Parish of Leatherhead - Remembrance
Maureen Elizabeth Henderson
|St. Mary & St. Nicholas Church
with All Saints
A Service of Celebration for the Life of
8th August 1938 - 6th June 2015
Wednesday 8th July 2015
Order of Service
Service led by Reverend Graham Osborne
Organist: Gina Eason
WELCOME & OPENING PRAYER
all the changing scenes of life
Corinthians 12: 4-11, New English Bible:
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
There are varieties of service, but the same Lord.
There are many forms of work, but all of them, in all men, are the work
of the same God.
In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some
One man, through the Spirit, has the gift of wise speech,
while another, by the power of the same Spirit, can put the deepest
knowledge into words.
Another, by the same Spirit, is granted faith; another, by the one
Spirit, gifts of healing, and another miraculous powers;
another has the gift of prophecy, and another ability to distinguish
true spirits from, false;
yet another has the gift of ecstatic utterance of different kinds, and
another the ability to interpret it.
But all these gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit,
distributing them separately to each individual at will.
[These have been left
as ‘unpolished notes’ that were not written to be read verbatim but
as an aide memoire for a very short recollection during the Service of
thanksgiving for Maureen’s life. It might be helpful for people who were
not at the service to have a bit of background ... All of this happened
between about 1951 and 1955/6 in Bath, Somerset. We were members of St
John’s Church, Lower Weston and Guides in the 28th Bath West Division.]
These are my memories of Maureen - not anyone else's & they are just a
few from many that I could have told you.
She was three or four years older than I was and I was ten, nearly eleven.
Her sister Veronica was I think three years younger than me.
There were three of us friends: Maureen, Christine and me. We were all
Guides, all at the same church. They had both been in Sunday school and
lived near each other long before I appeared. We went to different schools
and so took part in our own individual school activities and had our own
Maureen was a leader, a rebel, had crazy, fun, exciting ideas. We cycled
for miles into the countryside then went for gloriously muddy walks. We
even scrambled precariously over Hampton Rocks (that is an area on the
hills above Bath close to what is now Bath University but then it felt
much more remote.)
|In Guides she did her First Class before anyone else and so had
to camp. If she did then others wanted to too and we had leaders
who encouraged us. In camping we discovered the hills; The
Quantocks and Exmoor, in every kind of weather.
On pitch dark nights we looked at the stars and explored the
She had a seriousness and thoughtfulness too, so that at camp we
would get up to go with our leaders to an eight a.m. Communion in
a village church and absorb the atmosphere there. But then the
leaders would allow us to find our own way back to camp.
Invariably Maureen would suggest a short cut, over which several
of us would argue then end up turning it into a long cut and be
late for breakfast.
We went to Evensong in our local church every Sunday, just the
three of us without parents or family, and could giggle our way
through part of it - but then go once a month to 8 o'clock
Communion and the Good Friday services.
We discussed and argued our faith and other serious things. We
could have a good old argument but continue friends.
Then she, and a year later Christine, moved up to Rangers, then
out of Guiding to nursing. I was left with an inheritance from
them of outdoor knowledge, map reading, plants, cycling and
walking that enabled me to become a Queen's Guide and ultimately
pass that knowledge onto others.
Maureen (top left) and her
Patrol: source Jeanette Rennie
We were amazed when she became a Baptist, not surprised when she went
overseas with a missionary society. We were completely staggered when our
rebellious and determined friend chose to test her vocation as a nun but
not surprised at her interfaith work.
We never lost touch and her letters and conversations have been
In summary there is one psalm that I cannot sing without remembering her.
That is Psalm 121. In its metrical form I can reach the top notes but not
in Anglican chant though Maureen could have done.
I to the hills will lift my eyes.
From whence doth come mine aid?
My safety cometh from the Lord,
Who heaven and earth hath made.
