Rev. Douglas Caldwell: A man of God; a man of the people
Hundreds of people filled the Central Moravian Church in historic downtown Bethlehem Sunday to remember and honor the Rev. Douglas Caldwell, the beloved pastor of the church from 1983-2009. Caldwell died on July 17 at age 71.
"He was a man of great faith and love," the Rev. Carol A. Reifinger recalled from her 25 years working as assistant pastor with Caldwell. "I never met anyone who even remotely had a chance of remaining a stranger."
The former pastor's daughter, Ashley Caldwell, echoed the sentiments expressed over and over during the two-hour memorial. "He cared; he loved. He practiced what he preached." She said the family heard from many people after her father's death, "some of whom spoke of losing a best friend."
"He loved God and he loved people," head pastor the Rt. Rev. C. Hopeton Clennon affirmed. "He was everyone's friend. He made you feel like you were the most important person in the world, and you are."
During the service, the church was filled with music, tears and laughter. The Bethlehem Area Moravian Trombone and Brass choirs, along with the 40-voice church choir, set the moods of both sorrow and exuberance. In the Prelude, the last notes of oboist Nobuo Kitagawa's solo rendition of "Gabriel's Oboe" were followed by the tolling of the church bell.
The opening hymn changed the mood to one of hope and a fitting testament to Caldwell's life:
"I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart."
In her personal recollections of Caldwell, Reifinger had her listeners bursting into laughter time after time, as she recalled her colleague's wonderful sense of humor and love of storytelling, especially of the history and construction of the Central Moravian Church. Pity the unsuspecting tourist who wandered into the church, Reifinger joked.
The Rev. Mark Caldwell presented an even more personal reflection of his uncle and his stories. Doug Caldwell, born in Charlotte, N.C., and recognized for his joyous southern drawl, was the twin brother of Mark Caldwell's father.
"One of the twins would cry at the top of his lungs until the other woke up. Then they would start laughing, and the room would be full of the giddy laughter of two boys."
The nephew said his earliest memory of his uncle was when the elder Caldwell came for a visit when he, the nephew, was 6 or 7 years old.
"I walked into the kitchen and saw my father. I looked to the man next to him, and I saw my father. I ran out crying."
Raised and ordained in the Methodist Church, young Caldwell said he knew of his uncle's love of his Moravian congregation because he talked about the congregation constantly.
"He always told stories with a great deal of heart, and maybe a little embellishment."
Despite being Methodist, the nephew told the audience that he carries the Moravian values. "I'm mindful of the faith we share - not just as the family of Caldwell, but the family of Christ."
Ashley Caldwell said of her father that "he left nothing undone-he cared, he loved; he was joyful, peaceful, giving, kind, compassionate."
Following his example, she challenged those in attendance to use their energy to help each other.
"We have been called to love and serve," she said. "Can we go out of here today and lift each other out of our grief?"