Hear different voices
The Revd Dr Tessa Henry-Robinson is Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly from 2023 to 2024. She is the first woman from an ethnic minority background to be appointed to the post. Shortly before Assembly, she talked to Reform about justice, violence and the path of love
Were you brought up in the Christian faith?
Yes, I was baptised Methodist and I was schooled in the Roman Catholic – I wouldn’t say in the Roman Catholic tradition, but in a Roman Catholic school. That’s a completely different thing. My first communion was with the Roman Catholics.
But as I was growing up, my maternal grandmother was into the Bible. She was very keen to read it, because she was Jewish and so coming into Christianity was fresh and new to her. I was always there to listen to some of the verses.
So quite early I was interested in God and interested in Jesus. But it wasn’t until I got married and moved back into the Methodist tradition, where my husband Mark was, that I took notice of what was going on around me in terms of my faith.
So there were elements in your upbringing of a Jewish background, and Catholicism, and Methodism. What brought you to the United Reformed Church?
That was quite by chance. We lived in Brazil for quite some time. We brought our children up there, partially. Mark and I both taught English there. And Mark wanted to come home. He felt a call to ministry, and it started to draw him home.
It was funny because home was always Trinidad and Tobago for us, so when he said he wanted to go home, I thought, OK, maybe it’s time for us to go back there. But Mark was born in England, in Battersea. He left at the age of two, but in his psychological self home was the UK. So we returned to the UK in 1999. I had been to the UK several times before that – when we got married. Our first child was born here. So there was something bringing us here.
We followed him, me and the children, and found ourselves in Bellingham in southeast London. And we have not moved from the UK since then.
It has been home… Well, it’s interesting to say it has been home because it doesn’t always feel like home – a home that we have been invited to be in. But it’s home because it was where Mark was born and where he returned to when he started feeling a call to ministry.
He was searching for the call that he felt drawing him, searching to find out what it was about. And at the time, he was in Brockley, in southeast London, and he told God, ‘The first church I see, I’m going to walk into that church. And let’s see what happens from there.’
As it turns out, he walked into St Andrews URC, Brockley. But when he looked back, it was not the first church he had passed! It was the first church he actually saw. So that is how we ended up in the United Reformed Church. Mark worshipped there at St Andrew’s and I worshipped in Christ Church URC, Bellingham, where we lived…
This is an extract from an article published in the July/August 2023 edition of Reform