29 September 2022

Online Alumni Gatherings

It was a delight to connect over Zoom with alumni from around the world and within New Zealand at online gatherings in September this year. We ran two programmes to cater for world time zones, with different speakers at each. The theme of God’s faithfulness was woven throughout, in the opening devotion, staff and graduate reflections, and through video, song, and prayer.

There were lots of excited greetings as people came online and connected with former colleagues and classmates in break-out rooms from decades ranging from the 1950s to 2020s. Many stayed on the Zoom call to chat and carry on their conversations at the end of the official programme.

A testament to the enjoyment of the occasion were the repeat returnees the following day – some getting up in the middle of the night in the UK and Middle East to join in.

On Friday evening, 16 September, former Principal Dr Rod Thompson (2010-2015) reflected on the faithfulness of God and his people in the story of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1:15-21. Student Deans and Lecturers Helena Stretton (1972-2006) and Rod Edwards (1973-2006) shared memories from their years at the College, and alumna Jo Kelly-Moore (1997-1999) spoke of the journey God led her on from BCNZ to her current role as Dean of St Albans Cathedral in England.

On Saturday morning, 17 September, long-serving staff member Hudson Deane (1965-2004) reflected from various Scripture passages on what God’s faithfulness means in practical ways and gave illustrations from his own life. He challenged alumni to daily ask God for his transforming work within so that we may remain faithful until the end. Former staff members, Joyce Campbell (1976-1978, Southland Board Chair 1990s) and Tony Plews (1983-2004) shared their memories, and highlighted the huge contribution Principal David Stewart made to the College. BCNZ graduates Paul and Pip Etherington (1985-1987) spoke about their 30 years of Bible translation, medical and community work among the Nggem people of West Papua.

At both events National Principal Roshan Allpress spoke of the enduring characteristics found in students and staff in the present day College – of the ‘aha’ moments in lectures, the prayer, the sacrifices made, but also of the many changes in campus life and lecture delivery. Over the century four consistent themes have remained, and these have become Laidlaw College’s four affirmations: the Bible is our Story, Jesus is our Lord, the Church is our Community, and Renewal is our Vocation.

While Zoom calls cannot replace in-person reunions, the two gatherings were a wonderful opportunity to connect across time zones and borders, and across generations. Some alumni commented after the event:

“Wonderful to reflect on a very small part of what our amazing God has done through ordinary people over the years. We are blessed indeed.”

“All the speakers were very inspiring.”

“It was great to hear the devotions and reflections, and to see and catch up with many friends.”

These events gave a taste of what an in-person reunion can offer – and we look forward to meeting in person with many of our alumni during our Centenary Celebration at the Henderson campus on 14-15 April 2023.

These events were recorded and are available to view for alumni of NZBTI, BCNZ or Laidlaw College. For a link to the recording please email [email protected]