Food, fun and faith a feature of welcome week at Avondale
Culinary delights, social gatherings and a commissioning created a fresh start feeling as staff and students celebrated the beginning of the academic year at Avondale.
Organising Orientation Week on the Lake Macquarie campus for the first time, Avondale Admissions introduced new events that not only built community on campus but opened campus to the community.
Food vendors from Eat Street Cooranbong set up on campus for lunch and dinner on the Monday (February 25), with a jumping castle and games adding to the festive feel. Lunch on the Tuesday featured a grazing table provided by Food Services and decorated with native fauna. Seven local businesses provided more than $4000 in sponsorship to support other events, including a mixed social basketball competition, a Twilight Pulse and pool party and Speed Friending. Christian radio station Rhema FM Newcastle broadcast on campus and recorded live interviews.
Students filled Ella Hughes Chapel for the Friday evening worship service, Salt, then enjoyed Big Breakfast at Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church the next morning.
Senior students on the Sydney campus begin their academic year earlier (February 11) but also organised events—including a pool party and a how-to-thrive session—during the week. The how-to-thrive session sees senior students sharing advice with younger students—the first session focused on living in the nurses residence.
The week ended with the 30th anniversary of a barn dance, which again featured alumnus and guitarist Peter Dixon. The singer and songwriter has performed at the event every year for 30 years. “That’s an anniversary,” he writes on his Facebook page. “Can you believe it? . . . And yet I don’t feel any older. Seriously.”
Not every student, particularly those studying by distance or through third-party providers, can attend Orientation Week, so Admissions recorded information and preparatory events and used Facebook Live to share the Welcome and Worship event and the Convocation and Commissioning Ceremony.
During Welcome and Worship, President Professor Ray Roennfeldt used Avondale’s values as a challenge for new students to “grow to be people who value excellence, seek to discover or deepen your spiritual base, nurture wellbeing and balance, become people of integrity and find new ways to engage in service to humanity.” Remember, he added, “learning is not a spectator sport. Think new thoughts, engage with the opportunities and challenges Avondale will bring to you this year, leave behind some of things that may have been holding you back in the past, and stretch yourself to embrace this year. It doesn’t matter what has been written in your story so far. It’s how you write the next chapter and how you fill up the rest of the pages that counts.”
The message during Convocation and Commissioning the following day reflected the difficulties of 2018—lower enrolment led to staff redundancies—but served as a reminder of the strength found in spirituality. “I don’t promise an easy year for Avondale in 2019,” said Roennfeldt, “but I can promise it will be a better year if we invite God to walk with us.”
Vice-President (Quality and Strategy) Professor Jane Fernandez offered a blessing, praying that new students “find in Avondale a home and a productive place of learning,” returning students “continuing growth and new opportunities” and graduands “discernment, resilience and courage to leave here equipped for a life of love and service.” For staff, she prayed for sustenance “as they educate and support our students through their knowledge of the world, their work and their ultimate purpose: to serve you as our Creator God.”
Roennfeldt invited student leaders to join him on the stage of the church, where he offered a prayer of blessing on their ministry. Then, in short motivational messages, academic leaders commissioned the staff members and students in their disciplines.
During the worship service on Saturday, acting Lake Macquarie campus chaplain Pr Ray Moaga honoured predecessor Dr Wayne French and wife Mara. After 14 years, French is moving into full-time, self-supporting ministry with his Tut Roadshow, which will bring ancient Egypt into schools and community centres. “Thank you for pouring [God’s love] into the lives of our students, staff, family members for over 14 years,” said Moaga. “It’s an incredible ministry.”
French’s legacy includes coordinating memory events such as Festival of Faith and promoting and supporting One Mission service learning trips and Holy Land tours.