ON ASSIGNMENT AT THE ECUMENICAL INSTITUTE/ INSTITUTE OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS: 1964-1986
Charles and Doris Hahn, along with their daughters, Marsha and Shelley moved to Fifth City in Chicago, August 1964. The first year in Chicago, Charles spent much of his E.I. life working on pedagogy. He was routinely assigned to RS-I and PLC teams both in Chicago and across the U.S. Then, at the end of the summer of 1965, Charles and Doris along with Joe and Carol Pierce, were assigned to a three-month research trip across the Arab world. This was the last of a series of such trips undertaken to study the depths of life in continents around the world.
In September of 1968 the Institute set out to expand its work through establishing Religious Houses rather than working solely in and through Chicago. The Hahn family along with two other families from our Chicago base moved to Los Angeles, CA to join four other families who wanted to be a part of our life and work. After searching for suitable property, we chose to establish the Los Angeles House in Santa Monica where Charles served as Prior until the following summer.
In June, the Hahn’s moved back to Chicago to participate in the Summer 69 Academy. The following Spring (1970) Charles travelled to the U.K. where he and Doris visited families from across England who had attended Religious Studies I courses held during the earlier part of the year. E.I. courses followed, along with an invitation from the local Church of England Vicor to establish a Religious House in Thornaby-on-Tees where Charles became House Prior. He continued to visit clergy around the U.K. and to set up courses. In the Summer of 1972, the Thornaby House sponsored “Summer 72” with participants from across the U.K. In the Fall of 1972 Charles returned to Chicago where he become Prior of Development Centrum.
In the summer of 1974, the Institute established several coordinating centers or Nexus around the world in order to spread the work done in Chicago. Charles was assigned as Prior of the Brussels Nexus, which coordinated Institute work in Europe and Africa. Charles also served as Prior of Development Centrum for Africa as well as Europe. He set up appointments across Europe, especially with Roman Catholic Orders in Rome, where occasionally an Institute presenter was asked to tell our story at a national meeting of a Catholic Order. In 1975 Charles went to the opening of the Kawangware Human Development Project in Nairobi, and often he hosted members from Africa Houses who came to Europe on Development trips.
In 1976-77 Charles was assigned to Chicago but spent most of his time back in Europe working in Development. In 1977 Charles was reassigned to Brussels where he stayed one more year.
In 1978–82 Charles was Prior of Management Centrum at the Chicago Nexus. And in 82-84 he went to the Bombay Nexus as prior of Research Centrum. That team did the local planning and set-up for the IERD (International Exposition of Rural Development) in 1984. The Research team split their time between planning the event to be held in Delhi and visiting established rural development projects sponsored by many different groups. Research Centum evaluated these projects in order to set up visitation plans for those who came from around the world to Delhi for the actual meeting in 1982.
In 1982 Charles was again assigned as Prior of Management Centrum at the Chicago Nexus. And 1984-86 he was assigned to the Houston House, where he worked in Research. The life and work of the Institute(s) and the Order: Ecumenical were dear to Charles, not only until 1986, but for the rest of his life.
Even though Death is universal, it is also unique—because every life is unrepeatable. It arrives in its own time and is always shocking, even when it is anticipated. It can be painful or peaceful, timely or not, tragic or strangely welcome, or all of the above at once. We don’t choose the manner or the moment and can only respond by acknowledging its finality and trusting what was, is and will be. We go on.
We are grateful for what we learned and how our lives were enriched because of the unique life of Charles Hahn. We offer here our appreciation for the contributions he made to the life and work of the Ecumenical Institute/ICA.
Charles Frederick Hahn was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the son of Nell (King) Hahn and Fred W. Hahn. From his earliest days as president of his Oklahoma City District Methodist Youth Fellowship, Charles’s life was defined by his calling as a pastor. Charles received his undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and his Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and was ordained in 1956. While at Perkins, Charles met Doris Schulze, also a graduate student there. They married in 1955.
After serving as pastor for several churches in the United Methodist Church Southwest Texas Conference, Charles requested a special assignment to work with the Ecumenical Institute and then the Institute of Cultural Affairs, initially teaching courses in religious and cultural studies and later doing community development work around the world. During their work with these organizations, Charles and Doris lived in: Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; London and Yorkshire, England; Brussels, Belgium; Mumbai, India; and Houston, TX. While Charles was always proud to be an “Okie,” he enjoyed making every place he lived his home.
