After spending a majority of his pastoral career on the road, Russell Cobb has decided to plant his roots at the United Church of Christ by serving as the parish's pastor.
The Eldon native, who now calls Columbia home, has spent the past 10 years as an interim pastor for two churches in Jamestown, while also filling in for UCC, as needed. The three churches, Cobb said, have more in common than one would think.
"The churches in Jamestown and California are more or less affiliated with each other," Cobb said. "They both have youth activities, activities for adults and some members of both churches know each other, or are family.
"So, the congregations have the same heritage."
This sense of familiarity is something Cobb appreciates about his "new" church family.
Cobb graduated from Central Methodist College, now Central Missouri University, Fayette, in 1988, then completed his training at Cincinnati Bible Seminary. His first assignment as a pastor was one he would become comfortable with for the next 30 years.
"My very first job was preaching as an interim pastor," Cobb said. "I started at a little church as a youth minister, which is what I wanted to do."
In 1991, Cobb began working for various colleges, landing a job as a financial aid advisor at Columbia College, where he was employed for 18 years. When not crunching numbers during the week, Cobb kept his Bible close and hit the road to preach at various country churches in central Missouri.
His travels started to move closer to California when, in 2009, Cobb was invited to temporarily replace Chester Marshall as the pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Church, Jamestown. No matter where he has given a message, Cobb said he understands and enjoys one simple feature the Jamestown and California churches have offered.
"Those churches have a certain history," Cobb said. "Pretty much being Christian churches, they both have a common history and there is a unique opportunity to work together and serve together. It's really exciting."
While Cobb has preached his messages at a number of churches in central Missouri, he still sticks to the same structure, when it comes to his sermons.
"I like to think I'm a practical pastor; the same can be said about my sermons," he said. "The Bible can be applicable to our daily lives. And. it can still be made relatable to see how the Bible helps us in the church's daily life. I mean, it won't make a difference, unless it's real."
The Bible, he said, serves as an important story source, even today.
"It's a good model to show the typical person," Cobb said. "Jesus used a lot of object lessons all the time, and that was one way his people could better understand how to live and love."
When not behind the pulpit, Cobb enjoys spending time with his family and watching them grow in their own lives. His daughter, Aimee, is a University of Missouri-Columbia graduate of the engineering program. His daughter, Kelly, earned a graphic design degree through William Woods University, Fulton.
And his daughter, Carrie, was a psychology major at Columbia College and then married Jeremyah. The couple has one child with one on the way.
Cobb's wife, Betty, plays the piano for UCC and "really makes the ministry work."
Thirty years on the road spreading the Word of God has given Cobb a better sense of what a community means.
"I call on as many people as I can, as often as I can," Cobb said. "In a lot of the smaller country churches, you shake hands, you greet the piano player and you visit with shut-ins, and a lot more. It's a way to really get to know people, and give a lot of grace.
"I need to be as transparent to them as possible. It's important to do things that hopefully make positive changes in people's lives."