Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities

Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities

What kind of education do clergy and ordinands require in order to include and care for people living with dementia and their carers and supporters?

Project Background

The education and training of leaders is vital for the formation of dementia-friendly religious communities that offer effective care and support.

The Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities project set out to ascertain the space currently awarded to dementia within Christian ministerial training programmes at Theological Education Institutes (TEIs) in the UK and Australia, and to find realistic and meaningful ways to enhance it, bolstering future leaders’ capacity to minister alongside people living with dementia.

In the dynamic landscape of caregiving within religious communities, the Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities project illuminates the pressing need for compelling and compassionate training for Christian clergy and leaders.

The project took place between 2021 and 2023. As we look forward, the Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities report is not merely a conclusion but a commencement—a stepping stone toward a future where clergy and religious leaders are empowered and equipped to embody the ethos of caring communities, particularly for those touched by dementia and their dedicated carers.

Project Report

The Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities report delves into the critical role that church leaders and clergy play in fostering inclusivity and support for individuals living with dementia and their carers within Christian communities.

It explores how Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) in the UK and Australia currently prepare their students for dementia ministry and identified strategies for enhancing this aspect of their training.

This report has three main sections: Dementia, Faith and the Church; Dementia in Theological Education; and A Way Forward. These are accompanied by reflection exercises, recommendations and a list of resources (which are also reproduced below). Additionally, the report outlines areas for further research and proposes a series of recommendations for both TEIs and church bodies to consider as they work toward creating more caring and inclusive communities.

The report is, among other things, a call to action for TEIs to consider a range of options for enhancing their approach to dementia education.

Project Report Downloads

You can download the full project report, case studies and/or the evaluation exercise from the links below.

Key Findings

  • There is a growing need for clergy and church leaders to be well-equipped to support the dementia community.
  • Dementia shines a critical light upon many aspects of spiritual and church life, making it a key indicator of the inclusivity and accessibility of church practices.
  • Current theological training on dementia varies widely and often lacks depth or practical application.


  • TEIs should integrate dementia education into their curricula to better prepare future clergy for inclusive ministry, reflective of the diverse needs of congregations..
  • A multi-faceted approach to training is necessary, combining modular teaching, placements, reflection, and extracurricular learning. We have proposed a suite of options for TEIs to consider.
  • Churches should engage in continuous dialogue and education to foster environments that are welcoming to those living with dementia.

Actionable Steps

  • Evaluate Current Programs: TEIs to conduct self-assessments on current dementia-related content in their courses.
  • Curricular Integration: Incorporate dementia-specific content and ensure cross-curricular references to dementia-related issues.
  • Practical Placements: Provide hands-on learning experiences for ordinands in settings that support individuals with dementia.
  • Continuing Education: Encourage ongoing training for ordained clergy to keep abreast of best practices in dementia care.
  • Community Engagement: Facilitate workshops and create resources to help church communities become more inclusive.

Research Team

This research project was led by Professor John Swinton and conducted by Dr Jennifer Riley (both from the School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History at the University of Aberdeen) and Trevor Wight, Peter Archer, Steve Calder, Lois Haultain, Sarah Oakey and Jennifer Thompson (HammondCare Australia).


The panel below draws together a selection of organisations, initiatives and resources identified through our project interviews for managing and reflecting on dementia, thinking about its place in the church, and supporting broader considerations of issues relating to inclusion and accessibility.

We hope these might serve as a springboard for TEIs, researchers, and church communities to collaborate, innovate, and perpetuate a legacy of care that resonates with the core tenets of Christian faith—compassion, service, and community. 

Organisations, Initiatives and Resources



Age UK

Leading UK charity providing support to help people live well in later life.

Alzheimer's Society

Leading UK charity working towards a world where dementia no longer devastates lives.

Anna Chaplaincy

Equipping UK churches for more effective ministry with rapidly ageing populations.

Baptist Care Australia

Christian-based care organisation for older Australians and people living with disadvantage.

Christians on Ageing

UK organization providing a voice for older people through conferences, publications, commentaries and resource.

Christine Bryden

Advocate and author of books and resources about her own journey with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dementia Australia

The source of ‘trusted information, education and services’ about dementia in Australia.

Dementia Friendly Churches

Resources and webinars to help UK churches become welcoming and inclusive.

Dementia: Living in the Memories of God

Dementia: Living in the Memories of God by John Swinton

Developing Dementia Friendly Churches

Free download developed by Livability and Alzheimer’s Society (UK).

Faith for Life Book Series

Series of ten books, developed with the support of people living with dementia, families, carers, and pastoral care workers.

Faith in Later Life

UK organisation aiming to inspire and equip Christians to reach, serve and empower older people in every community, through the local Church.

Glorious Opportunity

Run from the UK by former GP Jennifer Bute, helping doctors, carers and those living with dementia to understand more about dementia.

Malcolm Goldsmith

Author of books exploring Ageing, Spirituality and Wellbeing (Scotland, UK).

Memory Cafes

Grove Pamphlet by Steven Morris (UK) exploring how to engage with memory loss and build community.

Mission Care Bromley

Provide residential, social nursing and dementia care in the community from Bromley, England.

Our Place Christian Communities

Support churches In Australia to become more disability inclusive, offering resources, training and consultancy.

Playlist for Life

UK initiative supporting people living with dementia to build a playlist of personally meaningful music.

Respite for All

Organisation based in the USA aiming to help build successful local respite communities for families living with dementia.

Spiritual Care Qualitative Research Meta-Synthesis

Meta-Synthesis of qualitative evidence demonstrating the value of spiritual care as an aspect of holistic palliative and dementia care.

Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life

Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life by Elizabeth MacKinlay

Spirituality in Dementia Care

Video-based course hosted by Teepa Snow and Linn Possell about basic spiritual needs throughout life, what may or may not change when someone is living with dementia, and how to best meet those needs.

The Dementia Centre

HammondCare Australia’s hub for world-leading research, knowledge and solutions proven in practice to enhance quality of life and support people living with dementia, their care networks and the healthcare sector.

The Sanctuary Course

Course developed in the UK aiming to equip churches to become places where people living with mental health challenges feel safe, supported and a sense of belonging.

The Spirited Project

Project based in Australia exploring how family and friends of people living with dementia can best provide spiritual care for their loved ones.

The Spiritual Care Series

Eight session training course, licensed by the Bible Reading Fellowship and Anna Chaplaincy from the UK and Health Television Network in Australia.

Time for Dementia

A programme at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (UK) designed to develop, deliver and evaluate an innovative educational initiative, a longitudinal programme in dementia. 

Umbrella Dementia Cafes

Social peer support groups in Australia, established with the purpose of improving the wellbeing of people living with dementia and their carers, families and communities.

Uniting Care

National body for the Uniting Church’s community services network - one of the largest networks of social services providers in Australia.

WAVE for Change

UK-based organisation seeking to connect, encourage and support those who want to see vibrant mixed-ability social and worship groups in their communities.


The authors would like to thank everybody who passed on and answered our calls for participants. 

This research has been generously supported by HammondCare, The Sir Halley Stewart Trust, and the Kirby Laing Foundation.

HammondCare logo   The Sir Halley Stewart Trust logoKirby Laing Foundation logo