Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fragrance Free Church Services

Although the issue of chemical contamination still isn't widely understood by the church in general, some congregations are making efforts to become less toxic and to accommodate their more chemically sensitive members. Churches approach the issue in different ways. Synthetic fragrances are often the chemicals that are most noticeable in the average church and to which the largest number of people recognize their own reactions. Because of that, some churches begin addressing the chemical toxicity issue by designating a fragrance-free area of the sanctuary. This isn't a perfect solution, but if the room is large enough and there is adequate ventilation, it can be enough accommodation for those with mild sensitivities. An article by the Catholic News Service highlights a Seattle church that took that approach.

Churches with multiple services sometimes designate one service as fragrance free. This works best if the fragrance-free service is held before the "regular" service is. If the order is reversed, chemicals from perfumed church members may still be present in large enough quantities to cause some people problems.

Other congregations strive to be fragrance free at all times. Some churches put notices in their bulletins or on their websites asking people to refrain from wearing perfume to church. An Oregon church does so and recently highlighted the issue in their newsletter.

A more comprehensive approach is to provide those who need it with a "safe room" which is separate from the rest of the congregation. These rooms are often similar to "cry rooms" designed for parents of small children. Ideally, these rooms should have an air supply that's separate from the rest of the church building and should be accessed through an outdoor entrance.

All approaches have their limitations, but all are positive steps to address the problem of chemical toxicity in the church. Any step to address the issue will be greatly appreciated by those who are chemically sensitive and may allow some people to attend church who would otherwise be shut out. Do we want people to be able to attend church if they wish?  If so, we need to take this issue seriously.

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