Going from being a sheriff’s deputy in California to being a pastor in Rio Rancho wasn’t a leap for Christopher Keeling Sr. because to him, both are ministries.
Keeling is pastor of the new Unity and Faith Ministries, a Bible-based nondenominational Christian church.
Its inaugural service is at 3 p.m. today at 3301 Southern Blvd., Suite 104, in Country Club Plaza.
On following Sundays, the church will have Sunday school at 9:45 a.m., followed by worship at 11. A Wednesday night Bible study will meet at 6.
“Our mission as a church body is to provide a place where people from all walks of life can unite together and give God praise for all He’s done, and all what He’s going to do!” Keeling said.
He grew up in California and worked for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office for 33 years in a variety of specialties, ranging from gangs and hate crimes to youth intervention and community relations. He showed his Christianity and tried to help people.
“My approach to law enforcement was actually a ministry,” he said.
Keeling and his wife of 32 years have two children, who attended the University of New Mexico and live in the area. Their son is an Albuquerque Police officer, and their daughter works for the state Children, Youth and Families Department.
Keeling and his wife moved to New Mexico to be near their children.
The whole family is involved in Unity and Faith Ministries.
Keeling started ministry as a church musician at age 11 and continued into a variety of leadership roles in adulthood. After he retired from law enforcement and moved to this area, a friend asked him to become the pastor of a church in Grants.
“I enjoyed the work of pastoring,” he said. “But there was still something lacking because the people there didn’t really attend.”
Keeling said a lot of people followed the church and his work on Facebook Live, but not in person. He said he could live with that, but he thought pastors should be involved in the lives of congregation members, such as attending children’s performances or athletic events.
The hour-and-a-half drive to Grants didn’t allow him to do that, or to reach members quickly in a crisis. His children also couldn’t attend church with him because they’re frequently on call.
Eventually, the congregation brought up the idea of moving closer to Albuquerque and he started making arrangements, Keeling said. When the church decided to postpone the move until an unspecified point, he took it as a sign it was time to start a separate church in Rio Rancho.
The process of organizing Unity and Faith Ministries began last October.
All age groups will be served in Sunday school and Bible study, he said. Keeling intends for the worship style to blend contemporary and traditional elements.
He also wants to serve as a chaplain for area law-enforcement agencies.
“I love everybody. I see people for people,” he said, adding that he’s interested in people’s characters and not concerned about outer appearance.
He’s used to interacting with a lot of “flavors” of people from different walks of life.
“We’ve got to make this community right here better before we can make the city of Rio Rancho better, before we can make the state of New Mexico better, before we can make the country better, before we can make the world better,” Keeling said. “Everybody has to do their part.”