11.09.17 | News

Why the Bonnet?

The EMS South Africa Seminar on September 23, 2017 will focus on interesting and characteristic features of the Moravian Church in South Africa. Speaking will be Gregson Erasmus, Moravian Pastor and Ecumenical Co-Worker with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Wuerttemberg

Gregson Erasmus, you have now been in Germany for about four months. Have you noticed any differences between the worship services here and those of your own Moravian Church in South Africa?

The worship service in South Africa is more spontaneous. There is a lot of preparation, more than meets the eye. But if someone wants to offer a chorus during a quiet moment in the service, it will be done. It will not be arranged beforehand. The person will simply sing. Typically, these choruses are short, well-known refrains, so that everyone can join in. During the announcements, we ask people to stand up if they have had some special experience in their lives, like a birthday or a wedding anniversary. The worship leader reacts spontaneously, citing a Bible verse fitting to the occasion. Before the intercessional prayer, congregants are given the opportunity to state concerns for which the congregation should pray. Here in Germany by comparison, I experience the order of the service as very rigid. It seems that there is a set program for each service. This I respect, of course, as that is the tradition here. But at the same time, I miss the more open approach we use in the Moravian Church of South Africa.

In the Moravian Church of South Africa, women cover their heads with a bonnet when going to church. Why is this so?

We believe strongly that when we come to church, we enter into the presence of God. For us, this means that we should dress ourselves appropriately - simply, neat and clean. To our mind, this can be done without going to any great expense. The tradition of a head-covering is not specifically Moravian. Many churches have it. Graf Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the founder of the renewed Moravian Church, adopted this tradition. But it was important to him that there be no competition among the women wearing them. Accordingly, a standard form was introduced. In this way, the bonnet came to be a symbol of unity and simplicity in the congregation. It is particularly important at communion, which we believe to be a foretaste of eternity, where all who have been conquered will appear in white garments around the thrown of the Lamb to worship him (see Revelations 19:11).

What about the men?

It is our custom that men, when greeting someone or when entering another person's house, first remove their hats. This holds true in the church as well. We differentiate between men and women in accordance with I. Corinthians 11:4: Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head. In other words: For the man, to uncover the head is a gesture of respect. But for the woman, the opposite is true. But men are also expected to dress appropriately, that is "neat clean and dignified." At communion, we expect them to wear dark coloured suits.

Should German women also wear bonnets to church?

For us in the Moravian Church, the bonnet is not compulsory. Some women wear it, others do not. Even when serving communion, our female ministers don't always wear the bonnet. Certainly, this applies to Germany as well. You have the same freedom to do as you see fit.

For further information on the South African partnership seminar and for registration, please contact edwards-raudonat@dont-want-spam.ems-online.org.