Kannwischer, 36 years old and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, will succeed Dr. John A Huffman who has been pastor of St. Andrews for the past 31 years.
Some in the congregational meeting questioned whether a 36 year old might be able to lead a congregation such as St. Andrews—one hoping to attract younger people but whose reality is a significant number of members over 50. Questions were also raised as to whether or not Kannwischer, having served as an Associate (First Pres Houston) and as solo/head-of-staff pastor (in Summit, NJ and San Antonio, TX) in the eleven years since ordination, had been at a church long enough to warrant his call to St. Andrew’s.
“People raised the question whether or not I had been anywhere long enough to be pastor of St. Andrew’s, and I stayed for thirty-one years!” recounted Huffman. He was 37 when called to St. Andrew’s in 1978.
Kannwischer, who is currently serving First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, explained to the congregation, “We did not go seeking this call—it sought us.” In his words to the congregation during the congregational meeting Kannwischer recounted a story from many years back in which his wife Kelly, also a Princeton Seminary graduate and Executive Director of Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF), said, “I will never live in California!” The congregation responded with laughter.
The calling of Kannwischer was a surprise to many in the congregation. St. Andrews had worked with the Los Ranchos Presbytery to set up a “Co-pastor” situation, allowing for the call of an internal candidate. Though the Co-Pastor Nominating Committee did a national search, there were many who assumed that the CPNC would be led to the candidate who was already known in and loved by the congregation.
“Although the committee like many others suspected that there was a high likelihood of choosing the internal candidate, we asked the Holy Spirit to guide us on an authentic fully open national search,” explains Co-Pastor Nominating Committee member Corey Wicks. “We were blessed to have been lead to Rich Kannwischer,” he added.
After much discussion and sharing of strong passions, in the midst of a hot sanctuary and through the lunch hour, the congregation voted to call Kannwischer as their new pastor.
Brought back in to address the congregation Kannwischer said, “I talked to my wife a few moments ago and as we say in Texas Hold ‘Em, we’re all in!”
“When the dust settles from this, I meant what I said earlier, I want to be the pastor for this whole church,” continued Kannwischer. “I know that there might be some of you who might be disappointed. I want you to know that I will walk alongside you even in the midst of your disappointment,” he assured.
“I think the mettle of this church was tested through this process and I’m confident that we will rise on the other end of that,” continued Kannwischer, who will begin service there in September.
Though there is still one point of contention. CPNC member Corey Wicks, like many St. Andrew’s members, is a die-hard Angels (baseball) fan. “Even though Rich is a Yankee fan, we’re optimistic about the possibility of his conversion,” laughed Wicks.