Dementia 101 workshop to help UMCs develop care ministry

By Jessica Brodie

Ministry with people living with dementia is a growing need. Now a pilot workshop from the newly formed South Carolina Cognitive Connection Ministry is holding a Dementia 101 Workshop to mobilize and educate churches and individuals about this.

Slated for Tuesday, May 28, from 9:30 a.m. to noon on the campus of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in North Charleston, Dementia 101 will feature wisdom from retired United Methodist Bishop Ken Carder and the South Carolina Department on Aging’s Tori Anderson.

Carder and Anderson will share information and resources about dementia and how churches can be in ministry with their brothers and sisters living with dementia.

Carder’s late wife, Linda, developed frontotemporal dementia while he was teaching at Duke Divinity School, and he moved back to South Carolina to care for her.

His 2019 book, “Ministry with the Forgotten: Dementia Through a Spiritual Lens,” has become a must-read for anyone living with dementia and for those who desire to walk with their care partners.

The South Carolina Cognitive Connection Ministry is a team of South Carolina lay and clergy developing a dementia care support network within the South Carolina Conference of the UMC. The Rev. Bryan Pigford, who chairs the ministry, said currently one in nine Americans aged 65 and older are living with dementia, and by the time the population gets to age 85, it impacts 50 percent of the population.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’ it gets to our congregations,” Pigford said. “It’s already there in every congregation. We want to remove the stigma, educate, advocate and encourage individuals and local churches to be in ministry with those folks living with dementia, whether that’s respite care, dementia-friendly worship or support groups for caregivers.”

The May 28 workshop is free and open to all who register, though it’s especially being pitched to United Methodist churches in the Charleston, Orangeburg and Walterboro districts. The group hopes to take the workshops across the state.

Pigford said there is a groundswell of support for dementia-care ministry, and he and others on the committee think it can be a great opportunity for churches to engage in a relevant missional focus, particularly during a time of denominational transition.

He said people living with dementia are still children of God, and this ministry is critically important.

“Those living with cognitive impairment can be just as much as a disciple even if they can’t remember their own name,” he added.

To register for the workshop, visit To learn more about the ministry, email [email protected].

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