Monday 21 January 2008

Getting it straight from the "God-Father": Leave the Prius - Pack the Big Wheel!

(If you didn't "get" that caption - it's a take-off from one of the more memorable lines in "The Godfather.")

People were telling me all day, yesterday, that they read about me in the paper. I didn't get to read this until late last night. What follows is a link to the original, now archived online. However I'm posting an ever-so-slightly edited/corrected version below that, to provide the context for my own comments later.

Published January 19, in the Religion Section of the Goshen News

Chaplain plans move to Australia, other endeavors
By Jesse Davis, Goshen News Staff Writer

After 10 years serving Goshen General Hospital and the community at large, Clair Hochstetler, staff chaplain and coordinator of spiritual care, is resigning.

“I felt this call growing in me for a long time — it is not a new idea,” he said. “It was in my head even as I came (to the hospital).”

According to a letter Hochstetler sent to friends before the official announcement was made, he is in the process of applying for the chaplain manager position at a large hospital in Australia’s capital city of Canberra located on the southeast corner of the continent.

He had previously applied for a chaplain position at a hospital in Alice Springs, Australia, but was not chosen.

“The job is a long shot. I’m not counting on it at all,” he said, adding that he is “trying to be at the intersection of my greatest passion and the world’s greatest need.”

Hochstetler will visit the country with his wife, Carol Anne, for about a month during [a trip planned for] March and April to research work and living possibilities [while visiting Carole Anne's sister who also lives in Australia, near Brisbane.] In addition, the two plan on traveling to southern Africa to [explore] helping with health ministry, AIDS and pastoral care issues. [Stops in Hawaii and New Zealand are also part of the plan, during this self-designed sabbatical.]

Hochstetler is currently chairman of the board for the African Projects for Peace and Love Initiatives, which is involved in missionary work in Nigeria.

Community involvement is one of Hochstetler’s fortes, and many local organizations will have to find new members when he leaves.

Last fall, Hochstetler became president of the Goshen Ministerial Association, where he had been a part of the church and community relations committee and later the executive committee as secretary. Hochstetler also helped to found the Center for Healing and Hope and was on the board for seven years before resigning in August.

“The CHH is a tremendous asset to the whole region,” he said. “Over 80 churches are involved in some way, be it supplying volunteers or funds, with the goal of educating people and building bridges between them and health care resources.”

The official announcement of Hochstetler’s resignation was released on Jan. 4, but he began letting close friends know earlier, as well as preparing the chaplain team a couple months ahead. For most people, however, the announcement came as a shock.

“It was very gratifying to walk the halls and hear what people were saying when they realized what was happening,” he said, referencing the regard in which his co-workers held him.

In addition to preparing the hospital for his departure, Hochstetler, along with his wife, are in the process of selling their household furnishings and supplies as well as the 420 Marilyn Ave. house itself.

“That in itself is spiritual discernment,” he said. [Clair's comment: I actually used the term spiritual "discipline" instead of "discernment."] “Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for the [difficulty in the] story of Jesus telling the rich man to ‘sell everything you have and give it to the poor.’ ”

Still, Hochstetler says there will be a period of grieving for the people and places they will have to leave behind.

“I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving,” he said. “I’ve really grown a lot here, but I feel that this is going to be an important spiritual experience for me, getting out of my comfort zone.”

Asked if he will continue his hobby of unicycling, Hochstetler replied with a loud “absolutely!”

Just recently, he purchased what he calls the “big red Ferrari” of unicycles, which features a massive tire, approximately 3 feet across, and two small handles in front of the seat.

“I can get it up to about 15 miles an hour,” he said.

Hochstetler’s final day will be around Feb. 25, two days after his 10-year anniversary with the hospital.

Between now and then, hospital officials are searching for his replacement, a process Hochstetler has been directly involved in. They hope to fill the position by mid-February so Hochstetler can help orient the new hire to the job and introduce other community religious leaders before his departure.



Many read this particular news article before I finally did late last night, since I was leading the annual meeting and consultation with the international board of APPLI all day. I was also deeply involved in preparations for a special dinner meeting our local members hosted in the evening for about 75 people, to raise awareness about this youth peace education and conflict transformation ministry in West Africa, which is actually alluded to in the news article.

Today I made a few edits in the original text [they appear inside the brackets] - to bring some "clair-ity" and to address some of the comments or questions people have typically been raising as a result of recent communications like this one.

It all started in the public eye about two weeks ago, when The Elkhart Truth surprised many in our community (including myself - and our administration at the hospital, as well - although I should have expected something like that.) It looked like an interview, but wasn't. The Truth published some excerpts from an email I had sent out to area pastors and key contacts two days earlier, about the same time my official resignation was circulating internally for the first time within the Goshen Health System.

The Goshen News, however, decided to do a more thorough job of it, which I appreciated, when they sent a reporter to officially interview me -- after approval by the Health System of course. Overall, I felt the time with Jesse Davis was very worthwhile. It provoked some good reflection on my part about my overall experience here. Jesse captured pretty well the essence of what is going on, and both Carole Anne and I appreciated the resulting piece - except there was one key omission.

I had shared that a primary motivation for our leave actually has to do with family: How changes in my family situation here have now freed me up from major related responsibilities, and how my wife wants to be much closer to her sister who has been living with her own husband in Australia - they have hardly been together for over 35 years - and this fulfills a commitment I made to Carole Anne some time ago.

Carole Anne and I have been pleasantly surprised, and pleased, by the many heart-felt responses and personal overtures people are making as a result of such news. And I'm becoming quite aware of how hard making such a transition really is - the grief involved and more - as we begin to "divest" ourselves of material goods and possessions, and anticipate getting pulled away from a raft of significant involvements
and important relationships with dear people here.

Though I'm originally from this area, Carole Anne isn't, and we have together forged a number of significant new relationships over these ten years while living in this fine neighborhood and community! Many are expressing that it just won't be the same...and I guess we all know that is true.

On the upside, however, there is nothing like making a move like this to "clear the slate" and one's schedule! I've already been noting certain meetings and responsibilities that have been fulfilled or experienced for the last time. That's a strange feeling, and its been ten years since I have felt that.

Carole Anne and I find ourselves talking a lot these days about needing to "embrace the change" and to get ready to move outside our comfort zones. Neither of us have a job secured yet - I know I have never done anything like this before! But, somehow this does not frighten, but actually attracts and enriches our lives. We do feel secure in a future, held in the hands of the One who cares for us, supported by the love and prayer of many friends who are happy for us, while at the same time feel very wistful about our leaving.

We feel excited about options that might be emerging for our future, and especially look forward to this upcoming 8-week self-designed sabbatical to help us discern where to invest the next period of our lives. (Five to ten years? Maybe Australia first, and then South Africa. We aren't sure. Maybe somewhere else completely!) We didn't realize it at the time, but ironically we picked February 29 (LEAP DAY!) to embark on what feels a bit to us like an "Abraham and Sarah-type" of pilgrimage.

So, we promise to keep y'all posted right here - a good place for you, as well, to "keep in touch!" (Unless we make a new blog together to document this journey. But you'll find out about that right here, too, if that happens.)


1 comment:

  1. Clair,

    Thanks for the note. We'll certainly be interested in hearing how things develop.

    It was so nice to see you when you were in Kalamazoo.

    Fred and Jo