If you ask Reverend Katharine Henderson when she decided to become a minister, according to her 2017 Ted talk, “Letting God Out of the Box,” she tells the story of herself as a 16-year-old, self-proclaimed “nihilist,” despite the fact that her father was a seminary professor and a minister, and her family, “serious, earnest, church-going folk.”
“Nothing really mattered,” she said, of her teenage beliefs. Despite these beliefs, or perhaps because of what she now recalls as “promptings of the Holy Spirit,” she was visiting Germany as a high school student and had an “in-your-face” conversation with a Catholic monk in the doorway of a Benedictine monastery.
When she asked him if she could receive Communion, even though she wasn’t Catholic. His answer was yes, she wouldn’t be turned away. “He chose my humanity over his rules of exclusion. He welcomed me in when he could’ve set up barriers,” she said. She never even knew his name but “he led me on the way to the minister I am today and I have never looked back.”
That sense of inclusion is what Union Chapel in the Grove has tried to do as well, with inter-denominational services all summer long — some indoors, some out. Our last service of the season, on Sept. 5 at 10:30 a.m. will be outdoors, if weather permits.
Reverend Henderson’s sermon is titled, “What Lies Beneath.” Island Folk, a local favorite, will perform.
Reverend Henderson is president of Auburn Seminary, which was founded 200 years ago by Presbyterians, and is “a leadership development and research institute that equips and convenes leaders across the multi-faith movement for justice,” according to their website.
She is the author of “God’s Troublemakers: How Women of Faith are Changing the World,” and is an internationally known speaker, featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, MSNBC, NPR, and more. She is currently writing her second book, “Fighting for the Heart of America: How the Prophets of our Time are Bringing Our Nation’s Future to Birth.”
Reverend Henderson was named co-recipient of the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize for her “lifelong passion to create spaces for authentic interfaith engagement.” Past winners included His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
She serves on the Advisory Board of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center and the Multi-faith Leadership Advisory Board for New York University.
An ordained Presbyterian minister, Reverend Henderson earned her Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary and her doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was raised in Louisville, Ky. during the civil rights movement and accompanied her parents on many civil rights marches.
She and her husband, Charles, also a Presbyterian minister, are good friends with many Chapel trustees and have preached eight times at the Chapel, according to Chairman Jay Sterling. They are avid sailors and often stay on their boat when visiting the Island.
Island Folk, our guest musicians, have kept the spirit of traditional music alive on Shelter Island for years, performing at the Union Chapel’s Labor Day service many times. The group consists of Penny Kerr on guitar and vocals; John Kerr on upright bass; Heather Reylek, guitar and vocals; and Wendy Clark, banjo and vocals.
Please join us outdoors for Closing Sunday on Sept. 5 with Reverend Katharine Henderson. Please bring a chair. In the case of inclement weather, the service will move indoors.