Getting to know you
Kristen and Caleb Unrau met at Briercrest Bible College. Both students in the same program, both began their first year and graduated with a degree in Christian Ministry (and a minor in theology) at the same time, and both were hired by Community Fellowship Church (CFC) in Newton as Associate Pastors in January 2022.
Kristen, a lover of plants and books, joined CFC in 2016 with her family. Meanwhile, Caleb was just a stone’s throw away (if you have a really solid arm), attending Boissevain MB Church. Caleb also loves books, but his second passion is chicken – if you know Caleb, you know he loves chicken, particularly buffalo-style chicken…spicy.
In their third year of college, the opportunity to join CFC’s leadership came up while they were thinking about where they would like to intern to complete their program. At the time, CFC was advertising for the position of Associate Pastor, so Kristen and Caleb submitted a proposal to hire them both for the same job, using the three-month internship to test the waters.
“We were good friends with one of our professors, Ken Moser. He and his wife did the same thing wherever they found themselves, where they were both hired on by a church…he sparked the idea that maybe we can both be co-pastors together, equally sharing a role.” Kristen explained. “After our second interview, a lot of things fell into place. A lot of doors opened and others closed, so when CFC offered us the internship with the intention of going full-time, it was the right door at the right time.”
Christ centred community
Kristen and Caleb are community-minded pastors who have experienced the body of Christ as foundational for their faith. Their experience through college and in their church testifies to our innate need for each other. “Community can be so amazing, you know, people just stepping up when others need it and just the true community that the body of Christ can foster is amazing,” Kristen explained, “Seeing different connections being made despite differences that they may have is just a really cool thing…watching it develop…especially with our students. Young people going up to older people in the church and seeing these strange relationships being formed – that is not a normal thing! But seeing them so open to just go up to an adult in the church and feeling safe in that environment is really cool.”
Recalling his time at Briercrest, Caleb reflected on the power of a tight-knit community in his life. “You’re living with other people, in close quarters, which is really impactful but also messy. But even in those messy situations, you all have this common goal of wanting to be more like Jesus and wanting to follow Jesus. It really showed me how others can help you grow and that you really are dependent on each other in your spiritual journey…nobody can really do this on their own. We need each other to help guide us and form us into people who follow Jesus.”
This rings true for Caleb as he thinks about his home church in Boissevain, “You never know what’s going to happen down the road, and you never know how prayers are going to end up being answered later on. Community commits to sticking by a person, praying for them and keeping them in their hearts’ embrace even when they may not seem to care.”
Church community also offers grace. “When people mess up, they’re given another chance and we walk alongside each other. But also grace in the sense that social status, gender, ethnicity and other things that people struggle to look past don’t matter in the church (when the church is being the church!).” “Jesus binds people together who might not normally find themselves together. We stick together because Jesus…because we’re all seeking this common goal of following Jesus. We’re all in Christ, and Christ is in us.”
Back to books
When asked about their favourite books, Kristen and Caleb could have listed a dozen of the most impactful, so I narrowed it down to this – A current book and one you always go back to.
Kristen – “Right now, I’m reading Echoing Hope by Kurt Willems (he’s an anabaptist 😉 but my favourite book (right now) is Advent by Fleming Rutledge.
Caleb – “The one that I’m trying to get through right now is Training in Christianity by Søren Kierkegaard, and I’m going to break the rules and choose two for the one I go back to. The first is Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf – life-changing. The other is Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s just so good…it corrects you so well.”
How can we pray for you?
Pray for the upcoming youth year and beyond, as we continue to help the young people and students grow spiritually, and that we would have the wisdom to work through difficult life moments with them.