Pastor departs

A familiar Reno religious leader is leaving the state.

Rev. William Chrystal, pastor of Reno’s First Congregational Church, announced to his congregation that he will be retiring to Virginia, in part for health reasons. Many congregants were shocked and distressed. Some of them have watched Chrystal’s sons grow up during the pastor’s tenure.

First Congregational is one of Reno’s oldest churches. It was established in 1871.

Chrystal has regularly spoken out on ethical issues, including the war in Iraq. A former military chaplain who has presided at several military funerals since the start of the war, he is particularly sensitive about politicians who profess to speak for servicepeople.

In 2005, when Jim Gibbons—then a member of the U.S. House—equated opposition to the war with “deriding” the servicepeople who have had to fight that war, Chrystal said, “Our servicepeople deserve thoughtful realism, not warmed-over jingoism when talking about a war whose premises are ever-changing. Indeed, my son in Iraq is proud that his family thinks and speaks something other than the old party line.” Chrystal has also been harshly critical of politicians who supported the war but failed to attend funerals of Nevada servicepeople killed in Iraq.

He has appeared in tandem with Clay Jenkinson in Chautauqua performances and radio debates, Jenkinson impersonating Thomas Jefferson and debating Chrystal as Alexander Hamilton. Jenkinson has also left the state and now resides in North Dakota.

Chrystal will visit his sons in Reno, so he will be “modestly bi-coastal,” he said.