The Providence family received word this morning that our friend and colleague, Henry Schellenberg, died last night. His wife sent the message with the words: "My Sweet Husband has pain no more!
Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
At 11:35 this morning, Feb 20th, Henry went to be with the Lord. Andrew, Matthew, Maddy, and I were there together for his last breath which was a gentle sigh."
Henry died from the cancer that he first learned about three years ago, I think. (My memory for dates is hazy.) After a respite in which he was able to present a recital of celebration for the apparent success of his treatment, the cancer returned, and now Henry has left us.
There are many memories: conversations at the lunch table at Prov, Festival of Christmas Praise in the first week of December for just short of 30 years (I attended that last 15), fundraising efforts to take the choir on tour. The list is a long one, but I remember one event more than the rest.
In my first year at Providence I was asked to speak on "The Wrath of God" in our community chapel. I blame David Smith and Gus Konkel for asking this peace-loving Mennonite to speak on God's wrath! (David, the Baptist preacher, was assigned "The Mercy of God".)
I used Psalm 2 as the text, and then cast about for appropriate music to introduce the talk. There is little Christian hymnody, and little contemporary Christian music, on God's wrath. "The wrath of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell ..." -- no, we sing of God's love and sing little of God's wrath.
But Psalm 2 appears in Handel's Messiah, so Henry Scehllenberg (bass) and James Fast (tenor) agreed to sing the relevant arias: "Why do the nations rage" and "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron". Henry stood up to sing. He was due a hip replacement, and sitting behind him I could see his struggle to retain his balance as his voice soared out in joyful challenge to the nations. He clutched the podium or he would have fallen, but his voice soared on.
Now his body has fallen, but his voice remains in my mind and heart. If you know Handel's Messiah, you know what follows these two powerful arias: The Hallelujah Chorus. Why do the nations rage so furiously together? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers take counsel together ... and then the response, with joyful finality: "Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth! He is King of kings and Lord of lords!"
Henry has passed through the raging cancer in his body into God's presence. We miss him, and we will miss him. It is hard to type through tears. But Henry is singing the great chorus that answers the Psalmist: "Hallelujah! Our Lord God omnipotent reigns King of kings and Lord of lords!" Forever.