A Requiem for Henry

image009Long ago,
back when I was just a kid,
in the days when gospel music involved more polyester and pomade than guitars and drums,
I stumbled into a place called

By day, it pretended to be a bookstore, but on certain nights the books would be pushed aside, the pulsing fluorescent tubes would be extinguished, and the guitars and tambourines, the keyboards and drums would be pulled out
so that a joyful noise could be made. These were a different type of church people than the rigid Baptist folks of my youth, a people bent on celebrating an awesome God in ways that had only recently been seen as “of the devil.” Every Friday and Saturday was overseen by the two Dons – Durham (on the left above) and Finto – as they would lead folks into the presence of God.

But through it all was Henry.

He was rarely seen, and rarely acknowledged unless some musician couldn’t hear his or her self, but he was there, sitting up in the rafters in the corner,
minding the faders,
turning the knobs,
running the recorder.
making sure that every artist, every preacher, every musician
would be heard – clearly, musically, with passion and verve.
They were up front, receiving the applause,
but without Henry, they were but a clashing cymbal or a tinkling glass.
Artists would come and go,
but there was Henry, a calm and quiet presence who simply made things work.

For this kid,
a kid who was insecure and on the edge of trouble,
there was a certain order to wires and knobs and recorders.
Just a few years earlier I had started to hang out with the audio nerds,
so when I came to Fellowship, it seemed normal to meander back to that booth in the corner,
and there was Henry,
willing to teach a kid still learning the ropes,
willing to share what God had done in his life,
and willing to be a calm and quiet presence to a kid who hadn’t had many calm and quiet presences in his life.
He didn’t embark on some sort of involved mentoring process.
He didn’t require reading or extra homework to ensure that I had a clue as to what I was doing,
and in fact, I probably didn’t have a clue.
He simply was there, offering a kind word, a simple smile,
and sometimes a silence that spoke volumes.
He didn’t know it,
but he was leading me to a new paths that neither of us could envision at the time.

As so often happens, our paths diverged.
I was going to college.
He got a new job in another city.
Life moved on.

Twenty years later,
after far too many late nights and bad mistakes on my part,
and a plethora of children and a trip to Africa on his,
we gathered in a room with hundreds of others to remember our time at Fellowship
(or as it was called back then, Koinonia).
With came a wife and child,
one who had been a part of the Koinonia days,
and another who only knew that her dad was a nerdy preacher.
There were all sorts of luminaries there,
people who had moved on to music careers, big houses, fancy cars,
and all the trappings that come with fame.
There were others,
faithful fans for whom Fellowship had made a difference in their lives.
And there, in the middle of it all,
sitting in the booth at the back among the knobs and dials, faders and meters, was Henry,
still working to make sure that God was worshiped and the gospel was heard.

After all, faith comes through hearing, doesn’t it?

And Henry lived as a faithful man to the end of his days.

I am sure, in another world to come,
God is standing front and center, speaking into a heavenly sound system,
sharing with all who can hear his voice how much he loves them.

And there, in the back, in the midst of it all, is Henry,
for the servant’s heart never leaves,
in this world, or in the world to come.

See you soon Henry.

2 thoughts on “A Requiem for Henry

  1. Such a beautiful and meaningful tribute. I remember the Koinonia Book Store from my Scarritt days, though I never did venture in. However, I have known lots of “Henry’s” over the years… the guys who loved and enjoyed working with sound systems, wiring, lights, and all the other technical stuff needed to help the “Word” be heard. Through your tribute Henry will live on in the minds and memories of those who take time to stop here and read. Curiosity brought me here, but I move on with thanksgiving to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace, knowing there are lots of ‘Henrys’ still making sure the story is clearly heard.

  2. This is Mrs. Henry Martin. Thank you for writing this! I remember sitting on the floor of Koininia with our children while my husband worshipped with the sound board and Sunday 2 weeks ago he was still doing that– so David– you know the one from the OT– is in heaven and Henry shows up– and David says to God— Praise you Father –now we can go electric!!!! The Sound man is here– must be time to turn up the sound aimed toward earth to 95db (Henry’s favorite setting for good concerts) so the whole world can hear God proclaiming His love! Wonder what will happen next!!—- Deborah

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