It was once said that Pastor Arie (A-rye) Henry Henson Sr. had a big mind and little pockets. While that may have been true at the time, there must have been an Abraham like faith inside of him that allowed him to see what no other could see—the Lord said to, “build” and Pastor Henson said, “I will”. The year was 1954 and an empty lot was purchased that was nothing more than trees, trash, and other types of foreign debris. In the midst of what appeared to be the nothingness Pastor Henson saw what would be a glorious edifice worthy of only GOD himself. As Abraham did he begin to put one foot in front of the other and with only his family he begin to clear the lot of all the trash. There was no capital campaign going on during this time, there was no money to hire a team of workers but before work and after work, before school and after school, him along with his faithful wife, Missionary Mayla Henson, and children worked diligently until he was able to set a tent up on the lot in 1955. At the securing of the tent Henson Memorial Chapel was open and ready to worship and phase 1 had finished.
Phase 1 had been completed and it was on to phase 2, but nothing had changed: work a secular job during the day to support his family and working by night to finish a work that the Lord had begun in him. Pastor Henson labored providing for his family and saving, planning, praying, and building the church for the Lord. That passion and perseverance that he had spilled over into everything thing that he would do, to the point that people on this secular job begin to fill and share some of the passion and commitment that he had for the church and the work of the Lord. Sanford and Sons Architect was Pastor Henson’s place of employment as a maintenance engineer and though they did not have the call on their life to build a church, they felt compelled to assist this man that merely cleaned the floors. They gave help by designing and drawing up blue prints for the church building that burned in his heart to build. Not much money (little pockets) but GOD’s word was yet being fulfilled.
The tent was placed on a section of the property and Henson Memorial Chapel building was ready to get started in the other end. There was much excitement about Henson Memorial Chapel as there were not many churches in the brother hood during that time. Services were being held on a regular basis in the tent and the Holy Spirit met them each night in every service. It was a slow but steady process putting the foundation together for the building, but never once did Pastor Henson get discouraged because he knew that GOD was on his side and that GOD was pleased. The nights that he could not make it to church because of work or just working on the foundation his wife, Missionary Mayla was always there to support and carry on until such a time where Pastor Henson could be back into position.
In 1960 the elements had taken a toll on the tent and the church begin to face problems such as water leaking inside and even a partial collapse of the tent due to a bad snow storm. Before the condition of the tent became unbearable, the foundation of the church was such that the congregation was able to move into the lower level of the church. Services were held in the finished part of the lower level and still every day after work Pastor Henson would come down to the site of the church and put in countless hours to see through the command to build that had been given to him so many years ago. While diligently working an opportunity came about that would allow Pastor Henson to increase his financial status for his family and church—he begin to work for DiCarlo Construction Company. There his passion for ministry continued to compel men to pour into the vision that GOD has given him to build.
Phase 3: It was at DiCarlo Construction Company that Pastor Henson was allowed to take left over materials that would have otherwise been thrown away to the church site and then used/re-used as materials for the church. Once his co-workers discovered what he was doing and his true passion of ministry they begin to come to the church site after work with Pastor Henson to help build on the church. They also begin to bring in truckloads of materials to help with the building of the church. Brick by brick and joist by joist he demanded the very best in everything that was put into the church. Even if it meant waiting until the money was raised Pastor Henson would not allow anything but the best, even the beams of the church were brought in from Canada by train. Not only did his co-workers help in the building but members of the church community would come by to help with the building of the church. 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 even his father—Supt. Joseph Willis Henson. These men that help build a strong legacy for the Church of God In Christ in the Kansas City area working to help Pastor Henson in his assignment. It would be ten years but in 1970 the upstairs was ready and the members moved from the downstairs to the upstairs.
Henson Memorial Chapel Church of God In Christ now simply called Henson Memorial Church of God In Christ was one of the crown jewels of the city within the Church of God in Christ community of Kansas City as there were not a lot of church C.O.G.I.C buildings during that time. Many services were held at Henson Memorial: local services, fellowship services, even a jurisdictional spring convocation. Pastor Henson had accomplished the thing in which the Lord had instructed him to do. He had taken a of piece vacant land and placed a monument to GOD on it—but it was still more to be done.
Phase 4: After moving the congregation to the main sanctuary upstairs the word of the Lord came to Pastor Henson once again that said, “Don’t just preach to them, but teach them”. In order to better serve in the capacity that GOD called him to, Pastor Henson would go to enroll in seminary to earn his PhD in Divinity. Soon after Pastor Henson begin working on and founded an institution of higher learning in the downstairs of the church. This was the first accredited seminary in Kansas City for the Church of God In Christ. Classes were taught at night and people from all over the city would come and learn and be taught. Due to the school being accredited not only were people taking classes but they were receiving actual accredited degrees. Missionary Mayla Henson was the first to received her Associate Degree from the school. Once again Pastor Henson had accomplished what GOD had asked him to do and the ministry of Jesus Christ continued to thrive in Kansas City. Henson Memorial Church of God In Christ became a beacon of light for many in the city. It was more than just church service on Sunday but at Henson Memorial concern was given to the care of people Sunday through Saturday.
In 1977 the unthinkable happen: a fire broke out in the church while Pastor Henson was out of the city attending a church conference. When he got back into the city to see what damages had been done, he returned to find the basement and a portion of the sanctuary destroyed by the fire. The devil had dealt a blown to Pastor Henson and tried to cause him to stumble, but the man with the “big mind and little pockets” was determined not to allow anything or anyone stop the Lord’s work. Little by little he begin to rebuild and restore the sanctuary not to its original glory, but he made it better. Along the journey the Lord would cause more people to come and pour into Pastor Henson by donating time, money, and materials in the rebuilding of the sanctuary. Although church services never stopped at the church, the school was not re-opened.
In 2005 the church celebrated 50 years in ministry. 50 years of perseverance, reaching into the community to aid and assist, preaching the word of GOD, teaching the word of GOD, caring for souls, and ultimately never letting go to the word of GOD that was spoken to him in 1954. On February 20, 2017 after 62 years in ministry as the pastor and founder of Henson Memorial, Pastor Henson closed his eyes and woke to meet the Lord. The legacy of this church did not pass on with Pastor Henson but rather the “baton” was passed on to his grandson, Pastor Aaron H. Henson Sr. to continue the ministry work that was erected in 1955. This church continues to reach the community through the preached and taught word of GOD, various ministry activities, out reach programs, and simply loving and embracing a whole new generation of people. Due to his obedience the man with the “big mind and little pockets accomplished much in the building of this great church that has stood in the city for over 60 years as a pillar of light for so many in time of trouble. It continues to a beacon of hope.
Supt. Arie H. Henson, Founder
Dr. Arie H. Henson and Lady Mayla Henson
Supt. Arie H. Henson and Lady Maya Henson