Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies (CAPS)

The Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies was founded in 2001 and has been part of the ACC&C since 2017.

CAPS supports research, education and policy development in ageing, pastoral studies and related ethical issues. It is multidisciplinary, catering to the needs of health professionals, ministers of religion, pastoral workers and older people, and seeks to examine the process of ageing within the context of meaning in life and well-being. It operates within a Christian ethos in an ecumenical setting.

A particular objective of CAPS is to undertake research in ageing and theology which has practical implications for the well-being and care of older people. Thus its focus is on the translation of research into practice, improving practice and achieving quality outcomes for older people.

In 2019, CAPS hosted the 8th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality.

The current Director is the Rev. Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay AM. The Associate Director is Professor Ann Harrington. For further information, please contact Professor MacKinlay at or call 02 6272 2602.

Rev. Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay AM

Elizabeth is both a registered nurse and a priest in the Anglican Church of Australia. She was the inaugural Director of the Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies at St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra 2001 to 2012. Professor MacKinlay researches issues of ageing and spirituality, including well-ageing, frailty and dementia. The book: Finding meaning in the experience of dementia. (MacKinlay and Trevitt) was awarded the 2013 Australasian Journal of Ageing book prize. A companion book 2015 is titled: Facilitating spiritual reminiscence for people with dementia: A learning guide. A second edition of Elizabeth’s book: The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing was published in 2017.

Professor Ann Harrington

Ann comes to Charles Sturt with a background in nursing practice and nursing research. She has been employed in the tertiary sector for 36 years and continues to hold Academic Status with Flinders University in South Australia. She has supervised 20 Honours, Masters and PhD students to successful completion and is currently primary supervisor for 4 PhD students. She has obtained research grants that include funding from ARC, Health Workforce Australia, Department of Health (previously DSS) and industry partners. Her contributions to teaching include expertise in palliative care, spirituality, nursing care of the older person, qualitative research and research design. She has a major in curriculum planning and has undertaken curriculum development for post and undergraduate nursing students. Her publications include refereed reports, book chapters, book reviews and numerous conference presentations at national and international levels. She is a Fellow of Australian College of Nursing and foundation member of Australian Hartford Consortium of Gerontology Nursing Excellence.

Spiritual Reminiscence Workshops

CAPS has recently been running two day workshops on ‘Spiritual Reminiscence for Older People’. This course enables participants to facilitate spiritual reminiscence for older people who are with or without cognitive decline. These skills will be able to be used either with individuals or in small groups. The skills learnt and used will empower each participant in the many situations they face day-to-day in a professional setting.

New training videos show actual sessions with people who have dementia and the interactions between them and the facilitator. It is highly recommended for nurses, chaplains, pastoral carers, leisure activity officers and professionals who work with older adults.

“Spiritual reminiscence is a special way of communication that acknowledges the person as a spiritual being and seeks to engage the person in a more meaningful and person way. It focuses on the person with dementia and their emotional and spiritual being rather than on cognitive losses.” (MacKinlay & Trevitt, 2015).

Spiritual Growth for Frail Elderly People: Institutional and Community Challenges from 2020 and Beyond

This seminar was held on 19 April 2021.

It was hosted by the Colloquium for Ageing & Spirituality at the ACC&C as a seminar for older people facing frailty, and for those interested in being with, caring and supporting older people.

Included in the seminar:
Findings of Public and Contextual Theology (PaCT) project – Finding meaning in the lived experience of frailty

To inform care practices of frail older people in aged care and the community: What are the Institutional and community challenges eg. fires and climate change?

  • Infection control in a pandemic:
  • Resources for pastoral care and frailty
  • Current and changing perspectives pastoral care:

Speakers: Elizabeth MacKinlay AM, Ann Harrington, Ilsa Hampton and Sally Mordike.