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Our magazine: ‘plus’

Every three months, the Members of Christians on Ageing receive a free copy of the organisation’s magazine.  It is called plus and is a means of communication between the Executive Committee and members, between members themselves, and a source of information and reflection on issues of age and ageing.

Our members consistently say that one of the reasons for maintaining their membership of Christians on Ageing is plusfor the variety of its articles, its support in Christian living and the sign-posting it gives to further reading or information.

The Editor is always happy to receive suggestions for articles or even a finished article to be considered for publication in a future issue.  Contact the Editor by e-mail:


Here’s an article on Dementia Friendly Church that will appear in plus.

Churches are increasingly aiming to be welcoming, inclusive spaces in which all people can be spiritually supported. In doing so, many churches are asking how they can be more ‘dementia-friendly’.

It’s not that anyone would intentionally exclude people with dementia from the life of the church, but sadly a lot of what churches do isn’t always ‘dementia-friendly’. Many are beginning to realise that, unless people with dementia (and their family and friends) are treated positively and have their needs met in their local church, many vulnerable people may be prevented from experiencing ‘life in all its fullness’.

Dementia-friendly churches understand that everyone has unique spiritual needs, and that those with memory problems will require a sensitive approach to their spiritual care. If someone feels isolated because the church has been unsure how to respond best to those needs, that person may experience depression or loneliness, or may leave church altogether.

Loneliness is something that affects many people with memory loss. Responding to this, Parkgate and Neston URC has set up CAMEO (Come And Meet Each Other), aimed at supporting people with Alzheimer’s. Running for four hours every Thursday, CAMEO provides an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy lunch and welcomes carers and family members.

Other churches are finding opportunities to welcome people affected by memory loss through similar inclusive approaches. Mal Breeze, a Community Minister based in Blackburn, was instrumental in establishing a bi-weekly cafe in Blackburn. He explained: “Dementia and Alzheimer’s are a pressing issue not only for society but also for the church. It’s so easy for us to jump to conclusions and forget that there are many reasons for Memory Loss – that’s why we decided to call it a Memory Café and not a Dementia Cafe.”

We need to acknowledge that memory loss affects us all at some stage whether it’s forgetting where we’ve left our keys, what we went into the shop for or the name of someone we’ve known for years. It’s important to remember that it isn’t always a sign that people have Dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

“The reason our Memory Cafe is so successful is because it’s contextual, meeting a local need. It’s ecumenical, it’s non-threatening, not ‘Church’ and we have a great team of enthusiastic and committed volunteers with a common interest.”

It isn’t just through projects like this that churches can make a difference. Small changes can have a positive impact; for example, shortening services or creating a new style of service in which people experiencing memory loss can more easily engage. There are few churches that won’t have an ‘all-age talk’, but how many of these are delivered with dementia in mind? More importantly, churches can find ways of affirming the lives of people with dementia, listening to them and their carers, educating the congregation in positive ways to approach dementia or providing ‘dementia friends’.

Churches don’t become dementia-friendly overnight – it’s an ongoing process.  The objective of dementia-friendly churches will be to enable people affected by dementia to live as God intended.  They will be accepting, caring and will ensure that no-one is ‘invisible’. Dementia-friendly means that experiencing memory loss will never be an impediment for anyone to be part of their church community and enjoy opportunities to be fully involved in all aspects of church life.

Ultimately, as many are discovering, it’s about showing practically that God cares for everyone. Can we afford not to be dementia-friendly?

Original article written by Andrew Page for ‘Lookout’ October 2017, URC Mersey Synod.


 Here’s part of an article that also appeared in plus

Life of Alb

Flugel writes, “Clothes evolve as do bodies, because they are another skin”. That is certainly true of my alb, which has housed me, as another skin, in my formal ministry of 30 years; I estimate for probably about 900 funeral services over that time and 2,000 plus occasions of public worship.

Ironically Flugel likens the way we dress to “another Trinity” – decoration, modesty and protection; and yes, my alb is the garment which has been one of my trusty clothing friends, exposing me in roles in which I still find hard to believe I am credible; yet at the same time, protecting me, with the authority of the institution ; in theory at least evidencing modesty in that it removes outwardly any individuality of expression in personal clothing and can be the backdrop of decoration with stole or scarf. There have been several incarnations throughout which this trusty garment has served me well. So well that I intend it to continue to accompany me on my journey to the celestial realms! Will that be my final subversive act? Only time will tell.

In appearance it can best be described as a long white nightie, with full length, loose- fitting sleeves. It is worn over ones normal clothing. It doesn’t matter what you wear underneath, or how fat or thin you are, as it is voluminous, so you can just slip it on over whatever, and immediately you are respectable! My alb wasn’t mine to begin with; it was left to me by a departing woman priest as she returned through the sky to her homeland to be reunited with the partner she had mistakenly left behind.


Alb goes to funerals 

Because of confidentiality issues, I can share little here of the rich and privileged funeral ministry I have been entrusted with, by families who require for their loved ones, Something not too religious, but not Humanist”. To serve in this way has been my passion in ministry. I hope, but will never know, that my work with these families has been reflected by one man’s words when he came to see me the following day.  “You did my Mum’s funeral yesterday to a crematorium full of unbelievers, but we all came out with some hope”.  However a few moments I can share:

One late afternoon after such a service, at the end of the Day Before, rather than the Night Before, Christmas, I was exhausted, with family commitments, work responsibilities, and worship leading yet to go. I was having a quiet moment, still in my alb, walking in the garden of the Crematorium, after a particularly challenging funeral. How could it not be challenging on that day of all days? Suddenly there was a gasp as a couple came round the corner of the wall and saw me. One of them said, Oh God, I thought you were an angel!” Then, why, oh why, did I say these words? So unprofessional! I must just have been tired and in ‘another place in my head’, I replied, (the hurt of decades obviously)… “No. I never was chosen at school to be an angel. I never had any aspirations to be Mary in nativities, but I longed to be an angel in a glorious sparkly dress with wings and a halo. But I was only ever a shepherd with a tea-towel round my head!” Horrified, I looked at them… but the man, bless him, laughed and said, “Well you’ve grown up and out-aced them all, haven’t you?” One of my greatest Christmas gifts ever!


Another moment of grace from the bereaved was following a funeral at which I officiated in York for one of my retail tradesmen. The Crematorium was fuller than I had ever seen. Mostly men, with serious faces and dark clothes (still the culture in North Yorkshire). I had a coughing fit half way through the service. It came from the depths, racking spasms and uncontrollable. The Funeral Director brought me a glass of water. No good. Oh, SOS, what could I do? I then decided boldness was the only way. I held up my hand and excused myself for a moment to sort myself out in the corridor beyond the chapel, but tossing over my shoulder the instruction, “chat amongst yourselves”. How could I ever have done that?! Where did it come from? But they did…all about the deceased. They shared their stories in deep, male rumbles in the opportunity of the moment…

Later the widow rang me and said, “Please don’t worry about what happened. Ian would have loved that. We all did. It should be able to happen at all funerals.”


 Oh yes, and I hitched a lift in Alb once when my car broke down on the way to a funeral! And I did get there on time!

Ann Bowes




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