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To think about why some churches use incense and what this might teach us about God.

by The Revd Oliver Harrison

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To think about why some churches use incense and what this might teach us about God.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need three joss sticks, three joss stick holders (or Blu-Tack blobs), matches or a lighter.
  • Music for Time for reflection (optional).
  • Note: You will need to check with the head teacher that it is okay to light incense sticks. So far I have yet to set off the fire alarm or sprinkler system!


  1. Begin by lighting the first joss stick. Or, if possible, light it a few minutes before the assembly begins, but make sure it is hidden out of sight.

    Ask the children if they can smell anything? Introduce and explain incense, then the joss stick and describe how it works.

    Explain how incense doesn't need to be seen to be sensed. In the same way, Christians and people of other faiths believe that God is invisible but is still with us, through God's Spirit. You don't have to see God to have a sense of God. God is invisible but real and with us.
  2. Light the second joss stick. Ask the children if they think it is a nice smell or a bad one. Allow for different views - some may like it, others not.

    The Bible says that our actions are a bit like a scent or smell that God sniffs! Christians believe that God wants us to smell wonderful, which means we should do good things for others and live as God wants us to. Some examples and discussion may follow from this!
  3. Light the third joss stick. Ask the children which way the smoke is going. (Answer: up.)

    The Bible says that our prayers are like incense smoke rising up to heaven. God hears them. He doesn’t always do what we want or when we want it but he always hears our prayers.

    You might want to say that we don't believe any more that God is really up above us in the sky but the way that the smoke seems to rise and then disappear can help us to think of God being all around us.
  4. To conclude, recap: Christians believe that God is invisible but is still with us, God wants us to do good things for others, and God hears our prayers.

Time for reflection


Do you like the smell of the incense? What does it make you think of?

(You could play some gentle relaxing music to accompany this.)



Dear God,

Thank you that you are with us even though we can’t see you.

Help us to do good to other people.

Thank you that you hear our prayers



'Give me oil in my lamp' (Come and Praise, 43)

Publication date: October 2006   (Vol.8 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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