For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Life is filled with changes, and a community and a church are no different. This week, members, friends and the community of First Christian Church,13022 Wilmot Road, will celebrate the Rev. Brian Henry’s 40 years as their pastor, teacher and friend.
On Sunday, Henry, 66, who served as the minister of pastoral care, will preach his last two sermons at the 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. worship services.
“I have had a lot of titles since coming here,” he said. “I served as preaching minister and later became more of the senior minister. When we added staff, I became the minister of pastoral care. My ministry surrounds caring for the needs of the congregations such as funerals, hospitals, home needs of the people, men’s and women’s ministry, missions work and the benevolent work of the community. I also worked on the buildings and grounds teams, too.”
In his final sermons, Henry plans to offer gratitude to the church family that treated him and his family well.
“They provided such great care for us,” he said. “I also plan on giving a message titled, ‘Our church, it’s not about me,’ and focus on our church in that it is all about Jesus, God and his church. No matter who is serving, we are all servants or instruments to be used by God. I plan to talk about how God uses Jesus and his followers so differently. The next guy in my shoes will be different than me, and our lead pastor, Brian (Gorman) is so different than me. We served together for 12 years and the next guy after him will be different, too. We have gone through all the wars over the years with the building of a new church, music, etc., and it has nothing to do with our preferences because it is Jesus’ church.”
Since he was a boy, Henry felt called to become a pastor. His great-grandfather was a pastor and there were pastors and missionaries in his family. Henry attended Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Ill., and later graduated from Lincoln Christian Seminary.
Henry served Morton Christian Church for five years before coming to First Christian Church. When he began in Kenosha, the congregation comprised 130 regular Sunday worshipers. Now, there are between 550 and 650 in attendance each Sunday.
“We were in the building that is where the Salvation Army is right now and made the big step to move out across the interstate and build this building. These were my most challenging years as a pastor to make this happen. Five years later, we put on a big addition,” he said. “In the last generation or two, probably the hardest thing to deal with has been worship styles. To see our 96-year-old church willing to make the changes it has over the years in style of worship and the building is amazing. We came out here and built a box that looks like an office building, as we wanted to reach people without looking like a church building. We faced a lot of opposition as we crossed the interstate, changed music style and built this building. It was a huge hurdle, but we built a second wing and can do more ministry because we are debt-free.”
Ministry does not always offer visible results, such as the results Henry’s father, brother and brother-in-law were able to see each day in their construction jobs.
“I grew up doing hands-on work and helped build my own home. I love to use my hands and envied the immediate results my family had when they built something,” he said. “My results are not always as immediate. But life change fuels my fire and seeing whole lives or marriages transformed from life challenges and seeing Jesus really change lives is powerful.”
First Christian Church places value on service to others, and Henry said the congregation meets or exceeds every challenge put before them. Over the years, they have assisted with the Shalom Center, Women and Children’s Horizons, developed a foster care closet and worked hard to impact the community.
“We are currently working on a mission project to raise funds to combat sex-trafficking in India and are offering our commitment to help a sex-trafficking ministry here in Kenosha,” he said. “We also serve CareNet, an organization to help crisis pregnancies and prevent abortion for the past 25 years. I enjoy seeing people reach beyond our walls.”
Henry and his wife, Nancy, of 45 years plan to spend some time traveling and visiting their daughter, Carrie Elder and her family in Nashville, before coming back and settling in as members of First Christian Church.
“Nancy is retiring from her ministry at FCC, too,” said Henry. “She taught kids her whole life since she was 12 years old. She closed her classroom down last week and it was devastating for her. She has helped with the kids’ choirs, kids teaching and done more decorating and painting than anyone in the whole church. We will continue to serve at the church, just no longer in leadership.”
What gives Henry the most joy is leaving a legacy of faith behind to his children and grandchildren.
“Many pastors’ families turn away from the faith, but I am blessed in that my older daughter, Charity Owen, and her family are involved here in the church. Her husband, Don, and the two kids are on stage a lot, singing and playing,” he said. “In Nashville, Carrie and her family are very involved in a church and she helps to lead worship.”
While Henry and Nancy will return to First Christian Church, the relationship will be different, and Henry said he will miss ministering and preaching to the congregation.
“Down the road, I do hope to continue to serve in the chaplain world in hospice or a hospital setting and help out with Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville as well as Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national organization that provides beds for kids who don’t have any,” he said.
If you go
What: Retirement celebration for the Rev. Brian Henry
When: 9 or 10:30 a.m. Sunday
Where: First Christian Church, 13022 Wilmot Road