After twenty-two years working with the EI and ICA, Charles returned to local church ministry in Texas. Charles loved all aspects of pastoring, but especially ministering to those most in pain, in need, and in despair. He was at his best making hospital visits, performing funerals, and advocating for society’s most vulnerable and marginalized. He was committed to social justice and was not afraid to speak out. After retiring from the ministry, Charles volunteered with the Indigent Healthcare Program in Bastrop, Texas, where he eventually became director before retiring a second time in 2001.
Charles and Doris embraced Bloomington, Indiana, as their home after moving there in 2004 to be closer to their daughters. Charles enjoyed volunteering for the First United Methodist Church Wednesday Pantry, which led to his connection to Hoosier Hills Food Bank. He was also devoted to Hoosiers for a Common Sense Health Plan, believing that good healthcare should be a right for all.
Charles was a gracious man who loved humanity, family, community, the United Methodist Church, the planet, music of all kinds, all creatures (especially dogs), and pancakes.
Charles is survived by his wife, Doris, daughters Marsha Hahn (Pat Moriarty) of Everett, WA, and Shelley Hahn (Greg Simon) of Bloomington, IN, grandson Erin Stansbury (Kelly Woznicki).
To My Father
My 89-year-old father, Charles Hahn, has dementia. Last week, the memory care residence he recently moved to closed to all visitors, as have most around the country. The next morning he fell. There is a fracture in his neck, and although it is very small, he will need to wear a collar for the next three months. He has been moved to a nursing care facility which, of course, is also closed to all visitors. We hope his stay will be brief, and that he will be able to return to his new home soon, but we don’t know when that will happen.
When I was training to be a therapist and social worker, I took a class on trauma. The instructor wanted to impress upon on us the importance of our clients feeling safe, and asked us all to remember a situation in which we ourselves had felt completely safe. My own response was instantaneous. I had felt safe with my father. My specific memory was of crawling into his lap as he read the newspaper and sitting, nestled against his chest, as long as I wanted to.
I remember marching along behind him as he mowed the lawn on a hot Texas day, periodically running inside to bring him a glass of cold water, basking in his gratitude. I remember the crowded fellowship hall of our church, and me, running and flinging my arms around a pair of legs in familiar trousers, only to look up and see the bemused smile of a stranger, who kindly pointed me towards my actual father. I remember countless times when my sister Shelley was a baby, being offered a choice between staying home with Shelley and my mother, or going somewhere with my father. It didn’t matter where, or what the errand of the moment, I wanted to go with Dad, to ride along beside him in the car, to hold his hand as we went about the business of our glorious outing.
I now work as a therapist. I often help people with very different father stories than my own. Some had fathers who inflicted unspeakable horrors on them. Some yearn for what they could never get from their fathers: to feel seen, to have their approval, to feel they measured up, to be comforted, protected, loved. Others had fathers who were unpredictable, unreliable, frightening. These things have left their mark, in the form of depression, addiction, shame, or simply a deep sense of not being okay. I am deeply grateful to have tools now that really help. I know things are getting better when someone tells me they are feeling more at peace, they know their own goodness, they know they are lovable, they feel safe.
Pat and I visited my family in Bloomington, Indiana this past Christmas. The dementia had progressed since I had last seen my father. He still knew who I was, though, and was so happy to see me. To my surprise, I found myself not wanting to engage with him. It was so much easier to focus on providing much-needed support for my sister and mother. I did, of course, engage with him, as feelings of guilt, confusion, and overwhelm swirled within me. It felt like my heart had shut down.
My sister Shelley, by virtue of proximity, has shouldered most all of the caregiving and support for our parents since they have come to need it. I asked her recently if she has been able to feel grief about our father’s loss of so much of who he had been. She told me it’s been hard to grieve, but that occasionally the tears come and she “wails.” This week, I wondered aloud to Pat why I hadn’t felt grief over the slow loss of my father. In his wisdom, he said, “The time hasn’t been right yet. Don’t worry.”
Just as my father had been getting adjusted to his new memory care home, he was moved to a strange, new place where he cannot have visitors. Given all the circumstances, it was the best, really the only choice to be made. Even so, I imagine he is confused and anxious. Faced with my own sense of powerlessness, I realize my father deserves my open heart, now, just as his has always been open to me. As I shed tears of grief, and of love, I send this message: “May you know comfort. May you know peace. May you know you are safe and loved.”
