The story as I remember hearing it: Dad drove into town, got a haircut at a local barbershop, and preached a sermon at the Gospel Lighthouse Church on High Street. He promised to stay as interim pastor only for six months. He stayed for 60 years . . . and counting.
I write of my father, the Reverend Gerritt W. Kenyon, of Millville, NJ, pictured here with my mother, the Reverend Anita Osgood Kenyon. Dad has just been named Pastor Emeritus of the First Assembly of God on Wheaton Avenue, the renamed and relocated Gospel Lighthouse.
As he likes to say, get South Jersey sand in your shoes and you’ll never leave. He collected so much sand over the years, I doubt his shoes have any room left for his feet.
Over time he became shepherd to the whole town, county and well beyond. A pastor in the old-fashioned parish sense. Welcoming and dedicating babies. Performing their marriages when they grew up – and the marriages of their children. Visiting the sick and those “shut in”. Comforting the dying and those whose loved ones had died. And, at gravesite, commending them to heaven. He was, and remains, a multi-generational cradle-to-grave pastor who knew extended families beyond count.
His supreme love was seeing them each and every one come to believe in Jesus, baptizing them (indoors and out, in warm water and frigid), seeing them experience the fullness of the Pentecostal experience, and, for scores of them, helping them launch into ministries of their own. Actually, he saw ministry as an everyone-involved thing, with a vision for a pulpit in each place of employment in town.
Forgive my grammar. None of this is past tense. At the age of 86, his pastoral passion continues unabated into the present as chaplain for the police, hospitals, seniors, radio listeners and race car drivers.
Emeritus means retired, as in retired pastor or professor. Originally it was used to mean a soldier who had served his time. None of this applies to Pastor Kenyon. Retirement is not in his vocabulary. Mark my words, he’ll die with his boots on.
I write all this because they, his church family and friends, are feting him on November 18. This extended congregation that still reveres his presence among them. Some of us are far too scattered to be there, the sun never setting on his influence.
As one of his offspring, I am aware of a couple of times he almost considered a call elsewhere. One of those occasions is forever etched in my memory, for that evening after the service in that other church where he candidated, we gathered at the house of one of the parishioners to watch the first landing on the moon.
But his work in Millville never seemed finished. Like a father, for whom “done” is never this side of eternity.
And so on the afternoon of November 18, he will reach out to everyone, ever in pastor mode, and warmly greet his flock one by one as they gather to pay him honor. A soldier of the Cross who faithfully continues to serve his time.
The banquet on November 18 will be held 1-4 pm at Fairton Christian Center, 199 Fairton-Millville Rd, Fairton NJ. Cost is $10 per person. Registration is due by 11/12 at this link: https://millvillechurch.churchcenteronline.com/…/even…/91274
The church is also creating a booklet for individuals and businesses who would like to make a donation and send a special message of recognition to Pastor Kenyon. Donations would be used to subsidize the cost of the event and any surplus of funds will be given to Pastor Kenyon as a gift from the community. If interested, please email Pastor John Dingle at email@example.com by 11/12.