It has come to my attention that i should probably explain a bit about our fellowship, as that will make understanding some of what i post about easier.
My husband belongs to and we all attend a very conservative fellowship that meets in members' homes. The group is getting just big enough that it is getting awkward to meet in homes but many of the men are reluctant build/rent a building, as that makes it harder to fly under the radar.
So what is so different about the fellowship that we try not to draw too much attention? Well, it is very conservative in its outlook, especially in terms of male/female relationships.
As far as I know, all the members physically correct their wives. Not a popular or politically correct practice. The fellowship had been larger but split several years ago over the issue. The two resulting groups were about the same size 4 years ago - now ours is easily twice the it was and the other (non-punishing) group has pretty much withered away and stopped meeting. Draw what conclusion you wish from that.
Technically, only men can be members. Related females can kinda/sorta affiliate. In other words, females can place themselves under the covenant, with its expectations of behavior and such, but don't have any membership privileges. And only females under the care of a male can place themselves under the covenant, as females join as (in may case) 'sunjong, a female in the household of K' -- so that when i signed the covenant book, i signed it as sunjong, wife of K with no last name, and He signed next to me giving His permission for me to be under the covenant. There are two females old enough to join who are not under the care of a husband or father -- one is a widow, who joined as a member of the household of her grandson, and the other is a young female (early 20s) who lives with a family in the fellowship and joined under that man's authority.
The group meets about every two weeks - sometimes two weeks in a row, or occasionally going three weeks between meeting, depending on the schedule the elders set. Right now, there 14 families, with 2 new families joining during the extended fellowship meeting this weekend. Plus, k's membership will be moved from her father's household to her new husband's. Three of the men serve as elders, with another three as overseers. The elders run the services, while the overseers are more concerned with overseeing compliance with the covenant.
On meeting days, morning services go from 9:30 to 12:30. The men continue meeting until 1 while the females prepare lunch. The men and older boys are served first, then the young boys and all the girls, then the females (those married or old enough to be). The men meet again in worship and/or in a governance meeting from 2 to 3:30, while the children nap and the females listen to a lecture by one of the men, or sometimes a tape if someone has found one that is regarded as sound. Then a snack is served, followed by another worship meeting - focused on singing and praying, rather than the teaching that happened in the morning. If more time is needed for the governance side of things, then the men meet for a bit more before everyone goes home.
Starting in September, one of the new understandings has to do with defining what the New Testament prohibitions on females speaking in church (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11, and so on) apply to. Originally, the females had been able to chat as we desired, as long as it didn't interfere with worship. The we had about a year when we were told that the prohibitions on speaking applied whenever there were more than one man in the room. Now, the overseers have decided that to a great extent that the whole day is church -- so that the females should not talk when any man is in the room unless directly addressed and that we should keep foolish chatter to a minimum when the me are elsewhere. It has been a bit of a hard change, as for many of us this is the only time we leave our houses (except fort he women who are allowed to run errands and such), but even after such a short time we are seeing a decided improvement in the spiritual level of the fellowship days, as the females mind their tongues. Idle chatter is more likely to bring us down than to lift us up.