It has me now waking around 3 a.m. or so.
Anyway, back to the plain dressing: It just feels right to me. Everyone has to find what makes them comfortable and I would in no way judge any of you or anyone else in their choice of dress. What makes me 'fundamentalist' in some thinking is that if you can try to live by your Bible it is a good thing to do. Sometimes it isn't easy because of the modern world we live in. So I live in it yet apart from it. I still want to meet people who think like me, the Quakers, and remember a meeting I went to while in my 20's 'way back when. It was full of many fine thinkers, and there was a variety of dress. Mostly the older folks my age and above seemed to be the more conservative dressers, and I thought then, "Why, don't they look nice!" Maybe because as we age up there is more of a sense of propriety that for one thing, age often is representative of maturity and one might want to be a role model in both behavior and dress for the younger generations. Just by being yourself, anyone can do that if they try. Covering for example, is a sign to anyone who sees you that you respect Something or Someone and you are living by a code of conduct in your dress and your behavior. It doesn't mean we cannot be friendly if the chance arises. It doesn't matter one iota if your plain dress is the plain modern, or the more traditional garb common among the Anabaptist church groups. I am kind of a combination of all three.
As to hair length, please if you don't want to cut your hair don't do it! I wore mine short a long time and then came the prednisone. It thinned out and now is no longer thin and finally growing. I just want it around shoulder length or past a little bit, somewhat more than it is now so I can put it up the way it was worn a good twenty years ago. It can be achieved.
Whatever we do, we need to take time with all these decisions and make sure they are leadings, that feeling of being called through prayer not once or twice, but many times over the months and/or years it might take to get it "right" for YOU and YOUR personal walk with Jesus. Maybe He calls to each one of us differently so all will get a Message out by just being in the right place in His timeframe. Just think, YOU could be the person He will get across to someone through, be it by your dress, kindness, general overall countenance, or just a smile to cheer up another's rainy day. Isn't it written, "For your ways are not My ways, nor My thoughts your thoughts". Think on that one when your are praying about dress or about anything. He will lead you, and if you are truly tuned in. you will know inside your heart what you need to do. You don't even need to know why. When He wants you to know, He will show you the 'why'. Sometimes I think we need to remember that' the reason He gave us two ears and one mouth is so we can listen twice as much as we speak.'
Dear Friend Joan,
If you need or want to discuss seizures I have a background in dealing with them. One of my sons had febrile seizures as an infant and went on to become one of the five percent who developed seizures in the absence of fevers. He had partial complex and petit mal seizures until he was well past nine years old and then was prayed over and outgrew them. He is 35 now and seizure free. I know about all the neurologist appointments, the frustrations you feel and the heartaches that come with wondering maybe what went wrong, blaming yourself, etc. The truth is that certain kinds of seizures can be inherited. Is your son very blonde and fair skinned with light eyes? Mine was and we were told those children have a higher percentage of such seizures. I will pray for you and you can message me if you want to.
Ok, I understand better now. It didn't occur to me that you would know your neighbors! Living in a city, I knew my classmates and people from social groups, but not my neighbors. They were in their apartment. I was in mine. It was rare to encounter anyone in the hallway, let alone the same person twice over an entire year living there (and I never lived anywhere for more than the length of the lease). The exception was the 6 months I spent in an apartment building that had a hearth in the lobby, where I'd often find the Muslim woman from across the hall sitting in front of the fire, and we'd talk about Moses and Jesus, and I'd help her with the computer, and she'd try to get me to pronounce Arabic words properly.
If the question is really about having people who know you see you, then... my mom is accustomed to my sense of style (long black or brown skirt being the main thing, and she gets me new skirts sometimes, though I've told her to stop because the quality is always so awful, and I'd rather just sew my own that'll last more than two washes). The only time she has seen me put anything on my head is when she's seen me preparing for a living history event (she lives close to the largest one I go to).
Barbara Smith said:
Carolyn You bring up an interesting point. For me it was easier at first to go to places where I did not know anyone -
Mackenzie - That's very funny about not knowing your neighbors!! I've been in those apartment buildings but never lived in one. How different. For me it was those who knew me before and after - I always feel I have to explain, though I'm finding I really don't.
I had a wonderful experience yesterday! I came downstairs in the morning wearing a new flannel jumper I made, it is a very dark subdued print in a deep purple . The look on my husband's face I won't soon forget! He said I looked beautiful and he was obviously so pleased. And the even better thing was that my daughter-in-law was here and she asked me to make one for her! She does not dress "modestly" at all, she wears very tight clothing all the time that reveal every inch. I felt so blessed, and feel like I am "on the right track". And altho this is off topic, I started reading Philip Gulley's book Living the Quaker Way, I really am enjoying it and getting a lot out of it.
Patrice - That is so affirming! My husband doesn't give verbal reactions (to much of anything) but I have many times seen on his face an appreciation of my plainness, cap included. I personally find a plain dressed woman looks more beautiful - it emphasizes her face and serenity which is lost in a confusion of modern clothing.
BTW, if you haven't yet gone to Quaker Jane facebook page I posted a question for everyone on the subject of handling the reactions and presumed assumptions of others when going plain and got a variety of helpful responses. You would appreciate them.
Good morning! I will check out that FB page right away!