Services set for beloved Kingman pastor
Praise Chapel's growth exploded after Pennington arrived in 1987
KINGMAN - A standing-room only crowd is expected for the Sept. 7 funeral of Praise Chapel Senior Pastor Howard Pennington.
Pennington, 57, was killed Monday in a motorcycle accident on Stockton Hill Road. One of the church's first tasks following his death was to help his family find a venue big enough to hold all the mourners. They settled on the Kingman Academy of Learning High School Gymnasium, where services will begin at 6 p.m.
"We're expecting a packed house," said Jeff Adams, a member of Praise Chapel and a longtime friend of Howard's.
Just a week before his death, Howard Pennington and Adams talked about mortality. Pennington had been sick for several months and though he was responding well to treatment, he told Adams that should he pass, it was his hope that the church he headed would stay on the same path.
"He said that he wanted the church to continue doing what it's always done," Adams said. "He believed the church exists for those who are not yet a part of it."
In 1987, Pennington, his late wife Pamela, and their two children, Travin and Tyona, moved to Kingman from Chandler, where they worked with an associated church, to begin work at Praise Chapel.
Over the years, Praise Chapel grew from a tiny service to a ministry that attracted a congregation that on some Sundays
topped 1,000 people. The size of the congregation grew so big that Praise Chapel looked into expansion projects.
Pennington, whom Adams described as a savvy businessman, was thrust into the public arena during those expansion talks in 2006 when he protested the city's impact fees on new construction. The fees, only recently enacted by the Council, would have cost the church more than $200,000. The fight got ugly, and several city officials blasted Pennington in public meetings for his criminal history, which included time spent in prison for drug offenses.
Pennington never shied away from his past. On Praise Chapel's website, he says that he "was saved out of the wild decades of the '60s and '70s." In fact, Adams said, Pennington pioneered his first church while on parole and was always transparent not only about his past, but his current struggles to be a man of God.
It was that background that gave Pennington the insight needed to reach out to the hopeless who sought salvation through ministry, Adams said.
"He asked, 'What kind of people does God use? Imperfect people. Those are the only kind,'" Adams said.
The church expansion never got off the ground, something Adams said was a blessing in disguise given the collapse of the economy shortly thereafter. And though it is known for its large congregation, Pennington wasn't focused on the numbers.
"He said, 'Numbers don't matter. People do,'" he said.
Pennington delivered what would be his final sermon last Sunday. It was titled, "It's okay to not be okay." Pennington gave the sermon in his pajamas, an illustration that God may love us for who were are, but that he wants us to grow and "not stay in our pajamas."
"Let's just make a difference as a church, as a community," Pennington said in the sermon. "Let's bridge the gap between information and application. Let's bridge the gap between what it is we're hearing and what it is we do when we leave this building."
In addition to his two adult children, Pennington is survived by his wife, Marsha, and her two children, Tyler and Mercedes. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to Praise Chapel's Benevolence Program.