Week 4’s chaplain Robert W. Henderson takes congregation for walk, to ‘sense the divine invitation’



In the Rev. Robert W. Henderson’s experience, Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” more than he said, “Come, believe in me.”

“Walking helps me sense the divine invitation,” Henderson said. “It is how my wife and I spend our time together.”

Henderson, senior minister and head of staff at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday, July 18 ecumenical worship service, with the sermon topic, “Out of Step.” His theme for the week is “We Make Our Way by Walking.” 

Henderson will also preach at the 9 a.m. worship service Monday through Friday in the Amphitheater. His sermon titles include “Get into your Stride,” “One Step at a Time,” “Walking Wounded,” “Step into the Breach” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

One of his most memorable walks was during his study at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, located on a hill overlooking the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. 

“Every day I walked through the wall that was being built between Israel and Palestine,” he said. “I developed relationships on both sides of the wall.”

Another place he has walked is the Mathare Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Almost half a million people live in the area, one of the oldest slums in Africa. While on sabbatical in 2005, Henderson went to Mathare after a riot and found people leaving the dead on the sidewalk as there were no emergency services. This walk, he said, helped him develop a lot of relationships. 

Henderson said he loves to see people grow in their personal faith, particularly on mission trips and in local mission programs. He has participated in three trips to Kenya and has organized mission teams to Haiti, Mexico and Appalachia. His congregation initiated an innovative partnership with an underprivileged neighborhood in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

“An active, hands-on passion for mission proceeds from both vibrant worship and deliberate cultivation of the spiritual life,” he said. “Activities and assets that tangibly extend the love of God to our needy world lend a concrete expression to the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Prior to joining Covenant Presbyterian in 2008, Henderson served as senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, starting in 1993. While there, the congregation experienced exponential growth during his tenure. Before his time at Westminster Presbyterian, he was associate pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He is a graduate of Furman University, Princeton Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary.

At Covenant, he endeavors to create and lead dynamic worship that is faithful to Reformed Theology. In 2017, Charlotte Magazine selected him as “Charlottean of the Year” for his leadership in constructing affordable housing in Charlotte. 

More recently, he has worked to address the needs of the chronically unhoused and consulted with congregations throughout the southeast on matters of worship and mission.

His wife and walking partner, Suzanne W. Henderson, is a professor of philosophy and religion, and dean of Belk Chapel at Queens University of Charlotte, and has published widely in the field of New Testament studies. Her books include New Testament Conversations: A Literary, Historic, and Pluralistic Introduction and Christology and Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark.

Tags : chaplain-in-residenceOut of StepRobert W. HendersonWe Make Our Way by Walkingweek fourworship service

The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.