RPCNA | Pacific Coast Presbytery | Reno (Nevada, USA)
Pastor: Colin Samul
Ruling Elder: Greg Kothman
Members: 18 Communicant, 19 Baptized
Among Deserts and Mountains
Northern Nevada holds surprising beauty. It is much more than the stereotypical arid deserts of Hollywood westerns and the bright casino lights of Las Vegas and Reno. In truth, there are the towering Sierra Nevada mountains, the nearby recreational joys of Lake Tahoe and the increasing growth of industries flocking to the more favorable economic environments. Into this surprising environment the Great Basin Reformed Presbyterian Church was planted in 2018.
In a little more than three years, this church plant of the RPCNA has faced the regular trials of church life, plus the added adventure of navigating the Covid pandemic. As a body they are now looking towards the future of becoming particularized and ministering to the greater Reno area.
From Seed to Seedling
In the winter of 2018, a core group of 16 people, children and adults began meeting together on Wednesday nights. By summer of that year, the church was classified as a preaching station of the RPCNA and had begun regular worship on Sundays.
In August of that year, the church was officially classified as a Mission Work. The membership grew to 25 and, during 2019, the group moved into a shared facility in southern Reno. The Lord’s Day services were held on Sunday evenings with Sunday School for adults and children along with a time of fellowship during potlucks each Sunday. Pastor Colin Samul, along with other members of the church began outreach to one of the local abortion clinics. Mid-week prayer meetings were held as well as additional times of building of the body through family get-togethers.
Weathering a Pandemic
As 2020 began, the growth continued. The church gained additional adherents and were preparing for the year with eagerness. Then, like all churches around the globe, we faced the unknown of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As pandemic numbers began to increase and the state and federal government imposed restrictions, we did our best to comply while maintaining a sense of connection. Our services moved to the online platform as we sung the psalms and dove into God’s Word from our homes. After the benediction, families would crowd around their individual screens and wave and share greetings, longing for the fellowship of our church family. We also had Sunday morning devotions together, via Zoom, and worked through much of the Heidelberg Catechism. Pastor Samul began a daily virtual reading of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Weekly prayer meetings were also held online.
In an environment like this, you would expect the strength of the body to dwindle, due to lack of contact, but the opposite proved true. Within this time of isolation, our church grew. We had membership classes, resulting in new members joining the church. We had visitors join us for drive-up communion that have become regular attendees. Pastor Colin was also blessed with the joy of beginning a Catechumen class for two of our covenant children. There were multiple births and a baptism.
When the restrictions began to lift, and we journeyed back to our in person meetings, it was quickly discovered that we needed to add some additional ministries. With the new families came additional covenant children. A nursery ministry was added for service, during the sermon. Joyfully, we also added additional age level classes for our Sunday School hour. It was balm for our hearts to share those Lord’s days together and see faces and hear voices, not hindered by screens.
In March of 2021 we were honored to host the presbytery meeting for the Pacific Coast Presbytery. While many delegates were still attending via Zoom, the time was a great encouragement to our growing group. During presbytery, we had a Psalm sing and all the church families were invited to attend. Standing in our sanctuary surrounded by elders from all over the region, singing praisefully, our hearts were edified and delighted.
Slowly, more and more restrictions were lifted. We were able to attend worship without masks, the safety plexiglass was removed from the pulpit and ultimately we began our Sunday potlucks again. Those first weeks back to what had been the norm, prior to Covid, felt as if we were able to breathe physically and spiritually. The time of being with our fellow brothers and sisters in a time of study and breaking bread together has indeed been life giving.
After weathering the pandemic, we have come out on the other side looking toward the future in a multitude of ways. The growth in numbers has been significant, from the original 16 to 29 members (16 communicants) and 14 adherents, plus regular visitors. Ministries have grown and been added.
We have formed a building committee to look at next steps: do we build a new building or look for an existing space that can be our own? Shortly, we will be voting in our first ruling elder and are looking for members to fill the role of deacon. There are men’s and women’s Bible studies happening, catechumens class will continue and prayer meetings will move back to in person meetings.
All this growth is encouraging, but the greater encouragement is in the growth of those in the pews. It is not rare to hear conversations over lunch that deal with paedobaptism and exclusive psalmody. You may hear conversations after church about the Lord’s Supper and keeping the sabbath. There is an increasing need to focus on the deep truths of God’s Word and wrestling with questions of doctrine. The life giving water of Scripture is propagating hearts in truth which leads to growth in the other venues.
Now, we pray for wisdom as to what the next steps will be. How do we reach outside the walls of our church? Where can we see needs and meet them? What are the specific needs of our unique geographic and economic community? How do we continue to foster spiritual growth in the individuals and families of the Great Basin RPC?
Looking to God, the Master Gardener
Growth, beauty and truth are evident in our small congregation. The growth has occurred in the numbers of bodies in the building, but more importantly in the hearts and minds of those sitting in our pews. We continue to seek growth in stature and grace and a knitting together of hearts through God’s Word.
Providentially, we are surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. God’s creative expertise screams from the mountaintops! That same creative beauty is evident in the ways He has brought the people together to support and equip one another during this very challenging season. Faithfully, He provided ideas and wisdom in ministering during a worldwide pandemic and lockdown. This growth and beauty are all tied together with the truth of God’s Word. Through His Word we gain wisdom and understanding and a desire to share it with the world.
So, while our little church may be another surprise of the many that make up Northwestern Nevada, it has not been a surprise to God. He has faithfully and lovingly guided us this far and we are earnestly waiting on what’s next. May we serve Him wholly!
Kobi Kothman is a homeschool mom who attends Great Basin RPC with her husband, Greg and three of their five children; Sierra, Nate and Ginger. She looks forward to spending time with their oldest daughter and son-in-law, as well as their other adult daughter any time she can.