Carson City church’s longest tenured pastor retires; new pastor welcomed
Pastor Bruce Kochsmeier
Previously from: La Jolla, Calif.
Previous occupation: General manager, Yamaha
Family: Nancy, daughter Kate
Favorite Scripture: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
PASTOR BOB DAVIS
Previously from: Chula Vista, Calif.
Previous occupation: Trial lawyer, Indiana
Family: Wife Jennifer, daughters Kaley, Brooke and Abby
Favorite Scripture: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
First Presbyterian Church Pastor Bruce Kochsmeier can’t really imagine himself in the parish ministry any time in the future. He’s pretty certain God created him to “goof off” after 24 years serving his home church.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him what you’re going to do,” he said coyly. “Tell him what your plans are.”
Kochsmeier’s tenure at FPC, home to the oldest church structure in Nevada, covers many unplanned but highly visible legacies for his congregation and community since he began in November 1995. Today, he’ll reflect on his time with family and friends at a celebration at the church in the vicinity of Division and West King streets in Carson City.
He’ll also be passing on the torch to First Presbyterian’s incoming leader, Pastor Bob Davis from Chula Vista, Calif., who wants to keep the church engaged and seek new ways to reach families in Carson City.
Not the last sermon
Kochsmeier has had a hefty task in maintaining the site’s historical heritage, but keeping his congregation’s spiritual legacy intact always came first.
Kochsmeier first became a pastor in 1985. He and his wife Nancy, who has served as FPC’s longest director of its children’s ministry and also retires Sunday, came from La Jolla prior to coming to Carson. He received his undergraduate degree in history at San Diego State University and completed his master’s in divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary before he was ordained, which was 34 years on Sunday, he said.
His daughter, Kate, now 22, grew up in the church, and recently arrived for her father’s retirement celebration.
“I’m a youthful 65,” Kochsmeier said. “I’m really interested in the outcome (of my retirement). I want to be someone who engages people wherever I am or whatever I’m doing in such a way that it’s so winsome and compelling that they can’t help but say, ‘What prescription are you on because whatever it is, I want some of it.’ ”
He said of all the sermons he’s ever preached, he has three topics he regularly covers.
“‘Jesus loves you,’ ‘You need to love him’ and ‘What are you going to do about it?’” he said.
Throughout the years, he’s overseen many of the challenges involved in the preservation and the restoration of the church’s building
Kochsmeier said for the foreseeable future, he still intends to remain available for God as needed.
“Bob likes to make it clear … (Sunday) is my retirement sermon, but it’s not my last sermon,” he said.
Passing on the baton
As Kochsmeier retires, FPC also will welcome Davis, who will take up the mantle as the church’s 38th among official and interim pastors.
Davis, formerly of Chula Vista Presbyterian Church of California, comes with his wife Jennifer following 13 years from their previous church and after their youngest daughter, of whom they have three – Kaley, Brooke and Abby – left for college.
The former trial lawyer from Indiana, originally raised in Philadelphia with Jennifer, said the call to come to FPC was an opportunity to start anew, he said.
Davis, the first among the church’s candidates for consideration, said he felt God’s hand in coming to Carson City and said the time was right to lead First Presbyterian.
The hiring process took about a year as the committee completed its due diligence, Kochsmeier said, but once Davis arrived in Carson City, he said, he and his family have “not been disappointed.”
“Eyes open in wonder at what God has done in the midst of this congregation, what God is doing in the midst of this community through this congregation and just the sheer wonder of what a hidden gem all this is,” Davis said. “Our family’s experience with the people here has been uniformly positive. People in stores, people on the street, people all around have just been positive. We’re really enjoying being here.”
Davis said going forward, the church has begun a focus on attracting families instead of implementing programs, he said. It’s also inviting its members to travel nationally or internationally on missions trips to Belize, for example, then come back and share what they’ve learned or to encourage others to do the same.
“One of the things the younger generation and people whose kids are just growing up are discovering is they’re missing opportunities for community, and so to build those connections through opportunities for engagement is so important…” Davis said. “It’s an awful heavy thing to try to carry that load alone.”
Kochsmeier said he’s been enjoying this rare opportunity with Davis in the past few weeks to prepare for a proper pastoral transition and do it right, and he said there is an opportunity to keep the momentum going and consistent with the change in leadership.
“Culturally, generally speaking, churches are anachronistic,” he said. “They are diminishing to the point where people don’t go to the old institutions any more. Families don’t go to church any more. They go to soccer or go to the lake.”
It doesn’t help that Carson City doesn’t offer many family-oriented professional positions for a younger demographic.
Davis insists there is some connection that remains in large part due to Pastor Bruce and Nancy’s contributions to FPC throughout the years with fellowship hours at coffee after church or meals, and “it’s not perfunctory,” he said.
Kochsmeier, who’s taken his church members on trips to Israel and shown them where Jesus walked and established buildings on missions trips for others in need and taught them through a number of sermons and Bible studies, sets out now with perhaps a greater love for God’s word and his people when he thinks about his 34-year ministry.
“(It’s) the faithfulness of God lived out and the faithfulness of his people, the compelling sense of the need for the world to know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the uniform understanding of that in this congregation and the desire to see that happen in the lives of their friends and neighbors and people they’ve never met,” he said. “That stands out, that people have stood together on things that matter and have let go of things that don’t.”