This article is part of a series from the writings of Martin Hanscamp, a friend and partner in Christian education. Martin faithfully served Christian Schools and Christian Education National (CEN) in Australia, but passed away in 2020. Michelle Dempsey, CEN’s CEO, set the stage for this series in her introductory post. In her words “If we are going to honor Martin’s legacy, we will need to put Jesus front and center in our lives, our work, and our play.” Enjoy some of CACE’s favorite writings from Martin.
A long time ago, I had the opportunity and the blessing of taking a “sabbatical” to finish a Masters of Christian Education through the Institute for Christian Education (ICE). Dr. Doug Blomberg had been the Principal of ICE and was a regular tutor/supervisor of mine whilst I was travelling around Australia with my young family.
I cannot remember which particular assignment it was, but I had cause to read the book, A Vision with a Task: Educating for Respective Discipleship. I was so blessed by the clarity and capturing of what Christian schooling could be. I wrote to Doug about this blessing and to express my thanks to him and his team for their collaborative venture.
A similar thing happened a few years later whilst on a trip to Europe. My wife Anita and I spent a day at the Reformation Wall Park in Geneva (including an uplifting service in the rebuilt Berliner Dom- Lutheran cathedral, where statuesque fathers of the reformation look down on the congregation) and I had cause to ponder- Who were, or are, my Reformation heroes? I bought the ‘Reformation Wall’ postcard and sent it to Doug with the affirmation to him that he was on my own wall of heroes because he’d brought me so much insight and meaning about the interweaving of faith and education.
After completing my ‘year in the sun,’ enjoying what we Aussies oftentimes refer to as ‘this wide brown land’, I took up the role of Principal at Mt. Evelyn Christian School (MECS) where Doug had been a long-term staff member, in between numerous other academic and overseas roles. And I note again, with gratitude, that on many occasions over the past 37 years I’ve gone to him, whether through his writings or as my lecturer, colleague and friend, to be guided, gain understanding and clarity on a particular challenging matter.
We must continue to be the re-articulators of the vision, particularly in the everyday life of our schools.
One of the dangers of sitting at the feet of a legend, however, is that you can develop feelings of inadequacy. You do not understand and discern complexity as well as them. You cannot express yourself with such poise. You feel you have so much more to learn before you should contribute.
It is important for me to remind myself though that I shouldn’t start and considerations of a topic by thinking ‘what would Doug say?’ If we started to compare ourselves to the great ‘standard bearers’ of the Christian schooling movement, none of us would ever ‘pick up the pen’ or ‘stand out the front.’
Over time and through God’s gracious patience, I have come to realize that there is a strong and vital role for ‘disciples’ to be expressers of the same Christian educational vision, but with their own touch and in their own words. we must continue to be the re-articulators of the vision, particularly in the everyday life of our schools.
Expressing the impact that faith has in all areas of the school and articulating a vision for Christian education in the everyday life of the school is certainly one of the Principal’s most significant duties. The school newsletter is an excellent forum for school leaders to open up the full range of issues that students, staff and parents encounter in the life of the school.
Now on Tuesday nights (when the editorial is due) I challenge myself to say, ‘What would Martin say?’
Thank you for this important reminder on how principals should be the re-articulators of the vision. This phrase is one I will ponder. Thank you for an excellent article. Keep them coming!
As more and more of us “old-timers” pass on…not just literally, but pass on to retirement or that land of oblivion after Christian education, it is important that the younger generation of Christian school leaders find and use the veterans of the movement as mentors, coaches, and people who can hold up arms (as Aaron & Hur – Ex 17). I see it almost every day in our day…heads who are burning out, discouraged, indeed of counsel, direction, or just a listening/praying partner in their administrative life. Too often, once heads are finished…they’re forgotten. To the point of the article, Elisha picked up the mantle, Elijah provided…
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”” [Isaiah 52:7] Indeed, how grateful we are for the men and women whose insights have touched our hearts and encouraged us collectively and individually to dig deeper into what Christian education means in our own settings.
Also, I’m sure that people like Martin would have reminded us that we need to personalize what they have taught us – that is, make it a part of the fabric of our own approach to life, so that it lives with newer, fuller meaning in our own contexts and settings.
Renowned educator Michael Fullan (in his book Change Forces) makes a similar point when he discusses the challenge of transferability. This arises when, for example, we go to a professional development seminar and listen to an engaging speaker sharing some new approach to an educational issue. We are attracted to that issue and think, “Yes, that sounds great. I’ll adopt it in my own teaching patterns.” Be careful suggests Fullan. You have observed a 40 minute presentation, but it probably is the end result of many hours of thinking, trial and error, and refinement. In order to capture, understand, and own that particular concept and apply it meaningfully in your own context, you will need to engage in a similar developmental process in your own right. Goethe put it this way in his tragic play Faust: “That which thy fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.”
I never had the privilege of meeting Martin but his name is legendary amongst Christin schools in Australia. His humble approach to what he did stood out and his legacy of writings and the influence he has had on many others is great.