Ministry with the Forgotten: Dementia Through a Spiritual Lens

Kenneth L. Carder
Abingdon Press
Published Year: 
Image of Ken Carder's new book on dementia

Kenneth L. Carder, the Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams, Jr. Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Duke Divinity School, has written a new book on the deep personal and theological questions created by loving people with dementia diseases.

The book, Ministry with the Forgotten: Dementia Through a Spiritual Lens, will be published in September 2019 by Abingdon Press. In the book, Carder draws on his own experience as a caregiver, volunteer chaplain at a memory care center, and pastoral practitioner to portray the gifts as well as the challenges accompanying dementia diseases. A retired bishop in The United Methodist Church, he is currently a senior visiting professor at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary Columbia, S.C.

While acknowledging the devastation of dementia diseases, Carder explores how dementia diseases represent a crisis of faith for many family members and congregations. Magnifying this crisis is the way people with dementia tend to be objectified by both medical and religious communities, he writes. They become recipients of treatment and projects for mission, with ministry done to and for them rather than with them.  

In the book, Carder demonstrates how living with dementia can be a means of growing in faith, wholeness, and ministry for the entire community of faith. He also shows how authentic faith transcends intellectual beliefs, verbal affirmations, and prescribed practices. Carder asserts that the Judeo-Christian tradition offers a broader lens, defining personhood in relationship to God’s story and humanity’s participation in God’s mighty acts of creation and new creation; thereby contributing to hope, community, and self-worth.

The book is intended to help pastors and congregations be better equipped to minister with people affected by dementia, receiving their gifts and responding to their unique needs. They will learn how people with dementia contribute to the community and the church’s life and mission, discovering practical ways those contributions can be identified, nurtured, and incorporated into the church’s life and ministry.

The book’s foreword is written by Warren Kinghorn, M.D., Th.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and the Esther Colliflower Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral and Moral Theology at Duke Divinity.

See a review of the book in Publishers Weekly.