The pews and stained glass windows of New City East Lake shook from a roaring applause after a 105 to 3 vote in favor of electing Jon Storck as East Lake’s new pastor on Sunday evening, October 7.
For over a year and a half, East Lake has been searching for a new pastor after their current pastor, Jim Pickett, informed the congregation that he planned to retire from the position.
According to the church’s executive director Scott Schindler, East Lake’s actual members are made up of about 15 percent Covenant students, not counting the number of students who are not members yet still attend the Sunday services.
Avenly Jones (‘19), a Covenant College student who is employed as a youth leader at East Lake, is one student who attended the Sunday evening meeting.
“This guy can really help me do my job,” Jones said afterward. “Having a fresh face might bring more Covenant students to volunteer. What I’ve heard about him is that he really believes in being invested and involved in the community.”
The neighborhood surrounding the church has a large African American and Hispanic population. Because of this minority make-up, East Lake has intentionally sought a pastor who can minister to and represent the diversity of that community well.
Because of this priority, the seven-person search committee included three white, two African American, and two Hispanic church members. The committee initially had been seeking out a minority pastoral candidate who speaks Spanish.
Storck, however, is white and cannot speak Spanish fluently.
Jed Williams (’20), who is also a minority and regularly attends New City East Lake explains this dilemma.
Williams said that because of his initial appearance, people may be concerned that Storck’s white ethnicity and inability to speak Spanish is a hindrance in ministering to the Hispanic and African American members of the community, simply because it is harder for him to connect with them.
“It’s a Hispanic neighborhood, but he’s still a white pastor,” Williams said.
For almost a full hour before the vote was cast on Sunday evening, the floor was actively open with discussion, allowing congregants to voice various questions and comments about Storck. During this time, the question of Storck’s race and his inability to speak Spanish fluently was a heavily discussed and defended topic.
Several members of the search committee defended Storck’s ability to lead the church in its outreach in the community. One of these was Laini Huffine, a biracial member.
“All of you guys need to stop advocating for a minority without asking them their opinion,” Huffine said. “You can’t advocate for someone if you don’t ask them.”
In reference to Huffine’s comments, Jones said, “Every Latino I know who has gone to these meetings [with Storck] and met him felt very cared about and comfortable with him and really liked him and wanted him. And if you asked them, you would know.”
Williams said that he hoped Covenant students regularly attending East Lake would see the conversation surrounding Storck as an encouragement to get more involved.
“Why girls like Avenly and so on are extraordinary is because they’re so involved in everything that the church does,” Williams said. “Those are the kind of students you want at East Lake.”
The impact on Covenant students and their involvement at New City East Lake remains to be tangibly seen as the church awaits their new pastor’s arrival.
Storck will settle into his role as pastor at East Lake early next semester.