2019 has started well in Ellesmere Deanery, with the landmark of all fourteen churches in the Deanery signed up to Dementia-Friendly Churches Certificates, confirming that they are working to become dementia-friendly.Each Certificate sets out the three actions that the church will be taking this year to become more dementia-friendly.This is the last of four blog posts, sharing this story.
The previous three blogs involve interviews with three people who have been involved in their local churches, to understand about the steps they have taken - Mona Whitfield, churchwarden at Petton Church, Jeremy Stretton, Dementia Coordinator at St Marys Church, Ellesmere and Revd. Maureen Read, vicar of the benefice of The Meres & Meadows.
Ellesmere Deanery has just notched up a 'full house' of Dementia-Friendly Churches Certificates across each of the fourteen churches in the deanery.
Revd Dr David Primrose, Director of Transforming Communities, said: Deaneries work as groups of local churches supporting each other. Its so good that the churches in Ellesmere Deanery have a common commitment to be dementia-friendly churches. As the situation of those impacted by dementia continues to change, so they will be able to support each other sharing new ideas and experience, so that the wellbeing of those affected by dementia remains at the heart of the life of their communities.
How did this get going? In 2017, we had a discussion on dementia-friendly churches in a Deanery Chapter meeting and then held a four session 'Dementia-Friendly Churches' course in the deanery. Twelve people came to the course. One person commented that the course had been: Enlightening. Inspiring. Challenging. Moving. Cathartic. Going forwards I plan to try and forge new contacts within the village and to create a dementia-friendly church there. Another said, This course has enriched my knowledge and understanding of dementia.A lovely sharing group.I still have a lot to learn but this course has opened up possibilities.
Over the last couple of years, weve held seven Dementia Friends Sunday services across the deanery, raising awareness and opening up conversations about dementia. These service have made 212 Dementia Friends, who have each increased their understanding of dementia and turned that understanding into action.
Last summer, we had a creative Deanery Synod meeting, sharing what was happening across different churches to keep connections with people affected by dementia as patterns change. We also discussed next steps towards becoming more dementia-friendly. We realised that we could encourage one another along at deanery level, and decided to aim for getting Dementia-Friendly Churches Certificates awarded to all churches in the deanery.
The Diocese of Lichfield has been recognised by the Alzheimers Society as a dementia-friendly community. This allows us to award the nationally recognised 'Working to become dementia friendly' logo to a church which commits to taking three actions in the year ahead. We recognise this by awarding the church a Dementia-Friendly Churches Certificate. At the end of the year, we discuss how things have gone with those actions and decide on new actions for the coming year so Baschurch and Weston Lullingfields with Hordley were the first churches in the Deanery to sign up to a Certificate a year or so ago and they have just renewed their Certificate, with new actions.
There are a whole range of different actions, across the churches in the deanery, including:
- Take next steps in awareness and engagement at PCC level, by holding a Dementia Friends Information Session for the PCC.
- On a practical level at church, improve signage for people to find the toilets and kitchen facilities and make a Strength for the Journey Pictures to Share book available as a resource to use with people living with dementia.
- Raise awareness more widely within Ellesmere by including two articles on dementia in the parish magazine.
- Appoint a Benefice 'Dementia Co-ordinator who will support and advise the four churches on their provision for those living with dementia.
- Look at the present service booklets and adapt them so that they are accessible for those living with dementia.
- Display dementia information on church noticeboards.
- Create pictorial signs for various places inside and outside the church building.
- Host a monthly coffee morning for anybody in the village but with a clear focus of inviting those living with dementia and their carers.
- Hold a Dementia Friends Sunday service, to raise awareness.
- Make a Memory Box for our church.
- Get a copy of the Strength for the Journey book for our church.
- Ask and involve people affected by dementia, as we work to become a more dementia-friendly church.
The beauty is that each church signs up to actions that fit as next steps to become more dementia-friendly for them and their local community.
And these actions are making wider community connections too. So All Saints Baschurch is working with Heather Rodenhurst from Shropshire Libraries on gathering material to make a 'Strength for the Journey' memory bag which will be available to be borrowed from the Library. This is a great resource for anyone affected by dementia: they can borrow the bag and enjoy reminiscing, using both a beautiful picture book and some related objects.
Heather said Its been wonderful to work in collaboration with Dementia Friendly Churches on this new memory bag. Revd Linda Cox and her parishioners have kindly sourced tactile and meaningful objects such as a holding cross, hymn book, palm cross and rosary, while the library service has added a wooden Nativity set and scented items to stir memories. Along with a 'Pictures to Share' book and a conversation prompts guide, the completed bag offers an absorbing and joyful way for those with memory loss and their carers to talk about faith. The library service is very appreciative of the support given by Sarah Thorpe, All Saints Baschurch and also retired clergyman Rob Haarhoff, who produced the user guide. The bag will be added to stock in February and can be borrowed for up to three weeks free of charge on a library ticket." For more information, contact Heather Rodenhurst on 01743 255031.
The next idea is for the Deanery to host a performance of 'The Disappearance of Eliza Grey', an inventive, entertaining and thought-provoking play exploring the issues around dementia.This play is written by Su Parker Hallcroft, whos the Dementia Enabler for The Black Country and Su is one of the actors too.The play has got a cast of two, one person with dementia and the other person playing a multitude of characters and its a really creative way of helping us all to recognise what we can do to help people to live as well as they can with dementia.
Rev Linda Cox, Rural Dean of Ellesmere Deanery said It is wonderful news that the churches and their congregations in this Deanery have embraced the need to work towards making their churches more dementia friendly. Many of us today know people living with dementia, either in our own families or within our communities and congregations.It is so important to be able to continue to live and enjoy the things that connect and have done so perhaps for many years. It is so important that our churches are accessible to all, so any changes we can make to help this possible are indeed good news.