Under the banner of All One in Christ Jesus, hundreds of Christians from many denominations travelled to Ngaruawahia Easter Camps by bus, train, and car to spend a weekend of fellowship, learning, and worship together. Camp programmes included: early morning meditations, daily “Bible Study Circles”, guest speakers, shared meals, outings, sports, and an Open Air service conducted by the NZ Bible Training Institute.
NZBTI (now Laidlaw College) and the Ngaruawahia Easter Camps had a symbiotic relationship from the time NZBTI was founded in 1922 until the late 1980s. Staff and Board members of the Institute served on the organizing committee, and NZBTI Principals and lecturers were regular speakers at the camps. Students were heavily involved in the practical aspects of the running of the weekend, from set up to pack down, kitchen duties to running children’s programmes. These camps became a spiritual watershed for many young people.
A report of the Easter Camp in The Reaper magazine in 1926 notes:
“The most memorable gathering was the Consecration Meeting conducted by Mr Rolls. When the appeal was quietly made as to who would, as far as they knew how, yield themselves absolutely to God for work at home or abroad, more than half of the audience rose to their feet in token of their surrender. On the closing night an inspiring testimony meeting was held, when 196 testimonies were given as to blessing received at the Camp. Those who were there witnessed such a work of the Spirit among unconverted and Christians alike as is rarely seen in these days.”
NZBTI/BCNZ staff member, Mr Hudson Deane, attended many of these camps and served on the organizing committee. He testifies to the significance of these Camps in his formation, and notes “Decisions were made at Easter Camp that set the course of a lifetime for so many”. Read more of his reflections here.
The 1936 edition of The Reaper describes a revival breaking out at Easter Camp that year. A cablegram sent to London, UK, from preacher A. S. Wilson put it succinctly:
Extraordinary New Zealand revival begun during (J. Edwin) Orr’s ministry at Ngaruawahia Easter Keswick and other camps. Hundreds publicly confessing sin, scores of conversions resulting, with sanely intense meetings of tireless crowds continuing till approaching midnight. Ngaruawahia missionary pledges and offerings Sunday approximately two thousand pounds.
With or without that kind of revival for Easter 2022, it is with expectancy and hunger that we begin this Holy Weekend – the pinnacle event of our Christian faith – celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection. As we enter, we might consider some of the “suggestions for those attending the convention” and allow them to shape our own expectations of Christ’s presence and work in our lives in our gathering, reflecting, and worshiping over the following days.