As many of you know, our local church leaders decided some time ago to establish a "fragrance-free goal" for all of the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) buildings in the Helena, Montana area (including Townsend, Boulder, Lincoln and White Sulphur Springs). In this area the Church owns four buildings and rents two smaller ones. I blogged about this as it was happening but several people have asked me for an update. So here's where we are now.
Each building now has permanent signs on every entrance door asking people who enter to please be fragrance-free. These signs were made with the plastic lettering that adheres directly to the glass and sit right at eye-level, so they are easy to read and quite obvious to any adult entering the buildings.
LDS buildings typically have what is referred to as an overflow area at the back of the chapel which is a buffer zone between the chapel and the cultural hall (gym) behind. Large folding (accordion style) doors separate this area from the chapel and can be opened when seating in the chapel is full. This area has separate entrance doors from the foyers on either side of the chapel. It was decided that though the goal is for the entire building to be fragrance-free, the overflow area would be particularly designated as fragrance-free. It was assumed that there would always be some people who either forget or don't know to come fragrance-free, so these people would be asked to sit well away from the overflow area. We now have permanent signs (made and sent to us by the Church building department in Salt Lake City) on the walls next to the doors to the overflow areas in all of our buildings. These signs ask that no one who is wearing any type of fragrance sit in the overflow areas.
"So how is all this working out?" some have asked. Actually, it is working pretty well. One thing that has helped is to have the large accordion doors to the overflow areas stay closed until just a minute before the meeting is to start. For the most part, that keeps people out of the overflow area unless they want to sit in the fragrance-free area. Of course, there are always stragglers (latecomers) who end up sitting in the back, but I have been able to sit in the overflow area (albeit in a chair off to the side in the very back corner) without any difficulty since the beginning of this year. It is SO much nicer than last year, when I was sitting alone in a classroom listening to the audio transmission of the service. There was one Sunday when the meeting started and no one had opened the big door, so I had to get up and opened it myself. It was very noisy and everyone stared at me as I did it, but I haven't had to do it myself since then.
We certainly have made progress, and I am appreciative of all the people who have worked to make it possible for those of us with chemical sensitivities to attend church meetings (we have identified at least 30 LDS Church members in this area). After our Sacrament service, we have auxiliary meetings for children and adults. I have not been able to attend these meetings safely, though I have tried a couple of times. The classrooms are just too small and there are still a few people who don't seem to really understand what fragrance-free means. However, I am not complaining. I may try to attend these other meetings again during the summer, when I can sit by an open window, but for now, I am very happy to be able to sit in Sacrament Meeting with the rest of the congregation. Education is an ongoing process. Leaders continue to remind people to come fragrance-free, and I take every opportunity to define that term in discussions I have with people. So we're getting there, and that's a good thing.