The Rev. Alfred “Al” James Norman Henriksen, died on June 24, 2017 at the age of 95.
Al was born on January 21, 1922 in Boston, MA to parents James Henriksen and Anna Syversen Henriksen. He was raised in the Baptist and Lutheran faiths, but converted to Unitarianism after attending the Wollaston Unitarian Church in Quincy, MA. Al graduated with a B.A. from Tufts University in 1945, then went on to earn a Master of Divinity in 1947 from Tufts’ Crane Theological School. He later attained a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Iowa in 1955.
Rev. Henriksen was ordained on October 10, 1946 by All Souls Church (now UU Community Church) of Augusta, ME, where he would minister until 1951. In that year he was called to serve the First Unitarian (now UU) Society of Iowa City, which named its library in Rev. Henriksen’s honor. Al was then called to the Unitarian Fellowship (now Church) of Corpus Christi, TX from 1957 to 1963; he would later reflect that “the experience of being the first minister to a fellowship taught me ecclesiastical humility.” In 1963 Rev. Henriksen was called to the Pacific Unitarian Church, where he would minister for 24 years of dedicated service. The congregation named its auditorium in Rev. Henriksen’s honor, and when Al retired from full-time ministry in 1987 the church elected him their Minister Emeritus. In retirement, Rev. Henriksen continued his service to the faith by carrying out four interim ministries at the following congregations: Beacon UU Congregation in Summit, NJ (1987 – 1988); First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, NJ (1988 – 1989); UU Fellowship of Northern Nevada (1989 – 1990); and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Inc. (1990 – 1991).
Over the many years of his ministry, Rev. Henriksen performed an array of denominational service. While ministering in Maine, Al served as Secretary of the Maine Unitarian Association and as his region’s Associate Director for the American Unitarian Association. Rev. Henriksen also served as President of his local UUMA Chapter while ministering in Texas and California. Al was a member of District Boards in New England, Iowa, Texas, and California; served on the UUA Planning Committee; and joined the UU Service Committee from 1977 to 1979. Finally, Rev. Henriksen was elected to two four-year terms on the UUA Board of Trustees, serving from 1977 to 1985.
In his spare time, Al was fond of playing golf, exercising, and dancing. He loved music, particularly jazz, and frequently attended the theater—having acted himself in his youth. And Rev. Henriksen was a great lover of travel and the outdoors: He enjoyed camping and backpacking; journeyed extensively throughout the United States, including to Alaska; and made extended visits to Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, the countries of Scandinavia, and India and Nepal—where he and wife Georgianne watched the sunrise on the Ganges River and from a mountaintop in the Himalayas.
Al devoted his whole life to his faith and to the beloved communities which he served. When reflecting on his ministry in the years after his retirement, Rev. Henriksen had these lovely words to offer:
I would like to think of the liberal church as having its feet on the ground, its hand to the plow, and its eyes on the stars. Let us dance and sing, let us create within our walls masterworks of art, images of newer and better ways of living—at concerts, art shows, committee meetings, public protests, in classes and in corridors, from the pulpits and in the hearts and minds of those who, when they join a church community, become greater by far than the sum of their parts.
He is survived by wife Georgianne Declercq; children James Peter, Carl (Beverly Thacker), and Heidi (Neal Conner); grandchildren Eric (Emily), Nini, Teddy, Becca Reeve (Alec), Rueben Connor, and Bryce Conner; stepchildren Erika Sweet (Jeff) and Renee Ackley, and their children Kevin Sweet, David Sweet, and Stephanie Ackley; and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by first wife Ruth Baxter Henriksen.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pacific Unitarian Church, 5621 Montemalaga Dr, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275.
A memorial service will take place at 4pm on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at Pacific Unitarian Church (address above).
Notes of condolence can be sent to Georgianne Declercq at 435 W 8th St #210, San Pedro, CA, 90731 and atGeorgianne.Declercq@gmail.com.