The Lord thee keeps, the Lord thy shade
On thy right hand doth stay:
The moon by night thee shall not smite,
Nor yet the sun by day.
Sister Gillian Mary CSP
Maureen and I met first at our Mother House
at Magila in Tanzania, in the 1960s. We were working in different places.
She worked at the general hospital known as the Majengo or Buildings, a
very basic mission hospital, single storied with corrugated roof and the
with Meccano type beds woven with plaited grass. Much good work was done
here in spite of our poverty.
I remember her working in the theatre and she was also matron for a
period. She had a very good brain and I think could easily have trained as
I was working at the same time in our maternity hospital the other side of
the convent. The convent at Magila was on a plateau, surrounded by the
beautiful Usumbara Mountains.
One memory I have is of the two of us lying on the ground, near the
hospital, in the evening to get a wonderful view of the stars, which were
Maureen was a good friend to be with but sadly, quite often became
stressed. Life was not at all easy for her or for any of us when this
happened but we managed.
I remember going with her for long walks to a waterfall when she became
overstrained, which was therapeutic for everyone! But not always
After 20 years in Tanzania we returned to the UK in 1980 because of
Africanization We both ended up working in Walsall, West Midlands, with a
group ministry where at first, we lived in a council house until the
sheltered accommodation was completed where we had been asked to be
Maureen loved being on a council estate and was very much against the
change, when it came as she felt it was too privileged. One very important
piece of work, which Maureen started, was an interfaith group. This was
very successful having 70 members. We met at different places of worship
each time, speaking about each other's faith and way of worship. I think
this coming together is more important than ever today.
Another memory I have is of Maureen, Sister Vivien and myself joining in
the famous March for Jobs, walking from Liverpool to London. We only
joined it for a short time walking through Walsall town centre with our
Bishop Skelton (known as the red bishop) at the front of the procession.
This caused quite a scandal to some members of our church!
Other memories are of going on holiday to her friends in Skipton, and to
her sister Veronica and family, in Manchester also for a solitary Retreat
on the Lleyn peninsular. Life was not always a bed of roses on these
occasions but we survived.
After a time she decided to leave the Community and live in Leatherhead in
sheltered accommodation. I think she was much appreciated by the Vicar of
St. Mary’s among other things, for her preaching. Contact was lost several
years ago. We were usually in touch at Christmas time until then, when she
Gail kindly informed us of her illness and having heard that she was
caring for herself we were surprised and saddened to hear of her death.
I feel enormously privileged to be asked to
share some memories of Maureen this afternoon. I’m sure there are many
here much better qualified to speak than I; but I know you will all be
adding your own memories, in the silence, to those of Jeanette, Sr.
Gillian Mary and me.
I first met Maureen when she was in the Convent of the Sacred Passion at
Effingham, but didn’t know her very well then, she was just one of the
sisters we all loved and were delighted to have among us.
|It was later when the lady sitting in front of me in the
Education Centre at Guildford Cathedral asked a very pertinent
question after the excellent lecture we had heard. Before
leaving I tapped this lady on the shoulder to thank her for her
question which drew out of the lecturer a full and succinct
summary to all she had said.
She turned round, and I thought her face familiar. After a
moment’s hesitation she said “I know you! It’s Gail, isn’t it?” I
was still at a loss until she said “I’m Maureen, I used to be
Sister Maureen.” I mentally dressed her in habit and veil,
and recognised her at last. We swopped phone numbers and she
invited me to coffee in her flat in Homefield. I remember how
thrilled she was to have a place of her own, and showed me how she
cared for her garden, and introduced me to her motor bike!
We found we had a great deal in common, and were on similar
theological journeys. This was the start of the friendship
cherished so much.
Maureen thought of herself as a very private person, and used to
say she was entirely content in her little flat with her own
company; but I don’t think that was altogether true. I found her
to be sociable and good fun. I had her to lunch to meet friends
with whom I thought she would enjoy exchanging views, and she did.
