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
OS fp

Order of Service

Service led by Reverend Graham Osborne
Organist: Gina Eason



Through all the changing scenes of life


1 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 useful purpose.
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.



Jeanette Rennie

[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 school friends.

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 constellations.

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 fascinating.

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.

It goes:

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 a doctor.

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 brilliant.

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 convenient.

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 wardens.

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 stopped writing.

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.

Gail Partridge

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 Maureen.  

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.

Graham Osborne

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.


Dear 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 example
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.


Praise 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.

clown HW
Sister Maureen as a clown with Councillor Heather Ward

red noses


All were welcome to refreshments in the Parish Church Hall following this service.
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 Highlands Road,
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 music.

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 Slater)
Chris Stagg and Katherine Taylor, especially in Family Worship
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 involvement.

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

Sister 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 Eucharist.

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 our lives?
Maureen Henderson

Maureen Elizabeth Henderson - Wednesday 8th July 2015 - from the August 2015 Parish Magazine

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 in Glory.

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."
Gail Partridge

If you would like to add your memories of Maureen - written, photos - please contact the editor
page created 9 July 2015: last updated 11 Aug 2015