We were incredibly honored to have so many friends and colleagues from all over the world celebrating with us yesterday. What a gift; what a beautiful tribute to Dad. I feel filled full this morning. Of course, there is still grief and will be for some time, I’m sure. But most of all I feel deep gratitude and joy for having been able to celebrate Dad’s life in such a meaningful way with so many people who were part of his life.
We were so grateful for Wayne’s guidance and direction in figuring out how to make it all work. I was in awe of his ability to bring the whole thing off without a single hiccup! There were issues to consider with regard to how many people could join as “panelists” (with speaking “privileges”) at one time, and of course concerns about managing potential issues with muting and unmuting, background noise, etc. etc. Perhaps whoever pursues the next virtual event will find a way to take it to the next level. Our hope is to at least be able to send to everyone a list of all the participants. It’s not the same as seeing faces, but hopefully it will help us all feel one level deeper connection.
Without a doubt we were beyond grateful for the amazing community that joined us to celebrate Dad’s life. I think I can speak for my whole family in saying that we were filled full beyond anything we’d imagined. And oh, how honored Dad must have felt–out there in whatever shape his soul has taken. 🙂 In deep gratitude,
~~ Shelley Hahn
What a powerful memorial to Charles Hahn today online! It really lifted up his whole life, his gifts, his passions, his great contribution to the Spirit Movement. It was a good model to follow I think for those who pass during this pandemic and social distancing complete with “reception” following the service. Thanks so much to the Hahn Family, especially to Patrick Moriarty’s reflections, to Paul and Wayne and Eilene for hosting, technological orchestration, and leading us in the singing. And of course, all those who offered stories about Charles. We never worked directly with Charles but felt like we knew him. Thank you Doris for your teaching my PLC in October of 1969 in New York City and visiting me at the Dewey Avenue Presbyterian Church a few months afterward! So many of us have been enriched by knowing and working with the Hahn Family over the years!
~~ Carleton and Ellie Stock
Once in the Order, we were mandated not to thank each other, supposedly since we were all in it together and just doing our job. Well, I think we’ve probably outgrown that situation. Whether or not, we want to express gratitude for the life and work of Charles, now completed. Charles always seemed serious, but was capable pf playing around. When we did the “Sting” operation in Development, I still recall Charles walking through Centrum rubbing his nose, copying a scene from the movie! Most of all, I remember a phone call from him in October 1985 while we were just getting settled in and comfortable in Denver, assigning us to Southeast Asia. Had the call been from anyone else, I suspect our resistance would have been greater. But that was an assignment that lasted 23 years and shaped our lives . Thank you, Charles. Grace and Peace
~~ John and Ann Epps
What a light you all have been to me Charles and Doris were members of the permanent, perhaps the most indelibly permanent to me. I think of Charles as steady as a rock. We developed a friendship late in his life through this listserv and also meeting at memorials for order colleagues. So many are passing on now. Yes, I remember his good humor and bright eyes. Most of all I remember his steadfastness. I am filled with sadness now mixed with joy for this wonderful colleague and teacher. Love,
~~ Herman Greene
Celebrating the completed life of this good man, a man for others, a teacher, preacher, a world servant. Thank you, Charles, for your life, your ministry, your truth, your love. In grief and gratitude.
~~ Robertson Work
I guess the thing I loved most about Charles (my first ecclesiola prior–along with Doris, of course) The thing I love most about Charles was the marvellous way he let uncertainty show on his face — I could see he was struggling, I could see he was taking it seriously– I could see this was significant for him. And, of course his voice and how so many of us would depend on and trust his decisions and his wisdom. A care full man. And with all the riskiness and uncertainty of what we did “back in the day” always pioneering stuff . . . and always sensible and responsible — and full of care for the Church and our body and their family and daughters as well.
~~ Jim Wiegel
Dear Marsha, Pat, Shelley, Doris, I knew your father only slightly, however I was aware of his stabilizing, caring, life-giving presence in the community. And Doris, working with you, even briefly, in the archives, gleaning some of your deep historical knowledge, was wonderful. With appreciation,
~~ Beret Griffith
I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Charles. We spent several years together at Centrum and I will always remember his deep presence and his utter respect for everyone. He was always someone I felt I could trust. And I remember him laughing quite a bit — he was happy and having a good time on this journey we call life!
