A change of metaphor from footsteps in the snow, and one inspired by a beautiful walk last Thursday along the Ouse (as far as we could go) near Houghton Mill in St Ives. All the fields were flooded, as were large parts of the fens between St Ives and Ely, and it was a joy to be so surrounded by water, reflecting the skies and trees in the late morning sun.

Watching small boats skim between houses that were perilously close to the water line, helping logs the size of small trees through sluice gates and listening to the rejoicing of herons and swans added to the joy.

It put me in mind of an encounter in Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow in which the eponymous young Jayber Crow returns to his home community after 14 years away, and who has been “enacting his ignorance of geography” by taking 4 days to walk from Lexington to Port William, Ky., as the Kentucky River flooded and added to Jayber’s walk. He sees somebody he thinks he recalls from his childhood, one of Port William’s favourite sons, Burley Coulter, in a little johnboat in the middle of the river, concentrating on his fishing, “afloat in a flooded world.” It is the start of a life-long friendship, though they are 20 years apart in age, and it becomes one of the foundational relationships of the Port William “membership” with Burley Coulter a community mascot (for want of a better word) and Jayber Crow its barber.

As we begin a new year, there is a strong sense of adventure in me and for our school. My Dad asked me on Saturday – what is the big thing you want to see and happen in your school this year that wasn’t there last year? I couldn’t say one thing precisely in reply, but we are definitely not doing what we did last year! We will be looking to deepen our trust in Jesus Christ, the source of hope and of the knowledge of how to live well. Two summers ago I put up a display with a reference to the Hillsong song “You call me out upon the waters” and we still need to maintain that sense of faith and trust in God’s certain call and in the knowledge of what he desires for us as educators and for children as learners and family members.

The skill of riding upon a flooded world takes grace and suppleness, flexibility and courage. And it is just this which we will need again in 2018, with more political and educational uncertainty around us, but the kindness of God and his commitment to us and to our adventure holding the flaky little johnboat that we commit to his care. We are his completely, before we are anybody else’s, and his call to us to push forward and live the kingdom life we are all called to.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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