30 October 2015

National Alumni Gatherings 2015

One week in August was a busy time of alumni engagement, with our annual National Alumni Gatherings held in Auckland and Christchurch, and three smaller meetings sandwiched in between in Invercargill, Gore and Dunedin.

Our Alumni Gathering theme this year was “Challenging our Cultural Idols: How does the Gospel of Christ give us life and hope in the midst of rapid changes and new challenges”. Rod Thompson kicked the day off, highlighting the challenges Christians face living in an era of hard secularism. Looking at the theme of empire in Philippians 1, we were encouraged to work out what it means to be a citizen of heaven, to live with courage in a society where conformity and tolerance are promoted. Former BCNZ lecturer, Sheila Pritchard, spoke on the need to balance words and silence, and shared two practices to help us get to the place where the Spirit speaks: the practice of letting go, and the practice of paying attention – of looking for God’s presence in each moment.

A session was devoted to paying tribute to former Principal David Stewart who died last December. Tony Plews, one of “Stewie’s boys”, spoke of the growth of the College under David’s 24 years as Principal, of his pastoral heart for students and his continued connection to hundreds of former students. A photo powerpoint brought back memories, and we heard from David himself, watching a snippet of a video interview between Rod Thompson and David Stewart in 2013.

We also took the opportunity to honour Rod and Rosanne Thompson, reflecting the fact that these were their final Gatherings under Rod’s principalship – though we made it known he was expected back as a guest speaker in the not too distant future! It has been during Rod’s tenure that there has been a renewed connection with our alumni, and the commencement of these annual Alumni Gatherings.

In between the sessions, the room buzzed with catch-ups between graduates and former staff, representing every era since the 1940s. At the Christchurch Gathering there were a number of people from the 1965 graduating class, fresh from their 50 year reunion the night before. As always, these days were great opportunities to reconnect with old friends, to be refreshed and stimulated as we head back into the places, ministries and communities in which God has placed us.

The keynote sessions by Rod Thompson and Sheila Pritchard at the Auckland Alumni Gathering were filmed and can be viewed below. The alumni (including ex-staff members) who shared at the Auckland gathering were videoed, and their stories can be viewed on Rauhitanga, the Laidlaw alumni site (you need to register on the site).