Phyllis Bernice Christensen Henderson
1933 - 1993
Phyllis Henderson, pianist, organist, and singer, and her husband, Gordon, were active as music evangelists, participating in countless crusades nationally, and at student weeks of prayer and camp meetings. They were associated with the Voice of Prophecy for a number of years.
Phyllis was born in Viborg, South Dakota, on June 6, 1933, the daughter of Harold and Frances Pullium Christensen. The family moved to Clackamas, Oregon, when she was young. She started piano lessons at age six, proving to be a gifted natural musician and while still in her early teenage years began playing for evangelistic meetings. She attended Mount Ellis Academy in Montana and, following graduation in 1950, enrolled at Walla Walla College, now University, where she was an accompanist and sang in the choir.
While at WWC she met Gordon L. Henderson when he was seeking assistance from the speech department where she was working as a reader and student secretary. They began working together musically, singing on campus and going on trips for the college, and married in June 1953.
Following his graduation in 1956 the Hendersons became active in evangelism, initially in Washington state, and then in the Texico, Arizona, Southeastern California, and Michigan conferences, he as a soloist and she as an accompanist who would join her husband in duets while seated at the organ or piano.
In 1966 they returned to Southern California, where they worked for the Voice of Prophecy as music evangelists and in the office, he as the director of evangelism and she as a secretary. Their work in evangelism for the VOP led to their travelling coast to coast and in Canada, performing in countless crusades and singing at schools and for other church events for nearly forty years.
In 1973 they moved East, where Gordon became ministerial secretary for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. During their five years there she taught piano and organ at Georgia-Cumberland Academy. Following nearly five years in the Pennsylvania Conference, where he served as conference president, they moved to Avon Park, Florida, where they worked until 1985. At that time they returned to the Voice of Prophecy.
They again worked in both evangelism and in the office, Phyllis serving as Executive Secretary for Kenneth Richards, director of broadcast programs, and Gordon as an administrator in several aspects of the VOP’s operation and evangelistic outreach.
They recorded four records with Chapel Records, including Gordon and Phyllis Henderson Singing Evangelists, Above All Else, and Prelude. The latter featured Phyllis playing both the piano and organ. The fourth record, Sweet, Sweet Spirit, featured the Hendersons and their daughter, Paulette Marie, who sang in trios with them, along with an adopted son, Gregory Dean. Paulette would eventually sing with the Heritage Singers. An 8-track recording of Gordon and Phyllis was later released by Chapel Records.
Gordon recently talked about the role his wife played in their work in music evangelism:
From the beginning Phyllis played an important role and we were known as a team, everyone knowing us as Gordon and Phyllis. She was not only a good singer but had an amazing talent for accompanying, quickly transposing to the right key, and making smooth transitions. She was a natural musician with a play by ear talent, more adept as a musician than I was, and played a critical role in any success we enjoyed.
They were living in Newbury Park, California, when she died on February 5, 1993, at age 59.
Sources: Interview with Gordon Henderson, November 2013; 1940 U.S. Census Records; Record liners for Gordon and Phyllis Henderson Singing Evangelists, Chapel L/S 5072 and Above All Else L/S 5119; California Death Index; 1940 U.S. Federal Census, U.S. Social Security Records, and California Death Index, 1940-1997, Ancestry.com; Interview with Gordon Henderson, November 2013. This interview and the liners on records recorded by them for Chapel Records (Gordon and Phyllis Henderson Singing Evangelists, Chapel L/S 5072 and Above All Else L/S 5119) are the primary sources for this biography, which was reviewed and approved by Gordon Henderson before it was listed at the International Adventist Musicians Association (IAMA) website, www.iamaonline.com, in 2013; “In Transition,” Southern Tidings, September 1978, 25; “Pennsylvania’s President has Evangelistic Background,” Review/Visitor, August 10, 1978, 12 B; personal knowledge.