Check if you are eligible for Fees Free in 2024, or find out about the final-year Fees Free scheme by visiting


A Personal Story Reflecting a Larger Legacy

In our last newsletter, I shared how the 65-year legacy of the New Zealand Bible Assembly School and GLO (Gospel Literature Outreach) that culminated in the establishment of Pathways College of Bible & Mission in 2000, is a testament to the enduring impact of theological education and its role in shaping individuals and communities nationally and globally. I am one of those fortunate individuals who was shaped by faithful followers of Christ in a small Open Brethren church in New Zealand.

Immigrant Experience and Early Church Connections in Kawerau
In the 1960s my family arrived in New Zealand as immigrants from England. We settled in the new paper-mill town of Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty. It was in this town that I first attended a Brethren Assembly.

Historical Milestones of the Brethren Assembly in Kawerau
Treasury 1956 records the opening of the Brethren Assembly Hall in Kawerau on April 14th, with the new assembly commencing on July 22nd. In addition to the Breaking of Bread, Sunday Gospel meetings were held, and several local residents attended. About 60 children were attending the Sunday School by the end of this year. The beginning of the work in Kawerau was felt to be a milestone in the history of the Bay of Plenty Assemblies.

Treasury 1960 states: “due to the foresight of the Bay of Plenty Assemblies, a Gospel Hall had already been built and Gospel meetings and a Sunday School commenced. Christian work in this town has proved most difficult. Most of the population are shift workers and are required to be on shift most Sundays.”

Treasury 1965 reported, “at Kawerau Mr Colin Graham saw good numbers of unsaved attending each night. Several professed salvation and some were restored. Four believers were baptised and received into fellowship and others are expected to follow. As a result of much visitation in the town, several worthwhile contacts were made, and many came to the meetings through this. The assembly here is not large and we admire the zeal of the believers who have chosen to live here for the purpose of working for the Lord in a hard and difficult town.”

Christian Foundations in Kawerau: Sunday School and Every Girls’ Rally
I am very grateful to those early pioneers who persevered with the establishment of this assembly and the development of the Sunday School programme and Every Girls’ Rally. My parents were not Christians, but someone had told me about a Sunday School that was held in a church hall a kilometre away from my home.

Gratitude to Early Pioneers and Influential Figures
Every Sunday morning, I walked alone to this church, which was called the Grey St Chapel or simply Gospel Hall. I count the two years I spent at Grey St Chapel as foundational to my Christian journey. My Sunday School teacher was a wonderful man called Trevor Wilson who brought the Scriptures alive with his remarkable story telling skills and his ability to engage children in life-giving, meaningful activities that made it such a joy to attend Sunday School every week. He set scripture memory challenges every Sunday and the reward for learning the memory tasks by the following week was a small bar of chocolate (a rare treat in those days). I credit my retention of some key scripture passages and knowledge of biblical characters and events to Trevor Wilson, who took great delight in encouraging and supporting those in his Sunday School class. 

Legacy of Faithful Service in Sunday School and Rallies Nationwide
Equally important to my growth and nurture as a young girl was my involvement in Every Girls' Rally. This was also a highlight of the week for me, and I flourished there under the leadership of Leonie Jones, Eva Wilson and Sylvia Blair. The focus of the Girls’ Rally programme was on the physical, educational, spiritual and social development of the child, so that children would honour God and be worthy citizens. I loved the games, hobbies, working towards gaining the badges and the devotional talks followed by supper.

Coming from a dysfunctional family background, these women also provided the nurture, care and role modelling for me that was necessary at the time. Eight years later I had the opportunity to be a Rally Leader at Willow Ave Chapel (now Birkenhead Community Church).

Acknowledging the Blessings and Impact of Brethren Assemblies
I share this snippet of my personal faith journey to acknowledge the significant impact the Gospel Hall in Kawerau and these people mentioned had on my subsequent growth as a Christian and development as a Christian leader. The legacy of the many faithful men and women who have served God faithfully through their work in Sunday School and Every Boys and Girls Rallies throughout New Zealand will never be fully realised. 

Grey St Chapel to Christian Leadership
Now, many years later, I count it a privilege to serve as Principal of Pathways College of Bible & Mission. I am incredibly grateful for the solid foundation afforded to me through the early days of my Christian experience in Kawerau. My story could no doubt be replicated by thousands more who have also been blessed to have been impacted by the legacy of faithful believers in Brethren assemblies who sought to serve God through their ministry. 

I am grateful to Robert Park for sharing his resources about Kawerau Gospel Hall from his private collection of Open Brethren Archives.

Photos:  An Every Girls Rally Kawerau Platoon and Grey Street Bible Chapel, Kawerau, circa 1960s


This product has been added to your cart