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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Our advice on including people with dementia in worship

Updated: Nov 23, 2022


Including people with dementia in worship – a Zoom Workshop


BRF offers half-day Zoom workshops on various themes relevant to ministry with older people, created for Anna Chaplains and their teams.


On 15 November the theme was 'Including people with dementia in worship'. The workshop was organised and facilitated by the training and development lead for Anna Chaplaincy, Julia Burton-Jones. She drew from her background as a dementia trainer with several national charities (Dementia UK, Alzheimer's Society and Dementia Pathfinders) in speaking about the changes and challenges dementia can bring, and principles for enabling people to engage actively still in prayer and worship.


Anna Chaplain from Newcastle Joan Grenfell then spoke movingly about worship services she leads in local care homes and what she has learned about adapting to the needs and contributions of residents with dementia.


Kathryn Lord from OutoftheBox explained a creative approach to storytelling and shared two stories during the workshop. OutoftheBox uses story and play for personal and community well-being. Storytellers 'create relational space to breathe, trust, listen, feel, wonder, play and love.' OutoftheBox stories are in use in a range of settings including schools, care homes, workplaces, community groups, families, therapeutic settings, chaplaincy, spiritual accompaniment and faith communities.


Kathryn explained that OutoftheBox is a community of people developing resources for engaging people of all ages in exploring wisdom themes and Bible stories. She spent three years on a project in Sheffield adapting Godly Play for use in care home settings (Stories for the Soul).


The session finished with Anna Chaplaincy church lead Debbie Ducille leading prayers using objects participants had been asked to bring to the session, demonstrating a multisensory, embodied method of praying together.


There was clearly a need for this training topic, with over 100 people booking places and attending on the day. In feedback afterwards, the workshop was described as 'inspiring and thought-provoking'. Barbara from Kent said:

Thank you so very much for today's workshop. I gained so much from it in so many ways. I didn't want to 'leave' Kathryn's story -telling. I was completely absorbed from the moment she began and found the whole experience so powerful, thought provoking and 'personal'. And equally I found Debbie D's way of praying so calming, uplifting and encouraging. I came away on a ' high'!

Several who had hoped to attend were called away at the last minute, many by urgent Anna Chaplaincy responsibilities, so BRF will run this workshop again in early 2023.

Reflecting afterwards, Julia said,

This response to our offer of training on dementia demonstrates a deep need for space to reflect and learn among those in chaplaincy roles with older people. This ministry is complex and requires, skill, compassion and support. Through enabling Anna Chaplains and their teams to learn together and share their perspectives, we are building their confidence and desire to continue reaching people even in late dementia with an invitation to respond to God's love.
 

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