HPU’s Church Garden: ‘I see God the most here’

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how one of the many gardens at HPU offer sanctuary and a place of reflection. 

Before he enters the Henson Reflection Garden, Davis Sarrett takes off his shoes.

CLICK HEREto see the full Spring 2019 Magazine!

It’s because of what’s in the middle — a labyrinth.

Sarrett, a junior, walks it barefoot several times a week. When he does, the HPU sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama, leaves his penny loafers by the garden’s gate, takes a deep breath, bows his head and walks slowly, heel to toe.

“Excluding the chapel, this might be the most sacred space of all on campus,” says Sarrett, a human relations major. “I see God the most here.”


“Jesus Has The Wheel”

The Henson Reflection Garden is a beautiful space.

It’s HPU’s newest garden, the 27th in the collection known as the Mariana H. Qubein Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. It’s beside the Hayworth Chapel, full of plants with names like poet’s laurel, golden dream, sacred lily and green veil.

The garden’s plants are subtle, mostly green with slight touches of mauve and autumn yellow. In the middle of the labyrinth is a granite water feature three feet high. It sounds like a trickling stream.

Since opening in August, the garden has attracted students, faculty, visiting ministers and staff. They come to sit, read, study and talk. A few meditate. Others walk the stone pavers of the labyrinth and continue a spiritual practice created 4,000 years ago.

“It’s like going to church,” HPU First Lady Mariana Qubein, the gardens’ creator and namesake, says of the labyrinth. “It can help connect us, center us and make us think of how God can impact our life.”

Strong words. But that has happened to students like Sarrett and Justin Frederick.

Frederick and Sarrett are members of HPU’s Board of Stewards, the student group that helps organize service projects and plan the chapel’s weekly services. Both see the garden as an important part of their daily lives.

Frederick, a senior pre-pharmacy major from Norwalk, Connecticut, comes to the garden before class every day to walk, pray and ask God tough questions about his future.

When he does, Frederick hears in his head, “Do not be afraid.”

“It reminds me that Jesus has the wheel, and we’re just passengers,” Frederick says. “That puts ease in my heart.”


A Graduate Gives Back

The garden became possible because of Chris Henson. He, too, believes in divine intervention.

Henson grew up in High Point, the only child of a single mother. She worked in a sewing factory; he worked on becoming the first generation in his family to go to college.

But he wondered how he could afford it. High Point College made it happen.

In 1979, Henson came in as a Presidential Scholar. A woman from the college’s admissions office — a woman unknown to him today — helped him secure a federal Pell Grant that paid for the rest of his college expenses.

In May 1983, he graduated with a business degree. On a Saturday afternoon in October 1984, Henson married his high school sweetheart, Kim Smith, in the Hayworth Chapel. Two months later, he started a job with BB&T.

The Hensons now live in Lewisville, North Carolina. They . have two grown daughters. Chris sees that these three important decisions made his life: his marriage, his alma mater and his employer, BB&T.

He calls them “blessings.”

Henson is now the president and chief operating officer at BB&T, and he sees the garden as his way to honor his marriage and say thank you to his alma mater.

So, when he hears HPU students use the garden as a focal point for their faith, he’s happy. That, he says, was his hope.

“It’s not important when it happens,” he says. “Just that it happens.”

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