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Obituary: The Revd Andrew Henderson

by
25 February 2022

Canon James Woodward writes:

THE Revd Andrew Henderson, who received the Cross of St Augustine in 2008 for his work with HIV and AIDS patients, died just before Christmas, aged 85.

Andrew Douglas Henderson was born in London in 1936, the eldest child of Hester and Jock Henderson. Educated at Stonehurst and Radley College, he read theology at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was at Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, that Andrew met Mervyn Stockwood, who was influential in nurturing his vocation. After training at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Andrew served as a non-stipendiary worker priest, while training as a psychiatric social worker.

After working for Wandsworth Council, Andrew became Assistant Director of Social Services for Ealing, under Nick Stacey. He then spent more than a decade as Director of Social Services at Kensington and Chelsea. Colleagues remember him as effective, innovative, and insightful, during a period of rapid social and political change.

After his retirement, Andrew re-trained as a psychotherapist. He continued to be engaged in both community and social action. He was a key figure in the recognition of the validity and equality of LGBTI+ people both in Church and society. He believed in the power of the group: a huge part of his witness and ministry took place in groups of one sort or another. This included campaign groups — in the 1960s, he was an active supporter of the then Homosexual Law Reform Society, which, after the passing of 1967 Act, became the Albany Trust. Throughout his ministry, he convened groups that embraced prayer and meditation, theological study, and therapy and counselling.

Perhaps Andrew’s greatest legacy was his work with those affected by HIV/AIDS. With Christopher Spence, he founded the London Lighthouse, helping to raise £4.5 million to transform the building into a refuge for support, safety, care, and complementary therapy. It was pioneering as it became a beacon of hope, care, and love. The Lighthouse was one of the Princess of Wales’s favourite charities; she spent hours visiting terminally ill patients. Andrew chaired the charity for 15 years. This was recognised by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, who awarded Andrew the Cross of St Augustine in 2008. The citation noted that Andrew “sees life steadily and sees it whole; urgent Christian witness enabled many individuals, of every belief or none, to keep their faith in humanity, and in themselves”.

Andrew was inquisitive. He was an adventurer and searcher after truth. He loved ideas, concepts, narratives that helped us to fathom the complexity of our life. He cared about how we communicate truth. He was wise about the human condition and forgiving of complexity and disconnectedness. He wanted always to know more about mystery, silence, growth, and our search for authenticity. His priesthood was grounded in the integrity of his search for truth and in the quality of his attentiveness. One of the most skilful of listeners, Andrew knew about the absurdity of life, its ambiguities, and paradoxes. He possessed deep emotional and spiritual intelligence. Perhaps his sense of life as a gift gave him a generous vision of the world as a good and beautiful and hope-filled place — even if it is also a tragic one — because it is God’s.

Andrew retired to Brighton with his partner, Ralph Goulding, who predeceased him. He faced the closing years with calm endurance, aided by the love and support of St Nicholas’s and his many friends. He died in the days before Christmas. He is survived by his two sisters, Janie and Mary, and their families.

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