St. Paul, June 28, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- As a part-time music therapist, Claire Klein, recent graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, could move into full-time employment in her current position. But studying at United inspired Klein to take another path. “I’m staying part-time to make Dementia Chapel a reality,” she said.
Dementia Chapel is the unexpected innovative ministry project of Klein’s last year in seminary The project began to take shape during a course on Leadership in Religious and Non-profit Contexts. As part of the class, student groups created grant proposals for innovative nonprofits.
Through her work, Klein noticed that participation in worship services seemed to spark something in people with dementia. Long after they had forgotten other things, they could still say the Lord’s Prayer and participate in familiar rituals. She came to her group with an idea: What if they could tap into this and offer a worship service to meet the needs of people with dementia?
The group drafted liturgies, including for Christmas and Easter. “The space would be more conducive for social interaction and symbols of the faith would be prominent to help cue and orient,” Klein said of Dementia Chapel. Services involve “familiar hymns, scripture and prayers [...] so that people can access those rote memories that are still intact. Sermons would be participatory and include visual aids, question and answers from the congregants, or a hands-on art experience or ritual.” Dementia chapel engages congregants where they are, centering their stories and experiences in worship.
As the group pulled together the grant proposal, Klein realized, “I could really do this!” With faculty encouragement, Klein met with connections in the United Church of Christ and the Alzheimer’s Association and with dementia experts and caregivers to determine what spiritual needs should be met through chapel services focused on people with dementia. While Klein searches for church partners to host Dementia Chapel, she is grateful for the seminary that gave her space to build a new version of ministry and spiritual life.