Nancy Squire went to be with Jesus on Friday 24 November 2023.

Woman of the month is a column provided by Baptist Women New Zealand. More articles, resources and event information can be found at women.baptist.nz

Nancy was the first woman as Regional Director of Baptist Social Services and the first woman employed on the teaching staff at Carey Baptist College.

Early Years 

Born in Paeroa in 1941, Nancy was the youngest of four children. She was raised in a Methodist home and attended church in Ngatea on the Hauraki Plains. She tells of giving her life to the Lord at a Methodist Easter camp when she was eleven.

After attending the local high school for two years, the family moved to Auckland, and Nancy studied at Auckland Girls’ Grammar for another two years. She left school without a formal qualification and so feels she achieved little academically. However, her life was good at that time, as she took delight in joining the large youth group at Mt Albert Baptist, and she was baptised by Rev Clifford Reay.

In January 1959, aged seventeen, Nancy began nurse’s training at Auckland Hospital. Nearly three years later, during serious illness with meningitis, she experienced an encounter with God. She tells of a huge struggle, saying to the Lord: ‘I don’t want to die. I haven’t been married or had a family. I want to do all these things and I’m not ready to die yet.’ There was a long wait, with Nancy so close to death that she could see a great light surrounding her. She said to God, ‘If you’ll spare me, I’ll surrender the rest of my life to you, do whatever you want.’

She recovered and kept her word, reaffirming the promise later during a choir song ‘Not My Will but Thine be Done.’ After a year’s delay following the meningitis Nancy attended Bible Training Institute (Laidlaw) and subsequently married fellow student Bill Squire in 1967.

Developing a Career in Nursing and Social Work

For a while Nancy followed Bill’s career in Dunedin, then Auckland where a son and twin daughters were born. Next, in Hamilton, another child was born, but Bill’s job ended and they moved to Te Aroha and back to Hamilton. Feeling desperately short of cash, Nancy took on fulltime night duty at Waikato Hospital while Bill worked at Greens Industries.

Worse was to come. In 1983 Bill had a stroke, which was seriously debilitating. Nancy kept up the family income by turning to district nursing in which she was soon promoted. Then for three years from 1989 Nancy became a nursing tutor at the polytechnic, teaching community health and human growth and development.

Nancy was passionate about social work and was on the Baptist Social Services Board when the half-time position of South Island consultant was advertised. She was initially reluctant, but felt God say, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ The job description seemed written for her. Nancy was enormously interested in social work, even though the requirement to uproot and move for a part-time job would take a leap of faith. But as a couple they were agreed. Not able to do many kinds of work because he could not speak and was having therapy, Bill still encouraged Nancy to apply for the position.

How was it that Nancy could consider such a leap in her career? How would she fit the requirements? She had done a community health course and started rehabilitation studies at Massey. She already knew more than she wanted to know about strokes! Along with the vital interest in social services, she was familiar with the Baptist scene due to having attended Baptist Hui and by being a member of the Baptist Board of Social Services. She was also bolstered by having received for a time the board’s South Island reports.

After Nancy was accepted for the position, she and Bill gave up their jobs and moved to Christchurch, leaving their three daughters in Hamilton. (The youngest was in year 13, the twins in their final year of nurse and teacher training. Their son was in Auckland, teaching.)

Baptist Social Services Consultant

Within six months, the half-time job became full-time, and Nancy was working to capacity. As a consultant for Baptist Social Services, she encouraged leaders and volunteers, preached in churches, and liaised between churches, ministers, agencies, boards, early childhood educators, craft groups and drop-in centres. She fostered centres working towards registration and social worker registration. Baptists were doing as much as the Salvation Army but were less centralised, and they needed more credibility.

It was a time when churches increasingly established separate trusts for their social work. Nancy helped set up over 40 trust boards and got volunteers to take training in health and safety, new legal requirements, teaching about intellectual disability and mental health. Some needed coaching in how to work together, so Nancy trained people using Myers Briggs. She took Spiritual Director training and taught others to take professional supervision.

It was in this period that Nancy started writing. Several articles written by her appeared in the NZ Baptist, challenging churches to reach out to the poorest, and also challenging government policy.

