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Obituary: Canon Roy Henderson

24 May 2019

Prebendary Colin Randall writes:

CANON Roy Henderson, who died on 23 April, aged 91, was an outstanding priest. “Teaching, enabling, encouraging, reconciling . . . his ability to expound the word of God simply and clearly . . . were his hallmarks,” was written of him upon his retirement. His last post was at St Mary Magdalene’s, Stoke Bishop, Bristol; here he had a large congregation, which he led into new ways with patience and graciousness. From there, he retired to Budleigh Salterton, by the coast in east Devon, near to a golf club where he regularly played 18 holes until recently; he preached his last sermon on his 91st birthday, last October.

After National Service in the Royal Horse Artillery, Roy arrived at Oxford University with no faith, but heard “Jesus knocking at my door; so I finally opened that door and let Him in.” He trained for the ministry at Ridley Hall, and served a curacy at St Leonard’s, Exeter, where he met his beloved Lizzie. She predeceased him by 15 months, a loss he found very hard; but they had three children, Judith, Christopher, and Susan, 11 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, all of whom were a great joy to him.

In 1960, he went to St Luke’s, Barton Hill, Bristol, and from there in 1968 to Stoke Bishop. Trinity College, a theological training facility, was established in Stoke Bishop, and for a time he lectured one day a week there, before chairing its council for some years. He served for a long time as chair of CPAS’s Patronage Board. This involved monthly day-long meetings in London, from which he always returned in time to lead a parish group. In addition, he trained many curates, was elected on to the General Synod and as chair of the Bristol Clergy, and became Rural Dean.

Stoke Bishop moved on in its ministry under Roy, who carefully prepared the way for the church’s first woman churchwarden, and then women clergy; equally carefully preparing the way for liturgical and building changes through leading the congregation in prayer and more prayer. He loved children’s work, from holiday clubs to school governorship. Five years before retiring, he set up a pastoral leadership team, which covered all aspects of parish ministry. This was in advance of its time in1987.

Roy had another side: his sporting competitiveness. At a parish fête, he asked a churchwarden to organise a tug-of-war against the vicar’s team; the churchwarden soon discovered that Roy had already nobbled the beefiest men on the field. Recent golfing partners tell of how he seldom let them win.

Two illustrations tell of his life. When Trinity College’s principal, Dr George Carey, was consecrated bishop in 1987, initially for Bath & Wells, it was Roy whom he asked to preach at his consecration. Last summer, Roy fell in the high street, and broke his hip. It was a very hot day, and he lay on the pavement for the three hours that it took for the ambulance to arrive. Most people would have been upset, but Roy merely said how kind everyone had been, sitting with him, and bringing cushions to make him comfortable.

He was a true disciple of our Lord, a real man of God, an example to many.

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