Incense, cathedrals and the Psychoactive Substances Bill

17th September 2015

The Association of English Cathedrals is concerned that the term ‘psychoactive substances’ in the Psychoactive Substances Bill can be interpreted so broadly that it risks criminalising the use of incense in cathedrals, churches and other places of worship as, we assume, an unintended consequence of the Bill’s drafting.

Cathedrals regularly make use of incense during worship services, especially celebrations of the Eucharist. Incense has been used for worship purposes for millennia, and by the Christian church since its foundation. Incense has an important symbolic role; the smoke represents the presence of God, prayers rising to God, and the offering of gifts and lives as a sacrifice to God. Its use provides a sense of purification and aids preparation for worship. Incense is a vital part of multi-sensory worship, Christians are encouraged to worship with their whole bodies: colour and lights in services have visual impact, music uses our sense of hearing, and incense uses our sense of smell.

Incense is used to enhance the worship experience, and no longer being able to use it would have an adverse impact on the conduct of worship.

The Association responded to the Home Affairs Committee consultation to express concern that use of incense in worship would be an unwitting casualty of the new legislation and to request that a specific exemption for ecclesiastical use of incense be included in the Bill to enable its continued use in places of worship.

For more information please contact:
Sarah King, Association of English Cathedrals 07860 921 419
The Very Rev’d Jonathan Greener, Dean of Wakefield 01924 373923