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When it comes to working with people with dementia, John Swinton believes that “the theological, the psychological, and the neurological [dimensions] are inextricably intertwined.”

Swinton, a professor in practical theology and pastoral care and chair in divinity and religious studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, spoke during the Stob Lecture Colloquium at Calvin Theological Seminary on January 23, 2018.

In a conversation with Kevin Timpe, the William H. Jellema chair in Christian philosophy at Calvin College, Swinton encouraged and challenged the audience to consider the ways in which people with dementia are ministered to in our churches and communities.

He also urged his listeners to think about and to reconsider not only the ways in which we communicate but also how we spend time with this often misunderstood and mistreated population, as well as with others who are are pushed to the margins. In expanding our understanding of how congregations work with members who have dementia, communities will be better able to serve these populations.

The Stob Lecture Colloquium is part of the Stob Lecture Series, a partnership between Calvin Theological Seminary and Calvin College. Named after Henry J. Stob, this series annually brings speakers who focus on conversations of philosophy and ethics within the church. Swinton spoke not only at the Colloquium, but also at the Calvin College January Series earlier that day.

Swinton advised the audience gathered in the Calvin Seminary Chapel to reassess the ways in which the church ministers to people with mental health concerns. He asked, “What are the goals of these efforts? Perhaps the focus leans too heavily toward healing, when an appropriate and theological approach would be toward love.”

Click here to watch a video of this conversation.

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