105 people at Guernsey’s first Dementia-Friendly Carol Service

Published: 12th February 2020

We’ve now shared more than thirty “Dementia-Friendly Churches” courses across the Diocese, with well over 500 participants. If you’ve been to one of these courses, I wonder what actions you’ve taken since. Has anything changed? In summer 2018, I led a Dementia-Friendly Churches Training Day in Guernsey. It’s wonderful to hear from St Saviour’s Church there about the next steps they’ve taken since then. Here’s what Rev Tracy Charmley says: 

“I thought it might be good to let you know how things are moving at St Saviour’s after your training.

We feel more confident welcoming people living with dementia to all events, services, and word is spreading. Nursing homes are bring  residents to some of our events too – such as Tea on Tuesday and our special afternoon events such as afternoon tea with our Poppy Festival and a special afternoon at our flower festival.

The crafty folk are now making Twiddle muffs, so we have those to offer if people would find them helpful.

This Christmas we have been working with Dementia Friendly Guernsey and are putting on a carol service that anyone is welcome to but families with a member living with dementia know that they will be particularly welcomed. It’s going to be at 2pm so won’t clash with tea or medication time, familiar carols and readings are included but some have been pared down. People will be encouraged to join in as they feel comfortable, there are no candles to get stressed about and tea and mince pies are being taken to where people are rather than having to be consumed standing up. Dementia Friendly Guernsey have been great to work with  and lots of people who don’t normally come to church are saying they are really looking forward to coming – word spreads quickly in Guernsey. I hope we get it right on the day!

Thank you so much for coming and doing your training. I don’t think any of this would have happened without it.”

The dementia-friendly carol service was discussed and publicised on BBC Radio Guernsey. Revd Mark Charmley, Rector of St Saviours Church, said:

"Christmas is a special time of the year, and we want to do all we can to make the celebration of Jesus' birth accessible and relevant to those with dementia, their families and carers. We look forward to welcoming anyone who wants to come to join us for this service."

Julie Bulpitt, Dementia Friendly Guernsey’s Co-ordinator, explains what will make the service especially welcoming for those living with dementia, their families and friends “The service offers those living with dementia an opportunity to reminiscence by singing carols and going to church. The power of music, especially singing, can unlock memories and can reach parts of the brain that other forms of communication may not. It may also have an effect on family, families and carers who can share the experience and create new memories. By holding the service during daylight, it will be more enjoyable for those who may be less confident going out in the dark and offers a feeling of belonging. It will also be relatively short, the service will last about 30 minutes and be followed by a time to chat and mingle over refreshments. There will be good accessibility for wheelchair users along with large print service sheets.”

After the service, Rev Tracy Charmely reported: “105 people came along to the Carol Service, including residents from 4 local care homes, some brought by family members, others by the staff.  Together, they sang well-known carols, listened to traditional Bible readings and enjoying hearing the Sing from the Heart Community Choir.  Dementia-Friendly Guernsey helped organise things brilliantly, and everyone enjoyed a cuppa and mince-pie at the end of the 30-minute service.  Certainly doing the service at 2pm seemed to work well, and it meant people were able to get home in the light. We have been bowled over by the interest generated around the island, and there are already conversation about repeating the service next year.

Here’s some of the press coverage:

It’s so encouraging to hear of these next steps – and of the way they are raising awareness about dementia and engaging postively with the ways we can keep connections through dementia.  St Saviour’s experiences remind us of the next steps we can take locally too. I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve been doing in your church recently – do email me with your story at sarah.thorpe@lichfield.anglican.org. And also let me know if it would be helpful to talk about next steps in your church: what about planning a service for Dementia Action Week, 10-17 May 2020?

Page last updated: Wednesday 12th February 2020 8:55 AM
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