Henderson was a light in the darkness of crisis

Community mourns chaplain known as Pastor Al

The people of Fort Dodge have lost a devoted servant.

The Rev. Al Henderson, who was killed Wednesday evening, was the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church. But leading that congregation was just one aspect of his service to the people of Fort Dodge.

He was also the chaplain for the Fort Dodge Police Department, Fort Dodge Fire Department, Webster County Sheriff’s Department and District 7 of the Iowa State Patrol. In that role, he was a reassuring presence and a shoulder to lean on for our protectors who witness nightmarish things on a regular basis.

Henderson’s concern for firefighters and law enforcement officers led him to create Serving Our Servants, often called SOS. The volunteer group provides water and food to emergency personnel working at scenes for extended periods. It also raises money to buy things for police officers and firefighters that local governments perhaps cannot pay for. The most recent high profile example was the purchase of uniform caps that Fort Dodge police officers will wear on formal occasions.

At emergency scenes, Henderson didn’t limit his chaplain skills to police officers and firefighters. He was often seen consoling victims of fires and violent crimes.

It was a cruel stroke of fate that the man who was a light in the darkness to others in the midst of tragedy was himself the victim of a tragedy.

Mayor Matt Bemrich recalled that Henderson often provided the shoulder that others leaned on in times of crisis. Today, that shoulder is gone.

It’s possible that we may never know exactly why a gentle, caring pastor was attacked and killed at his church. And the people of Fort Dodge may be asking what has happened to their town that would even make it possible for such a thing to happen. Again, there may never be an answer.

But every person asking themselves those questions can resolve to do their own small part to make their a community a kinder and more caring place. Doing so would be a worthy tribute to Henderson.

Rest in peace, Pastor Al.