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The Wardens and Trustees are thankful to those who have engaged with us on the topic of incense by participating in the in-person 40-minute forum, completing the online survey, or taking the time to speak with us directly. We had 88 respondents to the survey, and a full room during the forum. As we indicated in the invitation to the forum and the survey, none of this was intended to be a referendum on incense, but rather, a dialogue process to help us all better understand the range of views on this issue and to facilitate clear information sharing to support Dean Chris in liturgical decision-making. Part of that clear information sharing is reporting back, and that is why we are writing today. 

The Cathedral is home to parishioners from a variety of spiritual backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, we heard a variety of opinions on incense, from those who cannot stand it to those who would be heartbroken to lose it. You often shared complex and multilayered views: some of you reflected that incense is a beloved part of your spiritual practice; some of you worried that incense makes our space unwelcoming; some of you didn’t understand its meaning. Some of you felt many of those things at the same time.  Our diversity strengthens and deepens our relationship with God. It also means that some liturgical practices may not be very meaningful to some, but are crucial to others. 

In the survey, we did ask directly for your opinions on the frequency of use of incense. For 32%, incense is used just the right amount. For 20%, incense should be used more frequently. For 19%, incense is welcome, but ideally used less frequently. For 28%, incense is used far too much. (Please note that data does not add to 100% because of rounding.) 

As a Cathedral, we need to make space for the full breadth of Anglican practice. For the past twenty years, incense has been used as part of the Cathedral’s worship. However, we heard a great desire to now modify its use to make worship more inclusive, including for those with respiratory sensitivities. These modifications have been, or will be, introduced at  the 10:30am Sunday Eucharist:

  • The quantity of incense in the thurible is reduced from 3 - 5 scoops to 2 - 3 scoops. All clergy who preside at the Cathedral have been informed of this modification.
  • The thurifer no longer swings the thurible while the Gospel is read but exits after the Deacon censes the Gospel in order to reduce the accumulation of incense.
  • Incense is not used during the Entrance Rite procession in order to reduce incense in the gallery and the rear of the nave; it is used only at the Gospel and Offering.
  • We continue to explore various types of incense in order to identify and use those varieties that are less irritating, including indigenous alternatives. We plan to have an “Incense Tasting” event where all who are interested can sample various bouquets and rank their preferences.
  • The quality of charcoal used can also affect the level of irritation. Various charcoal types will be investigated to identify and use less irritating varieties.
  • Wardens and Trustees will explore better air filtration options.

In the survey, 60% of respondents indicated satisfaction with the way we currently communicate when incense will be used, which is as follows:

  • A list of dates when incense has historically been used at the Cathedral is printed below (see Appendix). Actual use may vary depending on the Deacon and Presider assigned on those dates. Only seven of those feast days are always on a Sunday.
  • Notification of incense use at the next 10:30am Sunday Eucharist service  is listed in the weekly Friday newsletter,The Chronicle.
  • A sign announcing the use of incense in the current worship service is placed in the Narthex near the door leading into the Nave.
  • The Duty Trustee announcements mention that incense will be used in the current worship service.
    Notifications are printed in the Sunday bulletin at the points in the worship where incense will be used.

The Cathedral offers multiple services on Sundays and throughout the week, in different styles. This reflects the variety of preferred spiritual practices embraced by this community. We hope that, between the modifications introduced to improve inclusivity in worship and the multitude of services on offer, parishioners will find the form of worship which best meets their spiritual needs and preferences.

We want to share our appreciation for your thoughts and acknowledge that this has been an important issue for many. We hope that this listening exercise reminds us all to embrace and respect the full diversity of this congregation. Liturgical practice will always continue to change and evolve as we work to balance tradition and innovation. If you have further views to share about incense or liturgical decision-making regarding the use of incense, please email the Dean at:


The Wardens & Trustees 

Dean Christopher A. Pappas 

Kevin Smith - Rector's Warden 

Jane Hope - People's Warden 

Michael Law - Associate Rector's Warden 

John Ross - Associate People's Warden 

Jane Osler  - Trustee 

Irene Pang - Trustee 


For at least the past 20 years, incense has been used at Christ Church Cathedral on days and seasons of liturgical significance. These include the Principal Feasts of the Church, of which seven are always a Sunday. The following dates, gathered in consultation with retired Dean Peter Elliott, are days on which incense may be used:

Feast and Holy Days (“S” signifies feast is always a Sunday)
The Epiphany
The Baptism of the Lord (S)
Palm Sunday (S)
Holy Thursday
Easter Vigil
Easter Day (S)
Ascension Day
The Day of Pentecost (S)
Trinity Sunday (S)
Corpus Christi or National Indigenous Day of Prayer
Holy Cross Day
Reign of Christ (patronal feast day) (S)
All Saints Sunday (S)
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day

Diocesan Events (determined by Bishop)
Ordinations of Priests and Deacons
Consecration of a Bishop
Blessing of the Oils