Caronport or bust: Briercrest seminary a popular option for students with families
Going to seminary is a big commitment. Going to seminary with a family is an even bigger one.
Briercrest is a top choice for seminary students who are relocating with their families. Community atmosphere and an excellent school system are dominant factors that seems to draw these families to the tiny village of Caronport.
“Community was the probably the number one reason,” MDiv biblical studies student Steve Bailey said as he described his reason for moving his wife and four sons from Penticton, B.C. to attend the seminary. “The other day I was late to something, but walking down the street I still had to stop and speak to three people along the way because that’s just the kind of community it is.”
“There are loads of things going on,” Bailey’s wife Kristianne echoed. “Bible studies, sports, kids programs, Moms and Tots, to name a few.”
Brent Foster, who is finishing up a MDiv in leadership management, relocated from Moncton, N.B. along with his wife and two children to attend seminary. He is pleased that his whole family can thrive while he is furthering his studies at Briercrest.
“As far as family life, there are great social events for the kids,” he said. “It’s a very close community. We spend a lot of time at the rink ourselves. Erica skates, the kids play hockey, and I play hockey and coach hockey.”
“We noticed the minute our moving truck pulled in there were about a million kids around wanting to play with Caleb and Leah,” Foster’s wife Erica said. “That hasn’t stopped. It’s a really cool thing.”
“As far as our kids go, this move couldn't have been better,” Kristianne added. “They are really enjoying some of the freedoms that come with living in a village like this, that they otherwise wouldn't have had. I love that they are getting spiritual input from so many places. Some people refer to Caronport as a ‘bubble’ but if that's the case, it’s a bubble that I'm happy for my kids to grow in for these few years!”
Foster and Bailey have different perspectives on moving from larger cities to a small spot on the Prairies.
“I can understand why people would say this is out in the middle of nowhere,” said Bailey. “But when you think there’s what, 2,000 people here? While you’re actually here it doesn’t feel like the middle of nowhere. There is easy access to a lot of cities. I don’t think I could see myself living here forever, but I do think I will look back in the future and say, ‘I really miss Caronport.’”
“When I came here I told people, ‘It’s pretty much a flat pancake out there,’” Foster said with a laugh. “There’s not a whole lot to distract you and there’s reason for that. That’s when the Lord can do His work in your life.”
Although community life drew both families to Briercrest, the seminary students agree that the high-quality teaching they have received is a highlight.
“The Bible teaching . . . it changes you,” Bailey exclaimed. “I think I’ve been taught how to learn. That’s something you take with you for the rest of your life.”
“Marty Culy taught me to read the Scriptures in a way that has enabled me to keep learning when I go from here,” Foster said.
Balancing home life with studies looks a bit different for the two families. Foster had been in full-time youth ministry before coming to seminary. His wife Erica has worked time during their time at Briercrest.
“I’m able to devote a lot of time to my studies. I treat it like a full-time job,” he said. “For us, coming from ministry to here it’s quite a change. It’s actually slower and we see one another more.”
“I started working two or three days after we got here,” said Erica. “I had the job before we came. Our lives here are definitely different than they were in Moncton. Things here I find are quite a bit more laid back. That’s not a bad thing.”
Bailey lists his work load as one of his biggest challenges.
“I have my own software company,” he said. “So the workload means that you have to make a very conscious decision that 9-5 is school time and I can work after the kids go to bed, but there has to be family time every day. The most important things–you can’t put them on hold. I don’t want to say I didn’t see my kids grow up for two to three years so it has to be a conscious decision.”
Both Foster and Bailey envision pastoring in their futures.
“My Dad is a Baptist pastor,” Bailey explained. “I’ve always admired his job and I guess it’s the kind of thing that always appealed to me.”
“I’ve been in the process of my (Baptist) ordination,” Foster said. “Right now I have all the rights of an ordained minister but I don’t have my papers. I have to go through a year of mentored ministry after I get my MDiv.”
Both future pastors say they would recommend Briercrest to others.
“Life here–It will be a big change,” Foster said. “But it’s a good and necessary change–especially if you’re in ministry.”
“If this is where God is calling, I don’t think there’s any better place for families to move to,” Bailey exclaimed. “I can’t see anywhere else working as well as Briercrest has.”