Obituary: The Rev Charles M Henderson, Church of Scotland minister

Rev Charles Henderson: Caring and sensitive minister who was dedicated to serving his 'dear people'
Rev Charles Henderson: Caring and sensitive minister who was dedicated to serving his 'dear people'
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Born: 22 January, 1923. Died: 13 October, 2014, aged 91.

Charles Malcolm Henderson was the youngest in a fine Christian family of two sons and two daughters, and his early years were spent in what was then the vibrant crofting village of Sanna in north Argyll.

On leaving the local school he was employed for a time as a farmhand on the Ardnamurchan estate and this experience enabled him in later years to relate well to the farming fraternity in his three parishes.

Call-up for service in the Second World War being imminent, and belonging to a sea- faring family of many generations, Charles registered for the Royal Navy. His brother was killed in action in the South Atlantic in April 1940, and his grandfather and uncle were also lost at sea. He counted himself fortunate when he was appointed to the Northern Lighthouse Service where, with the Admirality, he served for five years.

After the war and with a clear call to the ministry, he settled in Glasgow where he attended night school in the Old High School on Elmbank Street, and from there he gained entrance to Glasgow University to study arts and divinity.

In 1952 he was licensed as a minister of the Church of Scotland by the then Presbytery of Mull in Tobermory, and on 4 July that year, he was ordained and inducted to his first charge, Dunvegan, in the parish of Duirinish in Skye. In his final year in Glasgow, Charles had been assistant in St Columba’s Govan with the Very Rev Dr T M Murchison, who became a close friend and who introduced him in all three of his parishes.

Charles loved to preach the word in both Gaelic, his first language, and English and he frequently preached in Gaelic at communions in the Western Isles. He was also heard from time to time in BBC broadcasts and was delighted when asked to conduct Gaelic services for Highland expatriates in Crown Court Church, London and St Andrew’s, Liverpool.

Charles was approached by many congregations, from Lewis to Glasgow, inviting him to become their minister, one of these being in July 1957 when he was approached by Southend Parish Church following the retiral of the Rev Angus MacVicar. However, his work in Dunvegan at that time was unfinished, though by a turn of events in later years, he was interim moderator in no fewer than three vacancies in that delightful parish.

A call to his native Argyll proved irresistible in 1959 when he became minister in the parish of Glassary and from there in 1964 he made the happy move to the Highland Parish Church in Campbeltown where he served for more than 25 years. He was proud of his congregation, whom he invariably addressed as “My dear people”. His was the third-longest ministry in the Highland Parish Church and during his tenure the membership of the congregation increased significantly with large numbers in attendance Sunday by Sunday.

Charles was an outstanding minister, a faithful preacher, a caring and sensitive pastor and a very human friend, who shared the joys and sorrows of his people.

On the 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2002 and as a mark of the respect and esteem in which he was held, Charles was invited to become minister emeritus of the Highland Parish Church.

Charles served as moderator in the presbyteries of Inveraray and Kintyre and it gave him great pleasure when he was elected the first moderator of the newly formed Presbytery of South Argyll.

Charles loved his calling to be a fisher of men. He was a deeply spiritual man with a strong faith, a gracious personality and a delightful sense of humour which endeared him not only to his three congregations but to all in the parishes he served. He was a Christian gentleman who served his people with constant commitment and God-given dedication.

In July 2012 when he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination, Charles quoted with gratitude the words of the Psalmist: “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.” He looked back on his life and ministry with a deep sense of thankfulness to the God he loved and served so faithfully.

In March 1956 Charles married Dorothy Thorburn, a district nursing sister in Dunvegan and together they brought up a loving family of two sons and four daughters.

Charles is survived by Dorothy, whom he described as “a tower of love, wisdom and strength,” and their children Flora, Mary, Sorley, Caroline, Katherine and by his much-loved grandchildren and great grandchildren. A son, Donald, died in 2002.

Charles ran the great race, he finished his course and he kept the faith.

We give thanks to God for a minister and pastor greatly beloved by generations of people and who has surely won the well-merited approbation: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”.