In Loving memory of
June 26, 1939 – June 27, 2022
Former President and founding member of The Contemplative Society Anne Henderson died peacefully on July, 2022, with her husband Doug and sons at her side. In a beautiful tribute to Anne, member and former TCS President Pat Manning spoke at Anne’s funeral held at St John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria, BC. We share the tribute with you here, celebrating Anne’s time with us, honouring Anne’s generous and gentle spirit, grounded in Divine Love, and remembering a lifetime of compassionate service to family, friends, and community…
In Memory of Anne
It is really rather ironic than I am here sharing memories with you and giving testimony to Anne.
Days before Anne passed she said that she didn’t want people to think that she wanted to be made a fuss of or acknowledged or praised. She simply wanted to pass quietly away without fuss or fanfare.
I said: “I can take care of that.”
And here I am, having been asked by Doug to speak, sharing with you that Anne didn’t want what we are doing now, that is, having a funeral in which we are shining the spotlight on her. However, she also didn’t say “try not to let it happen” because she knew that funerals are for those left behind wanting to share memories and gratitude. As in life, so in death Anne was putting others before herself.
We all knew Anne, albeit at different stages of her life. Some of us knew her when she was a child, others when she was a young adult, still others knew her as an educator, a mother, a spouse of a friend, or as a professional in the Health Ministry. I came to know Anne in the mature ‘elder’ years of our lives.
Anne and I were at the ‘nearly retired’ stage when we met. We both had been single parents for many years and were entering new relationships –Anne in her marriage to Doug- and we were both attending St. John the Divine although each of us had had a number of years when we had left the Christian tradition behind. St John’s, however, was a welcoming, inclusive community with a strong focus on social justice and action. St. John’s also had a focus on Christian education which re-awakened a spiritual hunger.
Anne was an intelligent, serious spiritual seeker and had been taking summer classes at Vancouver School of Theology accompanied by Doug. They returned one summer talking about an Episcopal priest, Cynthia Bourgeault, who had been teaching at VST and who had been sent to the Victoria area by Father Thomas Keating to teach Centering Prayer and the Christian contemplative tradition in the Pacific Northwest.
Cynthia’s teaching deeply resonated with Anne and I and so began 20+ years of a close friendship and a transformative spiritual journey. The teachings of contemplative Christianity offered a very practical way of integrating our faith into daily life. Anne and I would meet weekly to meditate and encourage one another in the practice of twice daily centering prayer sits, mindfulness, letting go, and encouraging one another in opening our hearts that the love of Divine Energy might flow through us in love of and for the Divine and our neighbor. What is the most loving thing to do in this situation was a frequent question we would explore.
Anne started a weekly study group which has met every other week for the last 20 years. Together we taught Centering prayer workshops, helped organized and attended many retreats, and served for years on the board of the Contemplative Society. In the early days of holding retreats, Glenairley was a favourite retreat centre located in East Sooke. Picture a small main building with a kitchen, dining room and living room in which we all met. Upstairs were bedrooms with one bathroom upstairs and one downstairs. Several tiny cabins dotted the lawn outside none of which had a bathroom. There was a row of bathrooms situated a fair distance from the cabins. Anne would tell stories of the dash in the middle of the night, and we would wait breathlessly to hear whether it was successful or not. Many of our Retreats were mostly silent retreats. We would be in silence except for the teaching sessions. To be in silence was new to many of us. Twelve to fifteen people learning to be together, work together and learn together without words. It was a transformative experience.
But, lest you think that Contemplatives are just silent meditators look closely at Anne’s life. Her Being, grounded in Divine Love, flowed with love and gratitude into her ‘doing’…and doing she did. Not only was she instrumental in the formation of The Contemplative Society but also, with the support of the community of St John’s, she was instrumental in the beginning formation of Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT).
Anne had struggled financially raising her two boys, Geoff and Mike. When she received a large inheritance from her parents, Anne did not hoard her money ‘for a rainy day.’ Instead, she gave generously and anonymously to so many causes and projects. Not only did she support projects by giving to them but she also supported projects with her time and energy. The list of Anne’s involvement in social justice and social action causes goes on and on. She gave tirelessly of her time and resources to individuals, groups, the church, the Indigenous language revitalization project, the Vancouver and Victoria Foundations and to many other political, national and international causes. She wanted to see systems changed and worked to that end.
As Cynthia Bourgeault said in an email to Anne in the last days of her earthly life: “May you realize how deeply you are loved and know that your faithful nurturance has transformed lives and left the planet itself a better, stronger, and more caring place.”
And to which I would like to add: the cosmos will be richer Anne receiving your generous, insightful and compassionate spirit.
You will be sorely missed by all of us dearest friend
Link to Funeral Service on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGCFOcMiVPs
Link to Obituary: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/victoria-bc/anne-henderson-10807948