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Cathie Smith

1971-1972 / BCNZ Diploma and Diploma in Theology (MCD) (Henderson Campus)

Residential study was a "shock" at first, after two years of independence while teaching in Invercargill – this was where I met many ex-students who paved the way for me to go to BCNZ. The Henton family in the orchard were a wonderful escape at times!

I met and made many, many friends who have enriched my life ever since. Being based in London for over half my life has meant I have seen many of these people here.

Studying the Bible and our faith in general with enthusiastic, loving, insightful lecturers each morning was a very good discipline, encouraging me to work at it all my life, where possible.

I remember the ongoing laughter, fun, and the tears too, as we struggled with the daily patterns of life, sometimes with one another, and with the challenging material we were grappling with at times. So much growth and spiritual formation at once.

I remember so well the toil of producing my first sermon. It took me thirty hours! The second one took me only ten hours.

I think of the time I hid in a café in Henderson when we were doing an Open Air Service. Nobody that evening was interested in us. I could speak to anyone normally, but not in that sort of situation.

Meeting up again with everyone on Sunday nights was always a joy, as were meal times. Meals were noisy, except when we had gorgeous treats from our gardens.

My time at BCNZ helped me understand myself more, and my strengths and weaknesses. Close encounters with an interesting and diverse group of people helped me throughout my lifetime of ecumenical and interdenominational ministry. It gave me a great base to work from, and the desire to continue learning under God all my life. Thinking back, I wish we had spent more time in smaller groups tackling difficult subjects as I sometimes found discussion in lectures overwhelming.

I went off to the Baptist City Mission each Sunday, where I learned so much about communicating the faith in downright practical ways. I learned so much from, and with, folk who were continually encountering tough pathways in life – it made me reflect more. This helped me understand people's needs better when I became a Trainer with Scripture Union and in other work.

After BCNZ, I hopped on a ship and began exploring the world and my heritage for nearly three years, based in London. After years of schooling, teacher training, teaching and Bible College it did me the world of good. I did the last two Diploma in Theology papers in Glasgow while staying with relations and working the first year. Work was varied, from washing dishes in hospitals, to office work, being a telephonist, grape picking in France, relief teaching, hotel work, etc. Attending All Souls Langham Place with John Stott and co. turned me into an Anglican! I loved travelling to many countries and experiencing many cultures.

I then spent 20 years in Scripture Union ministry among children, teens and families back in NZ, England and Wales, then back in NZ again, which involved some international ministry. This was followed by community development work in the East End of London, and the beginning of fostering local teenagers. My final working days were in parish ministry and Life Coaching.

Currently I am "Mum" and Nana to two lovely families, who I have been with for thirty years now. I am also involved in my local church and community, in a Scripture Union Trust supporting ex-staff, and trying to get as many children and young people to SU camps each year. I support mine and other families, and they support me too. I do long for pre-Covid days to return, so friends from all over the world can visit and I can go places too. I am also exploring more of my background here, and in NZ and Australia, as I seek to understand myself better.

The joys and struggles of life go on and on, and we need God's support and delight in us, as we need that from others too. I am so glad to have had most of the experiences I have had, and am so thankful. They help me to take action every way I possibly can to support others on their life journeys, particularly those who have so little.

Bible College gave me some new attitudes and skills to offer. It increased my desire to help others find life with God too, and to grow in him as I have had so much opportunity to do so myself. I thank God and thank Bible College (now Laidlaw) for their amazing part in it all.

Grateful thanks to the fantastic staff team through the years who kept it all together, and still do.

I was delighted to have David and Dorothy Stewart stay with me once in my very small flat in Islington London, and we had so many ex-students crowding in to see them again. It was a great night of love and laughter bound together in God, which epitomises our College.

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