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November 21, 2007


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Not if you have anyone with asthma or other respiratory problems in your church. My daughter Sarah won't go near the cathedral for ordinations; she's severely asthmatic and the incense gets her every time. Not very inclusive, in my book.

steve the z

I think it would be cool, but having a mother who is asthmatic I also think of those things, would it classify as second hand smoke?


Sadly I agree. I love incense but now have asthma and can't handle it. When I lived in Germany they used them a lot and you could track the advance of the smoke by the advance of coughs and sneezes. Respiratory problems are increasing (I'm sure because of the way we are poisoning our environment) and our church is now a fragrance free zone. Unfortunately that means only bells and no smells now in our church.


Years ago I was part of a reconciliation service at a Catholic school and it became my job to take groups of young children to bring their incense to the altar after they'd come from confession. The smoke rose and we kneeled and prayed the Lord's Prayer together and as it billowed to the skylight I told theb how God gathers the prayers of his people. We prayed ad said, "Abed."

My allergies brought me to tears.
The children interpreted my tears as passion.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Truly, it was one of the most meaningful object lessons and prayer time I'd had with kids, possibly ever.

Jesus wept too, they say. I'm not sure there was incense nearby at the time though.

As an aside, cigarette smoke doesn't bother me.


Yes!! How I miss that.

I attended a parish for very many years which used incense every single Sunday and Holy Day. If you use the most expensive sort, the right amount, and the right amount of charcoal,and have a thurifer who knows what they are doing,it is much less of a problem for people.

"For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts."(Malachi)

"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."(Revelation)

It seems to be assumed that the worship of Almighty God involves incense, both on earth and in heaven.


Leslie: Emil Fackenheim, late rabbi, scholar and professor of philosophy at U of Toronto, once remarked to a class: "where there is no smoke, there is no thought".

Susan - I think I need to brush up on my skills in said area. It's been a number of years since I've been in such a setting.


I have to say that my daughter Sarah has been in several parishes where incense has used, and it has never failed to aggravate her asthma. No exceptions. I don't question the biblical basis for it - and I myself find it rather beautiful - but the fact is that the brand, the amount, and the skill of the thurifer seems to have made no difference to Sarah.

I really think this is an issue of inclusivity.


Tim, I agree that there are folks for whom this would be a physical impediment.

On another note, now we can turn our attention to John Ruskin's quote, and see if we get can "true action or passion out of (y)our modern English religion." !!


Perhaps a compromise? Host the service outdoors. Those with allergies and asthma can stand up-wind and the rest, down. If the weather cooperates, the shivery temperatures will get the congregation jumping up and down to keep warm...thereby increasing the true action. An added bonus if you ask me. :)


Spoken like a true camel...

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blank stare...

  • Copyright Rev. Joseph Walker, St Timothy's Anglican Church

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