Since opening our doors in 1955, the story of Henson Memorial Church of God in Christ has been entwined with that of Arie Henry Henson Sr. From a simple tent set up in an empty lot located in a community with little or no churches, Henson Memorial has grown into a vibrant church where people of all ages and races gather to worship the Lord and also learn to share His love with their different families and communities.
Henson Memorial Church of God in Christ is a product of faith and obedience to God’s command by Pastor Arie Henry Henson Sr. Once referred to as the man with a “big mind and little pockets”, Arie had an Abrahamic faith which made him see things others couldn’t see. In obedience to God’s command to build in 1954, he purchased an empty lot filled with trees and foreign debris and started with his family to build an edifice for the Lord despite his little or empty pockets. Despite his time with work, he found time with his wife, Missionary Mayla Henson, and the Children to diligently work on the site until a tent was finally set up leading to the first church service in the church then known as Henson Memorial Chapel.
Arie’s commitment and passion to build a befitting place for the Lord didn’t end as he continued working at the site in the night after his secular job in the day. With his family, they planned, labored, and saved to build the church of the Lord. Over time, his colleagues at Sanford and Sons Architect got to see his passion to get this done and offered their help by designing the blueprints for the church.
The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on a section of the lot while the tent stood on the other side. With little or no churches present in the neighborhood at the time, the news of the foundation of the Henson Memorial brought excitement and great joy to the community. The congregational population grew despite being under a tent and the Holy Spirit met them in every service. With a slow and steady pace, the foundation and structures of the chapel began to take shape. On nights when Pastor Arie couldn’t make it to the site, his wife stood in for him.
By 1960, the weather elements had taken a toll on the tent. With water leakages and other effects of snowstorms, the tent was on the verge of collapse. Thankfully, the chapel building had been completed up to the lower level. So the church moved their services to the finished part while the work continued. Pastor Arie continued to put in his best to make sure that he fulfilled the command given to him by God to build many years ago.
Pastor Henson took a new job with DiCarlo Construction Company and not only did this increase his financial capacity, but it also brought more blessings to the construction project. When the company learned about the church project through Arie’s burning passion, they approved for leftover materials from their numerous projects to be used in building the church. One by one his colleagues at this new workplace offered their support by rendering their services at the church construction site after their day’s work. Despite combining leftover materials with other materials in the building construction, Pastor Arie ensured that only the ones with the best standards were used even if it meant waiting for funds. On one occasion, the construction had to wait for the beams to be brought in from Canada by train.
Along the line, some of the members of the church community came by to help. People like Elder Frank Weatherall, Supt. George Coggs, Elder Ben Franklin, Elder Lee Johnson, Elder Willie Vaughn Jr., Elder Cedric Hooks, Bishop Emmanuel Barns, Supt. Caleb Weathersby, and also Supt. Joseph Willis Henson (Pastor Arie’s Father) put in their best to build a legacy for the church and make it what it is today. By 1970, the upstairs was ready and the congregation moved up.
After the congregation moved to the permanent sanctuary, the Lord instructed Pastor Henson saying “Don’t just preach to them, teach them”. Knowing that he needed to build capacity to fulfill this divine instruction, Pastor Arie enrolled in a seminary school to earn his Ph.D. in Divinity. After this, he founded an institution of higher learning at the downstairs of the church and it became the first accredited seminary in Kansas City for the Church of God in Christ. Classes commenced with most of it holding in the night after which people got their accredited degrees. Missionary Mayla was the first to get an associate degree from the institution. Gradually, Henson Memorial Church of God in Christ became not just a worship center but also, a beacon of light for many in the city.
In 1977, a fire broke out in the church while Pastor Henson was out of the city attending a church conference. He returned to find the basement and a portion of the sanctuary destroyed. So he set to work. It seemed like a blow from the devil to cause Arie to stumble. However, as a man with a big mind and little pockets, it became a reason for him to increase his determination to do God’s work. Gradually, as the Lord caused more people to donate their time, money, and resources, the sanctuary was rebuilt and restored to a state far better than its original glory. Although the church services were never halted, the seminary was never re-opened.
In 2005, Henson Memorial Church of God in Christ celebrated her 50 years of existence. It was indeed 50 years of perseverance, assisting and aiding the community, spreading the Gospel of Christ, caring for souls, and teaching the word of God. This is the entirety of the commission given to Pastor Arie by God in 1954 and he fulfilled that.
On February 20, 2017, after 62 years of active ministry of service to God and humanity, Supt. Pastor Arie Henry Henson Sr. left this earth to be with the Lord his maker. Although he was gone, his legacy lives on as the baton of leadership, passion, and commitment to the Lord’s service passed down to his grandson, Pastor Aaron H. Henson Sr.
Today Henson Memorial Church of God in Christ continues to reach out to communities, preaching and teaching the word of God. The church continues to serve by conducting outreach programs and finding innovative ways to embrace the people, leading them to Christ. All these were possible today because of the obedience of the man with a “big mind and little pockets” who went against all odds to build a church for God.
By God’s Grace, the Henson Memorial Church of God in Christ continues today to uphold God’s mandate by standing as a pillar of light for so many in times of trouble.