“A Great Soldier for Justice”Posted in Friendship, Leadership, Social Justice
We will miss the Rev. Angelo B. Henderson, a great soldier for social justice, who worked selflessly for so many in need. At 51 years of age, he passed away last week in his Pontiac home while recovering from leg surgery.
Detroit was Rev. Angelo’s “workshop” both when he served on the ministerial staff here at Hope United Methodist Church and after. He was a co-founder of Detroit 300 community patrol, a fluent and effusive radio talk show host and a minister of the gospel. He not only cared about saving souls but also was concerned about why they were displaced and dispossessed in the first place.
Rev. Angelo did more than talk about the plight of the homeless and hungry. He spent many hours serving our Housing the Homeless Week program, held in partnership with the Oakland County Shelter. He and his mentor Mildred Gaddis were responsible for partnering with TV One and Jeff Majors in the Blankets for Homeless Tour, held here at Hope for two consecutive years, and he was involved in a number of other such worthy projects as well.
Humorous, generous and joyous, he was always the life of the party and had an unflagging energy and zeal that would run circles around the average person.
I often reminded Rev. Angelo that some aspects of our work involve sprinting, others jogging and still others require stamina for the long haul – as ministry with God’s people in kingdom building is a marathon. Still, he kept at his work in both ministry and media at a fast and furious pace and would leave no stone unturned in running the race of delivering blessings to as many people as he could.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, he often had a “last minute deadline” approach to certain activities and through it all he got it done. Once when he was chair of our worship committee he told me that we would be having a revival just two weeks before the event was to be held. I politely scolded him that he could not treat revival preparation in that last minute journalistic fashion. “Angelo,” I said, “we need more time to prepare and discern how God would lead us during this period of revival, for the preparation is always longer than the presentation.” We laughed but he mastered that lesson and never looked back. And through the years we learned from each other.
I remember some years ago when we attended the funeral of his beloved mother in Louisville Ky. and shared our plans for life and our dreams for our children. We had a great working relationship. Angelo had a sentimental side. He was tough but tender and he had certainly seen his days of tears and sorrow.
In 2005 we attended the celebration of Rev. Dr. Joseph Robert’s retirement from Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. We had the great opportunity of sharing a photo with Coretta Scott King and Christine King Farris, the widow and the sister of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both Rev. Angelo and I grinned for three straight hours, well beyond the time it took to snap the picture, just to be there on such an awesome occasion. We were so happy to meet two great souls in the struggle for civil rights. We shared the same joy in also meeting the Rev. Bernard Lafayette, the Rev. C.T Vivian, Dick Gregory and other human rights icons of the era, on other occasions.
As I think back over these shared experiences I know that we will surely miss Rev. Angelo’s spirit of compassion. We will miss his creative mind and entrepreneurial spirit. We will miss the spontaneity and joy with which he engaged his mission of service to the people of this community and beyond.
Too many people forget that at the heart of God’s concern for his people is this very call to service. Service ushers in justice; not only of the restorative and retributive kind but also of the distributive kind. This is a master lesson of the Christian faith. We can say our prayers, preach our sermons and recite our creeds, but if we are not working to create a better world through God’s love, peace and justice – and if we are not working to help the least of these to make a positive difference in people’s lives – then our work may well be in vain.
I thank God for Rev. Angelo and for the time our families had together. His wife Felicia and his son Grant will need us now as the crowds disperse in the aftermath of his death and home going activities.
God bless this soldier for justice, this tireless worker for peace, hope and positive change. His work can never be replicated and may his spirit of charity and courage live on in each of us.