Carson City First Presbyterian Church building a labor of love
To its worshippers and to Carson City, First Presbyterian Church’s original building remains historically, culturally and theologically valuable, and retiring Pastor Bruce Kochsmeier said the structure has helped to shape the church into something stronger.
The site is the oldest in the state, constructed in 1864. The structure has strong ties to Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain, and his brother Orion Clemens, a faithful Presbyterian. In recent years, in all of the buildouts, preservation efforts and estimates that have cost in the millions, Kochsmeier and his congregants have had to deem the church unsafe and unfit for use. Worship eventually moved out of the former sanctuary on Sept. 9, 2001, only two days before the Sept. 11 attacks, into the church’s gym, where they would stay for seven years before FPC’s new sanctuary was completed.
The transition served as a measuring test for FBC’s churchgoers.
“Certainly, there was a sifting out and there were some who left because worship in a gym was less than what a church should be,” he said. “But in the larger sense, it has drawn us together, it’s made us more cohesive, it’s defined our mission for us, it’s made clear what matters and what doesn’t matter and we’ve grown tremendously.”
Estimates for restoration or retrofitting efforts on the original building have varied greatly, according to previous Nevada Appeal stories, costing anywhere from $1 million to $5 million depending on bids from local engineering firms.
The church now has about 300 members with about 400 who attend regularly, and incoming Pastor Bob Davis said he’s struck by how unified the followers have become.
“When you hear the story and talk to people in the congregation about it, they will echo what Bruce has said about the unifying aspect about not doing what they originally wanted to do, and so, to go through this spiritual discovery, if it’s not what they wanted to do, to ask, where is God leading us and that discernment process and that faithful walk together and to build a community still retains its cohesiveness in a very powerful way,” Davis said.
Kochsmeier reinforced the idea that managing such a church with all of its special circumstances with the historic building and through its transition has been a boon to FPC’s body while making sure the community could always come to worship.
“We became stronger than I think this church had ever been in its 150-year history through the seven-year time worshipping in the gym because people realized truly what it mean to be the body of Christ, that it was not about a building,” Kochsmeier said. “It was about having space where we could worship as one safely and in a way there was room for others to come and join us.”