Shaping for Mission
How does our Diocese of Lichfield Dementia-Friendly Churches network fit in with our Shaping for Mission programme across our 28 deaneries and our Diocese of Lichfield? Mission is outward-looking, recognising and sharing God’s amazing faith, hope and love across our whole community.
Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, recognises “the great gifts of the church to adapt and to connect with communities and to be beacons of love and hope in hard times”. Bishop Michael also recognises that Shaping for Mission includes
“noticing what new missional opportunities may be available to us, including how we can work more collaboratively with other churches and other groups in the community… and to see the places and the people in our communities that we are not connecting with.”
He is of course talking of the Shaping for Mission process against the backdrop of Covid-19. And Bishop Michael’s words speak into all that we’re doing across the diocese on Transforming Communities Together, supporting people and communities to thrive and flourish – engaging with social and financial inclusion, community cohesion and health and wellbeing.
Dementia – church and community connections
And Bishop Michael’s words speak directly into our dementia-friendly churches network, as we work to become more dementia-friendly churches at the heart of dementia-friendly communities. Currently, we have 86 churches across the Diocese signed up with Dementia-Friendly Church Certificates setting out three actions on dementia they will take in the year ahead.
We are glad to make diverse connections across our churches and communities with people who are passionate about understanding more about dementia and taking action on dementia, including:
- Partnering with our libraries to make memory bags based on the faith-based 'Strength for the Journey' Pictures to Share book for people with dementia;
- Alongside others from Transforming Communities Together, speaking recently on dementia at the Walsall Hindu Forum’s 'Digital Health Event 2021'; and
- Working in and with our local dementia-friendly communities and Dementia Action Alliances, making connections with local charities including Age UK, Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society and also with supermarkets, care homes, care agencies, the fire service and the police and with people with dementia.
As we make and keep connections with people affected by dementia, we learn so much about sharing God’s love in a way that goes deeper than words. When patterns are changing and much is being let go of, there is heightened impact in heart-level connections, cutting through to what really matters:
- Someone living with dementia came to a whole church event and loved being part of the whole church family, with young and old together. Athough her words were often scrambled, as she left she affirmed clearly, with a big smile: “When we’re together, we can do anything!”.
- At a church group for people affected by dementia, someone living with dementia who now has few words communicated eloquently, with thumbs up and with bright eyes.
- The daughters of a couple who attended a church group for people with dementia said: “[We] would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the support and kindness you have shown to [our parents] over the years. It really did mean the world to them both.”
Learning from Ellesmere Deanery’s Dementia Engagement
Ellesmere Deanery has taken a lead in engaging on dementia – and we can be inspired by what they’ve been doing, encouraging all our churches and Deaneries to take next steps on dementia as we move forwards in the Shaping for Mission process. Ellesmere Deanery became the first dementia-friendly deanery in the diocese – and indeed in the country! – back in 2019, with every church signed up with a Dementia-Friendly Church Certificate. The deanery is now building on this collaboration across its churches as it takes next steps in Shaping for Mission.
Jeremy Stretton, Dementia Coordinator at St Mary’s Church Ellesmere explains:
“A questionnaire shared with local groups is encouraging St Mary’s Ellesmere to engage actively across the town. We’re glad to use the dementia-friendly churches training toolkit as an opportunity to come together across the town and indeed across the deanery, within the Shaping for Mission process. The invitation is being extended locally, including but not limited to Anglican churches.”
Lay Chair of Ellesmere Deanery Synod Sandra Birchall says:
“As we work together across the churches in our deanery, it’s helpful to identify areas for natural collaboration. Dementia is one of those areas. We’re glad to make connections across our churches and beyond, sharing understanding and encouragement. This way, our churches are more able to support people across our community who are facing the challenges of dementia.”
Research by Professor Peter Kevern at Staffordshire University confirms that our dementia-friendly church engagement is making churches more welcoming and hospitable to people living with dementia: his research confirmed that:
“a very small-scale intervention over a relatively short period of time could bring about a community-level change that would improve the experience of people living with dementia if they turned up at that church.”
Revd Linda Cox, Rector of Baschurch, Weston Lullingfields and Hordley and Rural Dean of Ellesmere Deanery says:
“We make the strongest connections with people across our communities when we engage with the joys and challenges of everyday life. Dementia has a huge impact not only on the person diagnosed but also on family and friends, colleagues and neighbours. The more we can equip our church family to name and face dementia together, the more we are able to keep in step with people as patterns change. I’m delighted that we are able to offer dementia training across our deanery. It’s Shaping for Mission in action.”
Learning from Ellesmere Deanery, if you’d like to take next steps in becoming a more dementia-friendly church at the heart of a dementia-friendly community, have a look at this booklet and our website – and you are welcome to get in touch with our Dementia-Friendly Church Enabler, Sarah Thorpe firstname.lastname@example.org and 0798 224 8939.