Thinking Out Loud

July 26, 2009

Keeping Asthma and Allergy Sufferers Out of Church: Perfume

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 pm

It happened again this morning to my wife.   Mrs. W. figured that by attending a “camp meeting” style service where the side of the “tabernacle” is all windows she would be safe.   Sitting at home it was a fair perception, the reality when we got there proved quite different.

She notices these things more than I.   But this time, before we even got inside — which is most unusual — I was aware of the distinctive scent of artificial fragrances.    When we walked in the lobby, it hit us like a wall.   We headed immediately to a seat on the side under a ceiling fan where we figured everything would blow away from our direction, but it was already embedded deeply in her lungs and was slowly wafting over to the side from the center of the auditorium.    We settled on a seat next to an open window.    She made it through the service without standing for any of the hymns or choruses; but at home, eight hours later, is still short of breath.

You can read about what this feels like in her February guest post on this blog.

Perfume1As she said — or perhaps whispered — on the way home,

  • it doesn’t happen at the grocery store
  • it doesn’t happen at the bank
  • it doesn’t happen at the kids’ school
  • it doesn’t happen at the post office
  • it doesn’t happen at other types of churches.

The last point is significant.   There is a very definite spike in perfume at this one denomination; and our schedule takes us to many, many, many churches in the course of a year, so we ought to know.    Three of her last major attacks have taken place in churches of one particular denomination.    Sorry… but that’s the way it is.

And these people don’t care.

I say that based on something else that happened this morning.   About three “items” into the service, it was time for the opening prayer; what some of you know as the invocation prayer.   At that exact moment, a woman walked up to the woman in the row in front of us, grabbed her hand and started into a prolonged greeting and attempt at conversation which lasted throughout (and drowned out) the entire prayer, which wasn’t just a few seconds.    Complete and total disregard for anything and anybody else.   Or God.

My first impulse — and trust me, I don’t know why it was these particular words — was to say rather firmly, “He’s praying, damn it.”   I guess my brain was figuring that the d-word would be appropriate to the urgency of the moment.   I didn’t.   This means that I would have been swearing during the invocation prayer; which someone would argue is far worse.   I let the impulse pass.

“So;” you say, “Why don’t you get the message and stop going to churches of this particular stripe?”

It’s not an easy decision to make.   This is a denomination wherein my wife and I have a lot of history.  Our youngest son has also recently made his home among this same group of people.

However, I think that, in terms of going to worship as a couple, we made that decision absolute and final today.



  1. i definitely feel your pain here. my wife is hugely chemically sensitive and an experience like yours would’ve given her a migraine for at least 8 hours. it has meant that there are definite places that we can’t attend and we even had to ask that the church change it’s floor cleaner which she was reacting to. we finally found a community where we could relax and people actually heard us when we said these sorts of things out loud.
    i hope it gets better for you.

    Comment by Ian — July 27, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  2. I have multiple chemical sensitivity to just about everything. Doing a little better now. Church was the very worst place for me to go. The reason I say was is because I had to stop going. Seems like I can tolerate almost every other place I have to go. Why is church so bad, I guess everybody showers and puts on deoderent etc and fabric softeners. I feel if smoking is band than strong scents should be also. I dont smoke but same principle. I do think there needs to be more restrictions or perfume co. made to put all the ingredients listed. but that still wouldnt make any difference to most people who dont understand chemical sensitivity.

    Comment by jan — October 21, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  3. Is there a church near asheville nc that is chemical free or trying to be chemically free?

    Comment by jan — October 21, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

    • You should find out if the pastors there belong to something called a “ministerial association;” where all the pastors meet together monthly. You can then ask for this issue to be on the agenda for their next meeting; and ask them to inform you of the results. That way you are both getting the info you need, and raising an important issue.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 21, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  4. […] people with new kinds of environmental allergies. But we’ve already discussed that here and here. So we upset at least one usher by not moving in because Mrs. W. desperately needs to have an aisle […]

    Pingback by Megachurch Miscellany | Thinking Out Loud — January 9, 2014 @ 8:11 am

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