Ministry with the Forgotten: Dementia through a Spiritual Lens
Author: Kenneth L Carder
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Dementia diseases represent a crisis of faith for many family members and congregations. Magnifying this crisis is the way people with dementia tend to be objectified by both medical and religious communities. They are recipients of treatment and projects for mission. Ministry is done to and for them rather than with them.
While acknowledging the devastation of dementia diseases, Ken Carder draws on his own experience as a caregiver, hospice chaplain, and pastoral practitioner to portray the gifts as well as the challenges accompanying dementia diseases. He confronts the deep personal and theological questions created by loving people with dementia diseases, demonstrating how living with dementia can be a means of growing in faith, wholeness, and ministry for the entire community of faith. He also reveals that authentic faith transcends intellectual beliefs, verbal affirmations, and prescribed practices. Carder asserts that the Judeo-Christian tradition offers a broader lens, defining personhood in relationship to God’s story and humanity’s participation in God’s mighty acts of creation and new creation; thereby contributing to hope, community, and self-worth.
Pastors and congregations will be better equipped to minister with people affected by dementia, receiving their gifts and responding to their unique needs. They will learn how people with dementia contribute to the community and the church’s life and mission, discovering practical ways those contributions can be identified, nurtured, and incorporated into the church’s life and ministry.
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