I also took her to a Modern Church Conference one year. I wasn’t
sure how much she was getting out of it, and I remember her being
quite critical of some of the presentations (particularly one
which examined supposed theology in some of the wackiest modern
films); but quite recently she referred to the really interesting
and thought provoking conversations she had had with people she
met at the coffee stations and at meal times.
Nevertheless, if there are many rooms on ‘my Father’s house’ I
pray Maureen will have one of her own to which she can retire when
she needs to, and shut the door on all those ‘angels and
archangels and the great company of the heavenly host’. She
delighted in being our ‘Solitary’ in Leatherhead.
We had quite an adventure coming back from Shoreham after going to the
funeral of one of the Sisters, when on the dual carriageway near Denbies,
the engine of my car faded completely, I steered it into the side as well
as I could, but it was obvious we were in a very dangerous place on a very
busy road, in the dark, in heavy rain and the rush hour. In no time a Land
Rover pulled up in front of us, and the young man driving rushed up to my
window ‘You can’t stop here, he shouted, it is very dangerous, the cars
are coming much too fast to avoid you.’
I pointed out that I hadn’t stopped on purpose. And then began a long saga
which I will leave to tell on another occasion, but culminated in our
being rescued by the police-dog-handling team! I had visions of being
towed down the A24 by a team of huskies .... During the developing drama
Maureen was invited to sit in the Land Rover next to our Good Samaritan’s
mother. They got on like a house on fire, and her companion still
remembers the incident, and how much she had enjoyed talking to
As we are all very well aware, Maureen had a fine brain, an enquiring
mind, a wonderful sense of humour, and the audacity to tackle
anything and everything, even to studying for a degree in the
Natural Sciences in her seventies; and had her cancer not interfered, she
would have succeeded.
But she was also a natural teacher. We all enjoyed her sermons immensely:
and were disappointed when her painful back caused her to retire from
preaching. She introduced me to the Jesus in which I could believe. Not a
blond Hollywood hero in a white nightie, but one who is powerful and ever
present, represented in all that is best in humankind, wisdom, compassion
and above all tough love. Thank you Maureen, our lives are simply richer
for having known and loved you.
But before I finish, there is another ‘thank you’ I feel compelled to add.
One of the many things Maureen and I had in common was that we were both
rescued as refugees by David Eaton and given a home in Leatherhead. So
thank you David for believing in, and being there, for both of us.
But what proved even more important was the uncritical welcome we were
both given by all of you, the parishioners, who accepted us and took us to
your hearts. Thank you and God bless you all from both of us.
Thank you Jeanette, Sister Gillian Mary and Gail for sharing those
memories of Maureen with us. I would like to add that in my first year
here Maureen was my anchor. We spent much time praying together.
Lord and Father of mankind
Father in heaven, we give you thanks for
your servant Maureen.
We praise you as we recollect her life and cherish her memory.
We bless you that in bearing your image she has brought light to our
lives; for we have seen
in her friendship reflections of your compassion, in
her integrity demonstrations of your goodness,
in her faithfulness glimpses of your eternal love.
Grant to each of us, beloved and bereft,the grace to follow her good
so that we with her may come to your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus
Christ our Lord,
who died and rose again and opened the gate of glory,
to whom be praise for all eternity. Amen
Almighty God, in your great love you crafted us by your hand and breathed
life into us by your Spirit.
Although we became a rebellious people, you did not abandon us to our sin.
In your tender mercy you sent your Son to restore in us your image.
In obedience to your will he gave up his life for us, bearing in his body
our sins on the cross.
By your mighty power you raised him from the grave and exalted him to the
throne of glory.
Rejoicing in his victory and trusting in your promise to make alive all
who turn to Christ,
we commend Maureen to your mercy and we join with all your faithful people
and the whole company of heaven in the one unending song of praise:
glory and wisdom and honour be to our God for ever and ever. Amen
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,
Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those that trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
to the Holiest in the height
Many thanks to Rev. Graham Osborne for
conducting this service, and to all who have contributed to it.
