Churches cope with loss of pastor
Rev. Stock shined during brief time
By Scott Bellile
Two Bear Creek congregations are mourning the death of their pastor who was killed in a car crash.
Rev. James “Michael” A. Stock, 38, died in a two-vehicle crash on County Trunk T one mile north of State Highway 22 in Bear Creek on Aug. 14.
“It was quite a bombshell to everybody,” Grace Lutheran Church President Daryl Henrickson said.
Stock led services at both Grace Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran churches in Bear Creek. He was more than a year and a half into his assignment.
“People are just sad,” said Lori Schneider of New London, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church. “He was such a nice man. I wouldn’t want anybody to be taken out that way. We’re just so wanting to support the family and do whatever we can for them.”
He’s survived by his wife of 15 years, Holly, and his children Hannah, Isaac, Kitra, Elsabet and Avi.
“First we want to take care of what we have at hand, making sure Pastor Stock’s family’s taken care of,” Henrickson said. “We do have vacancy pastors to cover us for a couple weeks, and then after that I don’t know for sure what’s going on. But both churches are first and foremost making sure Pastor Stock’s family is taken care of.”
Schneider started a GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/stockfamily) to help buy the family a van. She wrote on the page that Stock’s vehicle, which was destroyed in the crash, was the only one with enough seats for everybody.
Stock grew up in Nebraska and graduated from high school in 1996. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from Western Illinois University in 2002. In 2007, he received his master of divinity degree from Concordia Seminary-St. Louis.
He started work at a pair of Lutheran Churches in southern Nebraska. He spent six years as pastor at Pella Lutheran Church in Waupun before settling into the farm community of Bear Creek in January 2015.
Schneider said it took Stock some time to settle in, but by the end of his life he was preaching at his best prior.
“He’s really come in to his own with his preaching,” Schneider said. “He was such a nervous speaker for this first year we had him, and then he just started to relax on the pulpit and embrace it.”
She said he hit his stride while delivering a eulogy for 78-year-old Jim Hein of Clintonville in July 2015.
Schneider described Hein as the most popular guy at Trinity Lutheran Church. He was the man who gave Stock directions when he was new to town and looked lost, the man who showed up at Stock’s house with lumber unannounced when he heard Stock wanted to build a raised flower bed.
Schneider said just six months into the job, Stock successfully personalized that eulogy and conveyed the countless nice things Hein did for him. She believes that moment lifted Stock “to a new level of speaking,” adding he “had the whole church bawling.”
“He couldn’t have done it better,” Jim Hein’s wife Shirley Hein said. “It was Scripturally based and it was very comforting knowing that our eternal destination is there for us, being a Christian.”
When he wasn’t serving God, Stock enjoyed photography, fishing and volunteering with the Bear Creek Lions Club.
“He was just a very kind person,” Schneider said. “He was like a big teddy bear, he looked like a big teddy bear. He was a kind man and he was unassuming. There was no judgment in him.”
Henrickson said the churches will greatly miss Stock, whose shoes will be hard to fill.
“The Lord is on our side, so I know he’ll take care of us,” Henrickson said.
Those wishing to support the Stock family can donate online through the GoFundMe page or by mailing checks to Trinity Lutheran Church, c/o Doug Behnke, Treasurer, E8056 County Rd. O, Clintonville, WI 54929.