Carry on, ‘Pastor Al’

Community celebrates life of the Rev. Allen Henderson

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Pallbearers place the casket of Rev. Al Henderson into the hearse Saturday morning following his memorial service at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

The Rev. Al Henderson had the courage to stand with those who needed it during the most trying times in life, according to the Rev. Steven Turner.

But Henderson, of Fort Dodge, was also there during some of the happiest moments life has to offer.

“He’s been there to celebrate weddings, he’s been there to celebrate baptisms,” Turner said during Henderson’s funeral service Saturday morning at St. Paul Lutheran Church. “He’s also been there with you when you had a loved one in hospice and dying.”

Henderson died on Oct. 2 after he was attacked outside of the St. Paul Lutheran Church, the same church he served for 20 years. He was 64.

And Turner said Henderson loved his family dearly.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Otho Firefighter Bruce Ewing, at right, Webster County Sheriff’s Deputy Amy Stringer and Missy Ewing, at left, unfurl the Otho Fire Department’s flag on the Webster County Road P59 bridge over U.S. HIghway 20 to await the funeral procession for the Rev. Al Henderson.

“He was a faithful husband,” Turner said. “Proud of all of his children. He’s a faithful pastor.”

On Saturday morning, hundreds of family, friends and relatives packed the sanctuary at St. Paul Lutheran Church to honor Henderson.

Iowa State Patrol troopers, Webster County sheriff’s deputies, Fort Dodge police officers and Fort Dodge firefighters stood as one during the service. Henderson had served as the chaplain for the Fort Dodge Police Department, Webster County Sheriff’s Department, Iowa State Patrol and Fort Dodge Fire Department.

Jenny Williamson, the soloist for the service, said she celebrates Henderson’s courage.

“He had the courage to stand with first responders,” Williamson said. “He had the courage to come to a church that had just burned down. He had courage in Jesus.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Mourners stand on the Webster County Road P59 overpass Saturday afternoon as the funeral procession for the Rev. Al Henderson passes under them. The fire truck is from the Otho Fire Department.

And when Williamson sang about courage, the entire congregation rose to its feet and clapped their hands in unison.

Henderson, born in Clarion, began serving St. Paul Lutheran Church in 1999.

Five months prior to his hiring, an early morning fire destroyed the 113-year-old church the St. Paul congregation was housed in.

Henderson was also a pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Boone. His first parish was Concordia Lutheran Church of Williston, North Dakota. Henderson graduated from Scottsbluff High School in Nebraska. He attended college at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska.

Henderson received his master of divinity degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1989.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The funeral procession for the Rev. Al Henderson makes its way east along U.S. Highway 20 Saturday afternoon on the way to graveside services in Boone.

Before his work in the ministry, Henderson worked for cooperatives in western Nebraska as a feed department manager for almost nine years.

Henderson’s compassion was on display in many ways throughout the community.

His appreciation for firefighters and law enforcement officers led him to create Serving Our Servants, often called SOS.

The volunteer group, formed in 2014, provides water and food to emergency personnel working at scenes for extended periods.

Henderson was profiled by The Messenger in September for his work with SOS.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A mourner offers a hand on the shoulder Saturday morning as the services for the Rev. Al Henderson conclude at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

According to Turner, Henderson was also a great storyteller.

But no matter the conversation, Turner said he would often end them the same.

Turner said he would end by saying, “carry on.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
An Iowa State Patrol trooper stands at a rest Saturday morning as the funeral service for the Rev. Al Henderson nears its conclusion at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A group of clergy gather as a choir Saturday morning outside St. Paul Lutheran church to sing for the Rev. Al Henderson at the conclusion of his funeral service.