16 July 2021

Pausing to mark a significant day

On 14 July, staff gathered to pray almost 100 years to the day when the provisional Board of Directors met on 18 July 1921 and resolved to establish a Bible Training Institute in New Zealand. That significant meeting was preceded by weeks of prayer by Rev Joseph Kemp, his friends, church and prominent businessmen, including Robert Laidlaw.

The board minute book of those early years was displayed at the staff gathering, along with photos of some of the College’s first students. The minutes reflect some busy months for the board in 1921 as they drew up a constitution, appointed a Chair (J.W. Stewart) and Superintendent (C.J. Rolls), secured premises in Hopetoun Street, hired a matron (Mrs Mill), purchased linen and cutlery, and set students’ fees for board and lodging (19 shillings a week). Board members dug into their own pockets to gift money towards immediate expenses. 

Applications from students went to the board for approval. The first to apply was Roderick Gillanders, aged 23, a Presbyterian, who was converted a few years before, in 1917. He later served as a missionary in Brazil. One of the female applicants, Afra Dyason, aged 22, a Brethren, became the first student to go overseas, sailing for India in 1924. Presbyterian student, James Black, was the first missionary to Māori from NZBTI, working in the Opotiki area. Others came from a range of denominations, Brethren, Baptist, United Evangelical Church, and Salvation Army, and went on to mission service or pastoral roles in New Zealand and beyond. It was not all smooth sailing - the minutes reveal that one student was asked to resign in April 1922 as his “demeanour and manner were destroying harmony among students”. 

It was with thankful hearts that current staff stopped to pause, reflect and pray – grateful for those faithful founders and for the thousands of graduates who have been equipped to serve God in the myriad of places he has led them. We gave thanks to God for his faithfulness to the College since 1921 and prayed that he would continue to sustain and provide for the next 100 years. To God be the glory!