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Are You Allergic to Your Church
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Are You Allergic To Your Church?

Some of us may remember the days of childhood when a runny nose was caused by an affectionate Sunday school teacher who offered a hug, leaving us with her scent of perfume that mingled on our clothes long after she had left. But over the past twenty years, the number of people who suffer from chronic illnesses such as asthma, allergies, Parkinson's, fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) has skyrocketed, making this perfume an actual health risk to some people we love. This has created new challenges for the church, many of which are unequipped to effectively reach people who often feel misunderstood by friends, family, and the church.

What exactly is MCS?

People who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, also known as Environmental Illness, become ill when exposed to low levels of chemicals that wouldn't bother most people. When exposed to products such as fresh paint, new carpeting, perfume, or scented laundry products, a few of the symptoms people may experience include migraines, seizures, disorientation, or asthma attacks.

 

Unique barriers prevent thousands of people from participating in church activities. These include scented products used by other church members, toxic cleaning products, and building materials used in the remodeling of church facilities.
Recently, Calvary Chapel Eastside in Bellevue, Washington has helped bridge the gap between the church and the MCS community through Aroma of Christ. The church has a room next to the auditorium called the "Fragrance Free Zone."

Only those who abide by a strict fragrance-free policy may enter. The service can be viewed through glass panels and people who haven't been able to attend church in years are once again feeling connected to the body of Christ. Nancy Schlimmer shared that being able to come back was like a "homecoming." Judy Stephenson has been blessed to be able to take communion and see baby dedications again after spending years in isolation on Sunday mornings. Psalm 9:18 says: "But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish."

My prayer is that many churches around the country will start learning how to minister effectively to the chemically sensitive. I know it is not God's perfect plan for members of the body of Christ to be isolated at home, unable to be part of their local church. The apostle Paul makes it clear that each person is a valuable member of the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:21-23 says: "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor."

Janine Ridings is the founder of Aroma of Christ Ministry. She is a graduate of Northwest Bible College in Kirkland, Washington. Visit: www.aromaofchrist.com.

 


This article was featured in our Sept/October 2004 issue.
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