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Title: What happens to faith when Christians get dementia? : a criticial exploration of how dementia affects the faith experience and practice of Christians from the evangelical tradition living with mild to moderate symptoms of dementia
Author: Williams, Patricia Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 7658 9245
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2018
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The thesis explores the experience of Christian faith for those who live with mild to moderate dementia. Whilst spirituality is increasingly recognised as a factor in wellbeing, there has been relatively little in-depth exploration of how dementia affects faith, or conversely, how faith affects the experience of dementia, particularly, within the context of the evangelical faith tradition. Located within the field of Practical Theology, Osmer's four tasks provide structure for the research and discussion. The qualitative study uses a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology to discover insight from the lived experience of eight Christians who live with mild to moderate dementia. Theological reflection on issues arising from the phenomenological accounts, seeks understanding of the profound questions which dementia brings to faith experience. In conversation with theological writing, Christian tradition, and in the light of Scripture, the discussion looks for mutually critical correlation between experience and theology, investigating what it means to be a Christian living with dementia. The reflections are structured using a model of orientation, disorientation and reorientation, reminiscent of Brueggemann's scheme, looking for what this discloses about how faith is experienced in the life-changing challenges brought by dementia. Gadamer's notion of fusion of horizons discloses ongoing insight into the thesis question. The study concludes that faith is dependent primarily on relationship with God, expressed within the community of faith. Counterintuitively, it reveals a growing, positive experience of faith in the light of dementia, and highlights the significance of Christian hope. The thesis contends that faith experience and growth do not end with diagnosis, even though experience and practice begin to change in some respects. The research brings fresh theological insights, and highlights the need for new, creative practices which enable the faith nurture and support of disciples of Christ who are living with this disease. This period of early to moderate dementia provides opportunity for consideration of these issues, and for hearing the voices of those who live with dementia.
Supervisor: Swinton, John Sponsor: British and Foreign Bible Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Religious life ; Christianity ; Dementia