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Obituary: Canon John Henson

13 October 2023

The Revd Dr David L. Gosling writes:

CANON John Henson grew up in Nottingham, before going up to Selwyn College, Cambridge. Graduating in 1962, he trained for the ministry at Ridley Hall. During this period, he taught with Voluntary Service Overseas at Kafue Secondary School, in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), for a year. He was a keen sportsman and rowed for Selwyn. He also walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall.

John was ordained deacon in September 1965 in Southwell Minster, and served his title at Ollerton Parish Church. From 1968 until 1973, he was Universities Secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), a job that he described to me once as “a bit like laying eggs on an escalator”. During this period, he drove with students to a school for the blind in Isfahan. This was before the takeover of Iran by the Ayatollahs, when the Bishop was still Hassan Dehqani-Tafti (father of the Bishop of Chelmsford).

From the CMS, John moved to the Yorkshire Dales, where he was Chaplain of Scargill House from 1973 until 1978. There, he helped to fulfil the vision of Dick Marsh, Scargill’s charismatic founder, whose activities included the organisation of conferences for young ex-prisoners from Liverpool, and who died in a climbing accident in West Yorkshire.

John loved the Yorkshire Dales and became Rector of St Paul’s, Shipley (1978-91), moving to St Mary’s, Ilkeston, Derby (1991-99), and St John’s, Mickleover (1999-2005). On two sabbaticals, he travelled to the Sudan and Taizé, and he and his wife, Jane, spent two years (2013-15) working at St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, supporting the Dean, Hosam Naoum, who is now the Archbishop. John became secretary of the Trustees of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

John’s passion for justice was always instant. Once, when I told him of a common friend from our Ridley days, who had contracted an incurable illness in Australia, he phoned him immediately. The friend told me later how much that call meant to him. John’s compassion for the victims of injustice is utterly practical: he recently helped to rebuild seven Palestinian homes that had been demolished by the Israeli government. He and Jane would like any donations for this work now to go to the Amos Trust.

John Richard Henson died suddenly on 12 September, aged 83. He is survived by Jane and their children Rachel, Bek, and Chris.

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