FORT DODGE, Iowa — A congregation still mourning the murder of its pastor gathered for a special prayer vigil Sunday night, a day before his suspected killer goes on trial.
St. Paul Lutheran Church Pastor Al Henderson was killed outside of his church in October 2019. People filed inside of the Fort Dodge chapel to pray for emotional strength during the court proceedings, especially for Henderson’s surviving family members.
“It means so much to have that support,” said Kristen Willingham, Henderson’s youngest daughter. “We do believe that God does provide those helpers along the way.”
Joshua Pendleton is accused of killing Henderson; his trial has been moved back multiple times due to pleas of insanity.
Current St. Paul Pastor Kendall Meyer said Sunday’s vigil was not just for Henderson’s family, but for Pendleton’s family as well.
“This is an opportunity for us to be able to show God’s love and God’s care as we think about the trial coming up,” Meyer said.
Meyer told WHO 13 his main inspiration for the vigil was a quilt Henderson’s widow knitted for the church which holds a special meaning for him.
“It says, ‘We All Receive Grace Upon Grace,'” Meyer said. “I had the opportunity to put that up onto the wall with Pastor Henderson. It’s really the only thing we were able to do as a team ministry.”
Willingham hopes the trial will provide justice for her family, and she is using her father’s own words to persevere through the ordeal.
“I have a tattoo of my dad’s handwriting that says, ‘Carry On,'” Willingham said. “He ended a lot of conversations by saying that.”