~~ Seth T. Longacre
May the gift of all the memories Charles gave you and many of us as well with the expenditure of his gentle passion he had for the world and all it’s people sustain you and all of us too that will miss him very much. He truly lived like the Butterfly who flutters for a day and lives on Behalf of ALL like it is forever. In Peace and love
~~ Wanda Holcombe
We join our voices in the chorus of praise for the life of Charles. Always called Charles, not Chuck or Charlie. The name Charles really suited our dear colleague. He was a man who was respected and gained ours as well. We are grateful to have lived in the order with Charles and his remarkable family. Our love goes out to each of you. With deepest care and sympathy,
~~ Jack and Louise Ballard
Both Charles and I grew up in Oklahoma City, though he was born 16 years before me. We both attended the same elementary school, Sequoyah Elementary on 36th Street. When thinking of Charles I am reminded of a metaphor from the sport of bowling. On occasion, the managers will set up Bumpers Rails on either side of the lane to prevent balls from going into the gutters. This is primarily for beginners or young children which allows the ball generally to knock down some pins, eventually. Charles has served the purpose, in my life, as my bumper rails. On several occasions he enabled me to knock down a few pins rather than fall into the gutter of life. I thank him for that. Here are some of those instances.
RS-I – Charles, along with Frank Hilliard and Rick Loudermilk, taught my first RS-I in November 1965 at the basement of the chapel in the old EI seminary campus on Chicago’s Westside. I don’t remember any of the details from that weekend; but it turned my life upside down and he catalyzed that.
Academy – Program Center, Physics Lecture – Just a few short years later, in the summer of 1968, I was one of the faculty members assigned to be under his leadership to teach the 8-week Academy program in the Program Center on Fifth Avenue in Fifth City. He appointed me to give the physics lecture. I took this assignment very seriously, as everything we did back then was very serious and pedagogical. Well, it so happened, that the lecture included something pretty funny – something about how Newton’s Second Law had something to do with everything you do impacts something around you. I told something funny, I can’t recall what it was, but Charles started laughing so hard it became infectious and soon the whole class was laughing. Well, this bordered on sacrilegious, but Charles allowed humor to be made manifest and changed my old image of what a pedagogue was.
Teaching two courses – It was my distinct pleasure to teach other courses – the weekend variety – with Charles at places across the continent. For some reason, we were tasked with teaching some of the advanced courses.
Phoenix – One was the New Testament course. I have no idea how or why I was assigned to be second teacher to Charles; I didn’t know anything about the course, never taught it before. Usually we only let the preachers in our group teach such courses. Well, here I was, having flown in from Los Angeles and Charles from Chicago, and we met up in Phoenix, the site of the course, and tried to figure out how we were going to do this. The thing that impressed me was that he did not treat me as being unqualified. He shared with me a few simple holding images – gestalts, charts – that helped me organize the varied and random pieces of the course. We got through the weekend.
Canada – Another course was held somewhere northeast of Toronto. I arrived, met up with Charles, and before we got started, I came down with some ailment – I don’t recall what it was. I had to sit out the entire weekend and Charles had to teach the entire course. I was totally embarrassed and was forever grateful for his ability to pick up the course without giving me a hard time for taking a pass.
Brussels – We were assigned to the Brussels the same year as Charles and Doris and others were assigned to set up the new European HQ and set up their residential office around the corner. We had a tough year and petitioned for a different assignment for the coming year, but our request got lost. In a call with Charles and through some tears, he advocated on our behalf and we were sent to Taiwan where at the end of the year we held Taiwan’s first International Training Institute.
Summer Program – A similar circumstance happened as we prepared for a summer program in Chicago. At the last minute it was suggested that I take on the task of running the entire logistical operations of the whole program. I panicked. I felt totally incapable of picking it up. I ran to Charles for help and was eventually relieved of the prospect. I thank Charles for that.
These experiences may seem a little cryptic to you, and there is a lot of backstory that will remain in the back. Charles and I had a lot of other encounters over the years, but they were far more mundane. These were the ones that kept me on the journey that I am still on today. Without Charles I wouldn’t be here to give witness to his supporting role in my life. Charles, I miss you very much and will try to keep on the narrow road you guided me toward.