Maureen’s family would also like to thank all those who have been involved
in sorting her belongings and effects.
Maureen as a clown with Councillor Heather Ward
All were welcome to refreshments in the Parish Church Hall following this
Donations in Maureen's memory are invited to the Rector and churchwardens
of this church of
St. Mary and St. Nicholas, to Hawkins & Sons Funeral Directors, 2
Leatherhead KT22 8ND. Please make cheques payable to Leatherhead P.C.C.
from the February 2001
Parish of Leatherhead magazine: Shared Ministry
David Eaton writes:
Looking around in church at Sunday services it is always striking
how many people present play an active part in church life. This
is true of those involved in leading worship, whether in word or
But is also true of many people in the
congregation. Church life is rightly cooperative. We recognise and
honour the gifts and strengths of all the people of God.
This same picture is present when it comes to
ministry. Clergy have an expected role in leading worship. In this
parish, so too do:
Maureen Henderson as Solitary, whose preaching many
have come to appreciate
Carol Coslett as Reader
Carol Smith as Ordinand, recently come to us from
Christ Church Epsom
Their ministries are recognised by the Bishop and
this enables them to share in leading worship. I am delighted that
the Church Council have also agreed to four other people having a
role as Lay Worship Leaders. These are:
Roger Lynch and Ginny Eaton, especially in leading
Taizé Worship (with the musical support of Hedley Kay and Chris
Chris Stagg and Katherine Taylor, especially in
Maureen Henderson, Carol Coslett, Carol Smith and
Ginny Eaton are authorised to assist at Communions in support of
the presiding priest. Our new prayer book, Common Worship, says
"when appropriate, the president may delegate leadership of all or
parts of the Gathering and the Liturgy of the Word to (an)
authorised lay person." This direction is equally expressed by lay
people leading the Intercessions and reading the Lessons. I
believe that our worship is enriched by this greater level of lay
Molly Lewis, Lorraine Willmott and Jane Andrews
have recently begun as Chalice Assistants, and Eric Weetman and
Caroline Dodds will soon do so. Charlotte Parrott and Carol Smith
will also act as Servers.
I am grateful to Juliette for undertaking the
necessary training involved with those concerned, and for the
Church Council's support in these appointments.
from the August 2005
Parish of Leatherhead magazine: Our Thanks
and Good Wishes
Maureen Henderson writes: When I first came to
Leatherhead to explore my vocation as a Solitary, Bishop Ian,
Bishop of Dorking, asked me to write a rule of life (rule for life
is more appropriate). I was unsure as to the right balance of
prayer and active involvement, but I wrote that I saw myself as
dedicated primarily to a life of prayer. Through that prayer I
would learn to listen to the circumstances of my life and so
discover the ministry to which God was calling me.
Those words have stood me well over the last two
years as my circumstances have changed radically. Through pain and
disability I have come to see a dear call to a more contemplative
life. A Solitary may not appear in church often but he/she is
still very much part of the Christian community discovering more
deeply the meaning of the communion of saints.
My absence from public ministry does not mean that
I am less involved in the life of the parish, rather the reverse,
as my involvement is one of hidden prayer. This does not mean that
you will not see me around, as I still need friends and human
relationships to keep a healthy balance in my life. I hope you
will pray for me as I continue to pray for you.
from the October 2011
Parish of Leatherhead magazine:
The Sisters of Bethany
I recently stayed
with these sisters for my annual retreat and had a most refreshing
and inspiring time. The society of the Sisters of Bethany was
founded in 1866, a group of women called to live as a family in
Christ under the traditional vows of Poverty, Chastity and
Obedience for a life of prayer and service. The framework of their
day lies around the recitation of the Divine Office and daily
Their main active work is to offer hospitality to
those who want to “come apart” for a while or have a time of
quiet. Their house is now in Southsea where they offer very
generous and comfortable hospitality at an affordable price.
