An Iowa community is in a deep state of mourning following the ruthless robbery and murder of a beloved pastor earlier this week.
Rev. Allen Henderson, 64, was found unresponsive outside St. Paul Lutheran Church after the assault Wednesday evening. He was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead by the doctors, according to the Fort Dodge Police Department.
The senior pastor also served as the chaplain for area first responders.
“[Henderson] was a beloved member of our family and we are working with heavy hearts this evening as we move forward from this tragic incident,” the department said in a statement. “He will forever be remembered for his dedication and service for all of those he touched within this community and beyond.”
Joshua Pendleton, 36 has been charged with first-degree murder and robbery in connection with Rev. Henderson’s death. Investigators identified Pendleton on surveillance video trying to enter the church.
“It was not apparent whether Henderson and Pendleton knew each other,” the Des Moines Register reported, adding that so far police have not disclosed a potential motive for the attack.
The suspect told police that he fought a man outside the church and turned in a cell phone he took from the victim. Pendleton has prior convictions, including disorderly conduct and assaulting a jailer.
Rev. Henderson had served at Saint Paul Lutheran Church since 1999 and was part of Serving Our Servants, which provides water and aid to first responders, and has raised money to help Fort Dodge police buy new dress caps for formal events, Fox News reported.
Hundreds of parishioners and community members gathered Thursday evening for a prayer vigil to honor the slain pastor, the Des Moines Register reported. Cell phone lights and candles flickered outside St. Paul Lutheran Church as the Rev. Steve Turner, a Lutheran Church executive, led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace.”
“Jesus Christ is the light of the world,” declared Turner, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s Iowa District West.
The pastor lamented the sudden loss of a good man whose life was unjustly taken from him.
“It’s just not right,” Turner said, as reported by the Register. “Your kids should be somewhere else, doing what kids do.”
He offered no explanation for the tragic loss, except to note that we live in a broken world.
“Being a Christian is about life and death and resurrection,” Turner said. “Being a Christian is for days just like today. … It’s a difficult time, but God loves us.”