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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Breathing easy

A Canadian congregation has gone scent-free to accommodate worshipers with lung problems. Eliminating incense and encouraging parishioners to tone down their cologne, St. Mark's Church in St. John's, Newfoundland, posted signs stating: "St. Mark's strives to be a scent-free church so that services and events may be enjoyed comfortably by everyone."

Michael Burk, the ELCA's director for worship, said a move toward a "scent-free" worship may not be the best approach in the effort toward inclusivity. "There are ways to minimize the danger to people with allergies or breathing problems--identifying seating areas with the best ventilation, for instance," Burk said. "Such decisions should be approached creatively in an effort to honor the great tradition that the church's worship involves all the senses. ... Something is lost when appropriate sensitivity to the needs of some leads to 'dulling' the senses of all who gather for worship."


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November issue

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