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In a strange land…People with dementia and the local church (Book Review)

winter 2005

From triple helix - winter 2005 - In a strange land…People with dementia and the local church (Book Review) [pp19-21]

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In a strange land…People with dementia and the local church - Malcolm Goldsmith - 4M Publications 2004 - £14.95 Pb 239pp - ISBN 0 95304 946 9

This book offers a compassionate and well-informed look at the world of dementia.

The author is an Anglican minister with many years' experience in pastoral ministry in this area. He paints a realistic and forthright picture of the problems of dementia, and talks straightforwardly about the difficulties and opportunities of reaching out through visiting and 'alongside' ministries to both sufferers from dementia and their carers. He is a passionate advocate of the personhood of people with dementia, and feels strongly that the church should be a community of 'loving defiance' to the values of the world. There are many more questions than answers, which is the nature of things and not a defect of the book.

I do confess to getting a little lost in Goldsmith's description of spirituality without faith, and I suppose I cannot go along with all of that. But it is clear that he is trying to grapple with difficult issues, and to explore how people with a very limited capacity for coherent thought can experience transcendence, and be all that they can be.

I was much more moved by one of his quotes from a Christian lady with early dementia: 'I refuse to be a victim, to succumb to the lie of dementia, that as my cognition fades, so must my spirituality. I will trust in the Holy Spirit within me, and the fellowship of the body of Christ around me, to help me as I make this journey.' Now, that's faith! Overall, this is a highly useful introduction to the ministry of caring for these people, and should be required reading for all ministers and elders.

Article written by Mark Cheesman

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