The atmosphere of quiet prayer is so powerful that
I slipped easily into retreat. I just relaxed into the sisters’
prayer. They have a small but well kept garden and the house is
about 20 minutes walk from the sea. My favourite spot was by a
simple water feature. Soothed by the sound of running water I
noticed a fig tree which took me right into the gospel story from
John chapter 1: Nathanael meeting Jesus discovered that Jesus knew
all about his reflections under the fig tree. I was immediately
taken into an imaginative meditation of being with Jesus, knowing
that he knew all my thoughts and concerns and I could just relax
and be at peace in God’s presence.
Bethany was Jesus’ “bolthole”. Mary, Martha and
Lazarus were his special friends; they are often mentioned in the
gospels. During Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, as the encounters
with the religious leaders grew ever more hostile Jesus returned
to Bethany each night to be with his friends.
I pondered a lot on the sisters’ dedication to the
House of Bethany which is summed up in a prayer they say each day
after Vespers: “Almighty God, whose son Jesus Christ when living
among us honoured with his presence the house of Bethany, give us
grace like Lazarus to walk in newness of life, like Martha to feed
Christ in serving our brothers and sisters, and like Mary
attentive to your Word, to be fed by him who is the bread of life,
our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.
There is room for each one of us in that
dedication. To which of those three friends of Jesus do we relate?
How can we offer the hospitality of Bethany to those we meet in
Maureen Elizabeth Henderson - Wednesday 8th July
2015 - from the August 2015 Parish
Maureen's body was laid to rest in Dorking Cemetery,
on a sunny afternoon, among the wild flowers and grasses with a
wonderful view of the hills.
At the Service of Celebration held in St. Mary & St. Nicholas
Church immediately afterwards we learnt from those who knew her as
a child and then as a young nun just how appropriate this was. She
was a rebellious little girl who loved muddy walks, long cycle
rides and, as a Girl Guide and then a Ranger, camping in the
Quantocks Hills, and gazing at the stars on clear nights well away
from light pollution.
Her lifelong guiding friend Jeanette said "We were amazed when
Maureen became a Baptist, not surprised when she went overseas
with a missionary society; but completely staggered when our
rebellious and determined friend chose to test her vocation as a
nun". Jeanette ended her biography of Maureen by reciting a metric
version Psalm 121: "I to the hills will lift mine eyes from whence
doth come my aid; my safety cometh from the Lord, who heaven and
earth hath made."
Hills featured in Sr. Gillian Mary's address too. Maureen worked
hard as a nurse when at Magila, Tanzania, which was on a plateau,
surrounded by the beautiful Usumbara Mountains. Here too Maureen
could be found lying on her back on the ground, gazing at the
stars from the Southern Hemisphere.
She was 20 years in Africa, but then came back to the UK working
with a group ministry in Walsall in the West Midlands. Here she
initiated an interfaith group when members of different faiths
would meet with a genuine desire to understand one another and
discuss what they believed in complete trust and love.
All referred to Maureen's fine brain, her audacious nature, her
enquiring mind, her love of adventure and her rebellious streak.
But for the last chapter of her life she found sanctuary and
friendship in Leatherhead, and we all gained enormously from her
being among us, and preaching such excellent sermons.
Those who knew and loved her prepared and served a delicious tea
after the service. There was a happy and celebratory atmosphere,
and the party went on for hours - everyone was reluctant to leave.
Maureen, you served your Lord caring for the most vulnerable
people in Africa and the UK, may you now Rest in Peace, and rise
Or as we sang at her Service: "O Sabbath rest by Galilee! 0 calm
of hills above, where Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence
of eternity interpreted by love."
If you would like to add your memories of
Maureen - written, photos - please contact
page created 9 July 2015: last updated 11 Aug 2015