How Does Your Church Smell?


photo by James Bradley,

How does your church smell?  Worship is a sensory experience and we all get there in different ways.  Yesterday with my eyes squeezed shut as I sang my heart out to Jesus through my phlegm-coated, pollenized throat, I had an aha moment about the importance of smell.

Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, I remember visiting beautiful Catholic churches with swinging censers filled with incense.  The smell elicited a sense of the sacred, of entering into the presence of the Lord.

In Uganda, I’ve visited both the Anglican and Catholic churches where my sponsored children attend and inhaled the gentle, grassy breezes of open air church with the earthy scent of the cattle lowing in the field nearby.

the inside of the Anglican church near Adacar CarePoint, before everyone arrived to pack it out on Sunday morning, image from ashleyd12/flickr

One of my favorite church smells has to be the Orthodox church on top of Entoto Mountain in Addis Ababa, where the burning of frankincense mingles with the eucalyptus trees.  It’s aromatherapy church, and that mixed with the mountain air made me giddy.  My soul felt free to roam about and smile down at the city below.  I didn’t want to leave, and if I had my way, I’d be living in a yurt up on that mountain.

My church is more of the Protestant variety, and while I love it for oh so many ways, my sweet community isn’t generally known for its smells.  We don’t really burn anything or waft anything, and maybe sometimes I wish we did.

But yesterday, with my eyes closed singing with the electric guitars and drum set, something did waft over me that elicited within me a spirit of worship.  What was this smell?  This call to worship, this olfactory experience that brought me deeper into the presence of God?


Yep, after years of rock band church, apparently I’ve been conditioned to experience worship by cranking up the haze machines, which do make the goboed lights look oh-so-pretty.

Hey, we all experience worship and church differently.  Whether your church uses incense, the open air fragrance of spring, the smell of coffee in the lobby, or a host of holy haze machines, may you breathe in the fresh aroma of the Lord this Resurrection week.


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  • Darlene Fountain

    Melanie – scents rock my world. I have diffusers all OVER my home – one may be filled with grapefruit, another with Frankincense and Lavender and another with Eucalyptus and Balsam Fir. I got into diffusing because of my middle’s epilepsy and so first hand I could see progress – I have one by my bed so I fall asleep to Lavender scents which is known to aid in healing depression and have healing effects for the effects of Tamoxifen I have a real nice one in my Art Barn where I journal, paint crosses, and do my devotions. . so I am so with you – – – – my kids make fun of me all.the.time. but I will be that hippie chick as the day is long. The smells take me to a place where I commune with God and that is awesome!! Love seeing the picture of the church in Adacar…. made me smile and think of Simon Peter.

    • Melanie Dale

      I love this, Darlene! What a great idea to have a scent that’s specific for where you’re creative and meet with God. Be blessed, hippie chick. ;)





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