HESPERIA — After serving the people of Hesperia Church of the Nazarene for nearly 30 years, Pastor David Penn said he’ll be walking away from the pulpit this weekend and enjoying his retirement.
“I think his retirement will give David a new normal,” said Ruth Penn, who’s been married to Pastor Penn since 1968. “He’s involved in so many things and loves to be with people, so I don’t think he’s going to get bored at all.”
The members of Penn’s church said they’ve scheduled a retirement celebration for their shepherd, who is known by many as “Hesperia’s pastor” for his involvement in serving those outside the four walls of his church.
“His retirement celebration is on June 12, just two days before his birthday,” Ruth Penn said. “It’s a great way to celebrate both monumental events.”
Calling it “only a pulpit retirement,” Pastor Penn, 71, said he still plans on being involved in ministerial and community activities, and will continue to collect fountain pens and work on cars.
“I’ve been weighing this for about six years years and I came to the place where I began to equip those who can work with and around me to to carry on the mission of the church,” Penn said. “We’re one church with multiple congregations and the church will be in a solid place when I retire.”
Penn said the church is buzzing with activity on Sunday mornings as the Spanish, Korean, Classic and New Creation-Contemporary services meet at the location on Maple Avenue.
“We have about 300 people that walk through our doors each Sunday and we have a great bunch of people,” Penn said. “Our oldest member is my dad (Joseph) who is 99 years old and still sings bass in the choir. He’s a retired missionary who spent 40 years in Africa, mainly Swaziland and Mozambique.”
After his father and late-mother, Ellen, took him to Africa at the age of 1, Pastor Penn said he learned the culture and how to speak Zulu, Afrikaans and English during his stay from 1945 to 1961.
“We’ve accomplished quite a bit since I arrived at the church in 1989 and I see the church continuing to do the work of the ministry” Pastor Penn said. “The Nazarene board worked with the district superintendent to survey the church in order to set a new leader in place.”
Pastor Penn said New Creation leader Brian Graley, who pastored the church for about six years, has been chosen as the interim pastor of the Nazarene Church and will continue to oversee the church with its strengths of “unity, worship, Bible teaching and prayer.”
Over the years, Pastor Penn has extended his ministry to the community by leading the National Day of Prayer event every May at Hesperia City Hall, and scheduling invocation speakers at City Council meetings and Hesperia Chamber of Commerce events.
“I’ll still be attending the church, but I’m walking away from the daily duties of running the church, which will allow me more time to help the community, work on my hobbies and spend time with my wife,” Pastor Penn said. “I’ll also be available to share in other congregations in the High Desert.”
Pastor Penn, who spends anywhere from 15 to 20 hours in sermon preparation, said he’ll miss the “nuts and bolts” of running the church, including the opportunity to wear Bible-themed costumes to illustrate sermons in the first-person narrative. He added that he plans to dress like an angel during his last sermon on June 12.
Ruth Penn said the summer will include some traveling in the couple's motor home and a visit to the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.
Pastor Penn said retirement will also give him more time to tinker with his old MGB motorcar and an opportunity to work on his fountain pen hobby, a passion he picked up over 20 years ago when he came across his mother’s 1937 Ladies Parker Challenger fountain pen, which needed repair.
Having learned to write with a dip pen, Pastor Penn began to repair fountain pens and quickly drew an online following of pen lovers. Penn also attends the annual L.A. International Pen Show in Manhattan Beach where many pen collectors obsess over pens, custom-made caps and inkwells.
“I’ve worked on so many pens and taught so many people,” Pastor Penn said. “The work has gotten so intense that I had to set it aside for a while.”
Pastor Penn said when ball point pens came out in the 1950s, he decided to graduate from his traditional fountain pens to the modern version, much to the dismay of one his teachers who tore up Penn’s work written-out with a ballpoint pen.
Pastor Penn said he also plans on working on a movie script based on his life, which will include a message he received from God that had the pastor repenting after he set a goal of building a “great big church” in the High Desert.
“On a flight to Brazil with 40 people, I asked God how I could grow our church into a bigger one,” Pastor Penn said. “I repented when I heard God say, ‘Go home and build a great little church.’ Based on our people’s love for God and each other, I think I accomplished that mission over the years.”
Pastor Penn’s retirement celebration is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Hesperia Church of the Nazarene, located at 8518 Maple Ave in Hesperia.
Those who cannot attend are asked to mail notes of appreciation and photos to the Penns. Correspondence can be sent to 16670 Cactus St. in Hesperia. For more information, call 760-244-9132.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.