It is always fascinating to pore over church service advertisements. Especially the way a community perceives itself, what it thinks it is important, and how it expresses itself to visitors and seekers:

  • a devotional service
  • Family service
  • Festival Eucharist with Easter Hymns
  • Traditional Holy Communion (BCP) with hymns
  • Informal lively service with communion

But the prize in Holy week’s advertising goes to:
“Sung Festival Eucharist with incense”

I am not sure if the phrase, “with incense” is there as a warning or as an invitation! Possibly a warning as recently the Chichester District Council sent an Environmental Health Team to St Paul’s, Chichester, after a complaint that incense fumes made a parishioner unwell. The Rector, the Revd Richard Hunt, said that he would put up a notice about the use of incense.

A council spokeswoman said: “The investigation carried out by our team concluded that there is insufficient evidence to show that the occasional burning of incense, within St Paul’s Church, represents any significant hazard to health.” The church was large and airy; so the smoke would be “significantly dis­persed”, it was well ventilated, and the blown-air heating system would “dilute” any smoke.

An interesting doctoral thesis (please credit me): correlating incense health issues and theological/liturgical perspectives. Remembering incense has been shown to cause antidepressive behaviour in mice. It also activates  the poorly understood ion channels in the brain alleviating anxiety and depression.

When asked: what is incense for? The answer is: for the nose.

Remember in the afterlife the Bible speaks of there being two alternative smells: one is incense, the other… which do you prefer getting used to?

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