Network Engagement and Impact

Published: 3rd May 2024

Across our Dementia-friendly Churches Network, what's working? What's helpful? What's important? 

Thank you to everyone who joined in with our January/February network meetings with Professor Peter Kevern from Staffordshire University helping us to reflect on this. You can read the full Report here - there's so much wisdom to draw on, from across the network. 

I’m more aware than ever of all that’s moving forwards across our dementia-friendly churches network, as people stay in step with one another through advancing dementia. The strength of our network is that churches take action in the way which is appropriate for them.  It’s never 'one size fits all'. It’s different in different places. 

So I want to share three inspiring recent events and conversations from across the network, each very different and each deeply heart-warming.

  • First of all, last week 350 adults and 100 children gathered in Lichfield Cathedral for a wonderful dementia-friendly Songs of Praise service. The service will be broadcast on the BBC as Songs of Praise at 13.15 on Sunday 12 May at the start of Dementia Action Week – and it will be available after that on BBC iPlayer. The service included a performance of 'Is this the way to Amarillo?', sung by Tony Christie who now lives with dementia – with people joining in and clapping in a way that cheered us all. If you’d like to a hold a dementia-friendly Songs of Praise service in your own church based on this BBC Songs of Praise service, we’ll gladly share our material with you.
  • Secondly, this week I was at a Songs of Praise service at St Peter’s Church Monkmoor in Shrewsbury. St Peter’s has been offering a monthly Forget-me-not tea for nearly eight years now. It was a very special service – a local, community version of the Lichfield Cathedral Songs of Praise. There was such warmth in the welcome. You know that people belong, because there was also an awareness of who wasn’t there this month. The positive energy was tangible, speaking so eloquently of God’s love in action. And the teamwork was also unmissable, with everyone pulling together share trusted time together – including providing a totally delicious and much relished tea, with the best china teacups. 
  • Thirdly, this week I’ve had a conversation with the Dementia Coordinator in six rural churches, who continues to give space for connections and conversations about dementia. He’s always honest in saying how challenging it is to journey through dementia – and also how challenging it is to keep going, in small rural churches. And he’s also tenacious sticking with it.  He’s planning a dementia-focus for the Sunday of Dementia Action Week, in one of the village churches. And, with friends asking him to speak to people, he’s had conversations in recent months with people in Skegness, Hartlepool and Hereford, 'pointing them in the right direction'.  More personally, he told me of a church full of over one hundred people, gathering recently for his brother’s funeral: his brother had lived Downs Syndrome and dementia. That church full, including both family and carers, speaks of the deep bonds of community that are forged as we face unchosen challenges together.  We need one another!

Professor Peter Kevern has been enormously helpful to us, since the dementia-friendly churches network's inception in 2013 and in this year's conversations. He concludes our new Report, “Dementia-Friendly Churches Network Review: Engagement and Impact – Listening to Voices from our Network”, with these words:

“This report shows how the Lichfield Dementia Friendly Church network has come a long way since its inception in 2013. It has become embedded within the diocese, encompassing nearly a quarter of the churches, some of whom have been exploring their response to dementia for ten years or longer; it has been at the vanguard of thinking across the Church of England and beyond regarding how the church may be hospitable to people living with dementia; and it has built relationships with a whole range of allies, from the local GP surgery to national bodies such as the Alzheimer’s Society. The network is no longer a new and experimental initiative, but is now integral to the mission of the Church in this diocese and beyond. It is a mature contribution to the life of the church, providing an example of God’s constancy and faithfulness in the face of a frightening condition.

“As society’s awareness, understanding and acceptance of dementia has grown over the decade, so the network has evolved in response. There is less emphasis than there used to be on educating church communities as more material has become easily accessible online; and less need to challenge or question negative attitudes towards people living with dementia. Accordingly, there is less need to provide a single, centralised process for becoming a dementia friendly church, and it has been possible to move to a more decentralised, ‘bespoke’ set of resources that can be scaled and tailored to the needs of each church community. Finally, over time the network has become rich in ‘local experts’, who know deeply the characteristics of their own community and those living with dementia in it, and who have experience and ideas to share with other similar churches.

“As this review has shown, there is an abundance of wisdom and faith at this community level, and it seems to me that the future of the network depends on these local experts and the people they in turn support.

“Beyond the confines of the diocese, nationally and internationally, the church is waking up to the need for Christian leaders as well as church members to become inclusive of people living with dementia, as shown in the recent international study published by the University of Aberdeen: Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities | The School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History | The University of Aberdeen ( As a result of the development of the network, the diocese of Lichfield now has a story to tell and expertise to share.”

Let’s keep sharing our story and supporting one another, as we journey forwards!

Page last updated: Friday 3rd May 2024 11:57 AM
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