Saturday, 13 March 2010

'May my prayer be set before You like incense...'

St Mary Magdalen's altar servers show off the Church's new thurible...

The Argus
have a disturbing new story and this one, alas, is not a joke...

'Sussex churches could be banned from burning incense after reports the fumes caused a pensioner to collapse. The Health and Safety Executive has been called to investigate whether frankincense and myrrh being burned in a church put a pensioner's life at risk.

Ronald Caseby said he has collapsed three times since his church started burning incense. He claims he has now stopped attending because he fears the fumes could kill him. The 73-year-old, who has gone to church his whole life, said: “I had tuberculosis as a youngster. I have been going to St Paul's Church for 19 years and the first time they burned incense I collapsed. It has happened three times now."

Mr Caseby of Lincoln Green, Chichester, has called for the Health and Safety Executive to investigate, believing there could be dangerous levels of the deadly toxins carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in St Paul's Church. Churches across Sussex could change the rules on the traditional form of worship if it is found that the sweet smelling smoke is harmful to worshippers with lung problems.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Chichester said: “We take the health and safety of parishioners very seriously. The Bishop is discussing with his staff, and in consultation with health and safety teams, whether a policy needs to be established. Any policy change will be announced in due course. In the meantime the church a notice has been placed on the church notice board informing churchgoers when incense is being used.”

A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said that they were involved in the case, but were unable to reveal the conclusions of their investigation yesterday.'

The answer to this 'health and safety' concern is simple...If you really don't like incense, go to the evening Mass. The burning of incense during worship, expressing the holiness of God and the sweetness of prayer rising to His Throne has been a central part of liturgy in the Christian church and of course, in the Jewish faith from which Christianity emerged. Any attempt to have incense banned must be crushed, placed on hot charcoal and burned immediately.


Patricius said...

As a reformed smoker I can't get enough of the stuff, however, in some churches they have really ropey incense- ie like some of the worst foreign (Bulgarian?)cigarettes. Sensible clergy get the best incense from the monks of Prinknash -which is so good I shouldn't be surprised if it has medicinal properties!

Anonymous said...

"St Paul’s Church [Chichester] has a capacity of several hundred, all with excellent visibility – no pillars in the way! The interior is surprisingly bright and airy, more so because of the sombre external appearance, and the Church has double glazing that removes all hint of external noise from the main road outside."

Perhaps they should keep the windows and doors open and let the incense disperse in the air current.

Or advise anyone feeling queasy to engage their brains and step outside to get a breath of fresh air.


pelerin said...

I was just about to bring this to your notice! Love the comment on the Argus website that the chap concerned should sit the other end of the pew and unless he was Pinocchio he would not smell it.

Having been 'deprived' of the smell of incense for many years I do hope the elf'n safety people do not ban it. When you see the clouds of incense slowly rise above the altar it helps to lift our own prayers heavenward too.

Hang on to your censer (spelling?) Laurence - don't let the elf take it away. (My husband used to refer to it as 'swinging the bucket'!)

tempus putationis said...

What is quite likely to happen, I suspect, is that the new kind of scent-free 'incense' will be allowed, and the traditional kind with sweet, heaven-seeking fragrance, will be banned. I have attended Mass when such 'incense' was used: it was pointless. No scent, and no visible smoke, either (and I don't think this was because it had stopped burning!). When the beautiful symbolism of incense is lost, its use is no more than empty ritual.

If the Bishop should be lured this way, take care. Our bells were taken away a long time ago: now the state has our smells in its sights (so to speak).

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