But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. (I Corinthians 11: 5-6 NIV)
In the passage above the Apostle Paul states with startling clarity that women should have their heads covered while praying or prophesying in a church service. Many will no doubt find this command confusing and offensive; let me explain it the best I can. What Paul seems to be saying in this chapter is that it is distracting for a woman’s head to be left uncovered during a worship service. Her hair should be either hidden or cut off. Female hair is extremely beautiful, and good hair attracts the attention of all around, both male or female. This is not necessarily a bad thing in every context: Paul does not command the covering of hair during the normal daily routine, only during public worship. During church the focus needs to be on worshipping God, not on admiring feminine beauty. Sadly, many women go to church for the sole purpose of showing off their natural beauty, when in fact they should modestly cover their beauty, because church is not a fashion show. If a woman wants to show off her hair, she should do it on a date with her husband, where she can give him pride (even then she must be careful not to go too far). But church is not the time nor place for him to be showing her off. I am not saying that women should try to look ugly: they should dress attractively but modestly, not in a showy way. There hair, during a church service, should ideally be behind a scarf or covering of some sort, so that it is obvious that they do not expect people to be admiring it during church. This head covering keeps others from being distracted by her hair, and serves the double purpose of signifying her submission to her husband or father. This submission, in turn, signifies the submission of the church to Christ.
There is much that can be said about when or where a woman should have her hair covered. I, for one, am not going to make a federal case about it or produce a long list of intrusive rules. However, for the case of illustration, let me make one practical suggestion: women who serve up in front of the church as part of a praise band should probably have their heads covered in one way or another. It would help, both to show their submission to male authority, and to demonstrate that they are not interested in showcasing their bodies the way that secular performers do. Praise bands ought to be all about praising God, not about bringing attention to the individual.