For our church-based Christian agencies, funding is becoming more difficult, and clientele are increasing in numbers. Praise God that many are turning their lives around and seeking God’s direction. However, we must call for justice for the poorer members of our society. As long as Government talks about social cohesion and social capital but continues to hold the purse strings, and continues to devolve itself of responsibility for health, education, justice, employment and welfare, the rhetoric will never become reality. A nation’s strength is in its people. Let us pray for God to save New Zealanders.

Community development is happening in amazing ways from our local Baptist churches. It is time we stood more for justice for the lowest and the least, for those who are poor and in need. We must make an effort to understand the injustices that are happening to the people God loves – ‘the poor’ – and do our part in righting those wrongs.1

Nancy and Bill stayed seven years in Christchurch and worshipped at the North Avon Baptist Church. For most of that time Bill worked for a nursery.

Moving to Carey

Towards the end of 1997 Nancy felt God gave her a sense that change was coming,. ‘I think God’s got something else in store, but I don’t know what,’ she told her spiritual director at that time. In March 1998 she heard speakers from Carey Baptist College. One was the principal, Paul Windsor, speaking about a new position available, Director of Ministry Training, to oversee non-classroom learning for pastoral leadership students during their five years at Carey and on probation. Feeling stirred, Nancy asked Paul if this person had to be a minister.

‘No.’

‘Could it be a woman?’ Nancy’s heart was churning.

‘Why? Is God’s Spirit stirring you?’

They agreed she should pray about it. At home, Bill simply said, ‘Oh well, if God says we’ve gotta go, we’ve gotta go.’

Carey accepted her and Nancy started on the staff in October 1998, charged with organising the practical aspects of the students’ training, encouraging, arranging practical mentors and assessments. Pastoral Leadership students did twelve hours of fieldwork per week alongside their academic training. They needed practical skills like communication, how to do baptisms, pastoral care, marriage counselling, etc. In this role, Nancy had to make sure the processes were in place and working well.

‘How did you know you could help train ministers?’ I asked.

‘I didn’t. However, I had built rapport with most of the ministers of the South Island and some in the North Island. Some encouraged me and Paul Windsor was very supportive, aware I was the first woman on Carey’s teaching staff.

‘Academic aspects were daunting but I had worked with NZQA for nursing. Still, I was surprised, and told God in prayer, “This is ridiculous. What are you doing?” It was out of the blue. But I had seen how much practical training was needed, and how some churches would not accept women pastoral trainees.

‘I felt no opposition as a woman from Carey, where I was also appointed by the Baptist Union, but I did feel opposition from some other quarters.’

Nancy had been asked to turn around the practical pastoral training. She talked to exiting students and found out that they had felt neglected. With ideas from Australia and in discussion with Paul Windsor, they developed a new training model with assessment throughout. Nancy coached pastors on how to upskill the students sent to them. She became the students’ champion, and saw things were changing.

It was a very busy time for Nancy. She commented that Bill supported and encouraged her, taking care of the household responsibilities, but she still found that the biggest challenge was how to juggle all her work and give sufficient time and energy to each task. Even though she had for years practised managing her own time, it helped to organise a professional supervisor for herself. She felt she improved at pacing herself, learned to set clear boundaries, and learnt more about how to relax. This for her was reading, listening to music, swimming, embroidery and gardening.

Retired

After Nancy retired at the end of 2004, she first helped with community ministries in the Thames church for 18 months, and then moved to Tauranga. Caring for Bill, who had supported Nancy so much, became increasingly intensive, as he had another stroke, then several, and finally passed away in 2015 having reached his eighties.

There are Nancy’s own health matters to work on now in Tauranga, but one can still hear the energy and ideas in Nancy’s voice. Her goal in life has been to help people reach their potential, and it has delighted her to see this happen. Her own children are fulfilled in their lives/careers—David is a choral conductor and teacher at Westlake Boys’ High, Christine in ED at Auckland Hospital, Elizabeth in Kawerau and Heather a pastor in Melbourne.

Nancy voices an enormous sense of gratitude. ‘It’s tremendous to see what can happen when Christians reach their potential. Proverbs 3:5-6 was given to me when I first became a Christian and its meaning has been renewed throughout my life: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your ways.”’


Resources

Personal interview August 2022

Top photo: New Zealand Baptist April 2001

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