This morning as I splashed witch hazel on my face after shaving, I thought about why. For one thing, it's cheaper than after shave. More importantly, it has very little odor and works as well.
So I use witch hazel (in part) because it's easier on other people. In fact, aftershaves, colognes, and perfumes keep some people away from church and other public gatherings.
A few churches have tried having "scent-free zones" in their sanctuaries, but most people with chemical sensitivities don't benefit from this zone approach because you can't confine the air in a room to just one zone. If someone is wearing aftershave, the scent carries throughout the room. Likewise, cleaners.
Food allergies present another issue for many people. For some, if they even get a bit of nut or peanut in their mouths they need immediate treatment to avoid anaphylactic shock. My wife, a teacher, knows of students who start to have trouble even if they just smell peanut butter.
How can the church be a genuine fellowship in which people spend time with other people, worshiping together, talking together, eating together if some of those people have such severe allergies and sensitivities?
Here are a few ideas:
You'll be able to find many more resources by searching the internet for "scent free guidelines" and "fragrance free guidelines" and "multiple chemical sensitivities".
Adopt a plan for fragrance reduction
Suggested resolution for adoption by council: that for the well being of our church community, ________ (add name) church adopt a one-year fragrance-reduction policy, with periodic printed and voiced announcements and an education program to inform, remind, and to reshape lifestyles. Educational tools include bulletin inserts, handouts, articles in the online news and an adult education forum. And at the end of one year, the _______(church council) decide whether to continue this reduction policy, or to adopt a fragrance-free policy.
Start with the People Already in Your Congregation
A Christian who works at an allergy doctor's office once wrote to me, "Although churches generally are not mandated by the American's with Disabilites Act, the letter of that law gives a guideline for the church, and voluntary compliance is the Christ-like thing to do. Common sense would dictate any policy be directed towards the needs of the people affected. If that church has a member with a food allergy, they should work with that member (and doctor if indicated) to develop a plan for a safe environment. I also strongly recommend they consult their liability insurance rep for advice."