As 2020 came to a close, the community of Christian Education National in Australia became challenged and unsettled with the passing of a Christian education legend, Martin Hanscamp. Martin passed away peacefully at his home in Belgrave, Australia, surrounded by his loving family. In his 60 years of life, Martin was a wonderful youth leader, teacher, deputy principal, principal, and political advocate. In his last formal role, Martin served as the Executive Officer of the Australian Association of Christian Schools.
Martin’s contribution to Christian education has been monumental. His words held people captive at conferences, around dinner tables, and in one-on-one conversations. He produced countless documents, wrote important policy submissions, and authored or significantly contributed to at least six books. He was confident in what he knew and clever in articulation. Motivated to serve the Lord in the sphere of education, Martin was a giant—a literal giant of a man (both tall and large), a giant of a leader, and a giant of a thinker. His legacy will hold much influence for decades to come. As one of my closest mates, Martin had a profound influence on my life and the lives of many others.
It’s hard not to ask the difficult question of “why God?” Why take a man that we depended on, who gave so much to our cause, whom we loved, whom we could rely on, who was just so darn clever, articulate, and motivated? I know others resonate with this question where they have lost a giant in their lives or their spheres of influence.
My consolation is in the legacy that Martin (and others) left behind. Martin empowered people to leadership, he challenged people (teachers mostly) to a deeper understanding of scripture and then how their teaching or curriculum development reflected that scripture. He spent much of his time laying the foundations of scripture in unit work, curriculum outlines, or new projects, preparing others to continue the work that he had started.
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. It’s not a turn off and on thing–it’s embracing all of life to the glory of God. And what a privilege that is.
Martin was a tremendously competent man, who in his own brokenness admitted that he often made mistakes and often failed to “have his act together.” In fact, one of his last publications in Christian education circles was a collection of newsletter articles written during his time as a school principal in Victoria, Australia. Martin called this book Can’t You Get Your Act Together in memory of the school newsletter editor expressing this sentiment in frustration to him when once again he had missed a deadline. Martin recognized that he could be a frustrating individual at times!
I am personally comforted to know that in my own frailty and failure to “get my act together,” I’m not alone. I do look forward to the day when we are reunited with our Lord Jesus and get to mix with these giants again.
We were able to share Can’t You Get Your Act Together with school principals across Australia. The book comes with a separate pdf inviting principals to use these reflections in their own newsletters, which several have done.
Some of Martin’s reflections will feature in future CACE blogs, but in the meantime I leave you with this quote from Can’t You Get Your Act Together (p.13):
Christian education–it is so much more than just care and protection, moral values and religious input, conservative standards and trophy cabinets. It’s a caring and nurturing community with a strong emphasis on family partnership. It offers a unique, holistic and positive perspective on learning and life and it challenges students to critically appraise and engage in their world.
We will miss this good and faithful servant (and great mate as well). Cheers to you, Martin.
Starting out as an enthusiastic teacher in Tasmania, Michelle Dempsey has taught all ages and served as a coordinator, deputy, and principal. She remains truly passionate about Christian education and gets excited about schools, teachers, and leaders laying claim to the Lordship of Christ in “every square inch” of this world. Currently, Michelle serves as the CEO of Christian Education National. She loves her role and the people she gets to work with. Michelle is married to Mic (also an educator) and is mum to two kids, Max & Meg.