1928-1929 - Queen Street Campus
Secondary school teacher, Margaret McGregor entered the NZ Bible Training Institute in 1928 having already achieved an MA in English from Otago University – a remarkable achievement for that era. While completing her BTI course (in which she scored 97%), Joseph Kemp invited Margaret to teach English to the students at the Institute. At NZBTI she met, and fell in love with, second-year student, Gotley Nagel, who had grown up in India as the son of missionaries. The couple were engaged when Gotley sailed for India in August 1931 with the hope of opening a Bible School. Devastatingly he died a few months later.
It was in the shadow of that deep sorrow that Margaret agreed to accept a temporary appointment as a travelling representative for the Children’s Special Services Mission (CSSM – now Scripture Union). The year before, in 1930, CSSM had begun to establish “Crusader Unions” in secondary schools in NZ. The first travelling worker amongst the recently formed Girls’ Crusader Unions, Miss Robertson, had sailed for Ethiopia to serve with the Sudan Interior Mission. With the need to consolidate and extend that work among girls’ schools, Margaret was approached to take on the role. She lived out of suitcases and in borrowed beds as she travelled the country, meeting school principals, visiting and encouraging groups, finding new leaders, and arranging camps, beach missions, and rallies. She used her journeys on bus, boat, and train to type countless letters to group leaders, prospective camp officers, and teenage girls she had met in her role.
In 1932 the Depression was at its worst and Margaret worked for some months in 1932 and 1933 without pay. Margaret’s ‘temporary appointment’ extended to 20 years of service. Teaming up with John Laird, who encouraged boys’ groups in schools around NZ, the Crusader groups grew. Her circuit reduced in 1942 with the appointment of South Island staff workers. By 1945 there were 73 groups, attended by over 2,000 students, with 16 camps and six beach missions being run each year, and 14 staff members.(1) In 1949 Robert Laidlaw gave Margaret a car to aid her travels.
In 1951, aged 50, the itinerant work had taken its toll and Margaret retired and became part-time receptionist to an Auckland doctor.(2)
In a tribute written in The Reaper at the time of Margaret’s retirement, Mr A. Donnell, a foundation member of the CSSM and Crusader Council, wrote:
“Miss McGregor, we who have known intimately the worth of your self-denying work for Christ since 1931 salute you. We have appreciated your propriety, wise counsel, sane judgment, and sense of humour … We thank God for your constant efforts to win girls for Christ, and for your deep interest in the spiritual welfare and progress of Christian girls in our post-primary schools.”(3)
Margaret continued as a loyal member of the CSSM Council and Auckland Executive almost to the time of her death in London in 1972.
(1) Statistics from www.sunz.org.nz/donate-now/our-story
(2) In the book, No Ordinary Union by Peter J. Lineham (Scripture Union, Wellington, 1980) he noted that Margaret turned down an invitation to become Matron of the NZ Bible Training Institute in 1949.
(3) The Reaper, July 1951, p. 201