Photo by Maile Bradfield/United Methodist News Service
The Rev. Gil Caldwell, an African-American clergyman who is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, and who was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will address the university community at three separate events on Monday, Jan. 19, during Shenandoah’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The highlight of the day is a 5 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Service of Remembrance, which is free and open to the public.
Caldwell, a retired United Methodist Church minister, will share the short documentary “From Selma to Stonewall” at 11 a.m. in the Brandt Student Center, Room 123 (Borden Student Associations Center). A conversation will follow the screening. The screening and conversation are free and open to the public.
An MLK Day Q&A Lunch with Caldwell begins at noon in the Brandt Student Center Food Court, and is open to the Shenandoah University community.
At 5 p.m., Caldwell will serve as a guest speaker during a worship service in honor of Dr. King, to be held in Armstrong Concert Hall. The Martin Luther King Jr. Service of Remembrance is free and open to the public, and a live stream can be accessed here.
Shenandoah University students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to meet Caldwell and discuss important issues and topics immediately following the worship service, with discussion over dinner to occur in Allen Dining Hall.
Caldwell participated in the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957, the March on Washington in 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, and the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. In a recent article for the United Methodist News Service (UMNS), he reviewed the Oscar-nominated movie “Selma” and noted that seeing the newly released historical drama “brought back my personal memories of the Selma to Montgomery March.”
He blogs regularly for the Reconciling Ministries Network and is the co-founder of Truth in Progress, a multimedia project dealing with issues of race, sexual orientation and religion. According to its website, Truth in Progress takes “a special look at the similar yet different experiences and histories of the Black Civil Rights and LGBT Rights Movements.”
Caldwell has been arrested and detained four times for civil disobedience: while protesting the discriminatory employment practices of A&P supermarkets in 1971; while protesting apartheid outside the South African Embassy in D.C., in 1985; and twice while protesting the anti-gay language and legislation of his denomination – the United Methodist Church – in 2000.
Joining Caldwell during his visit to Shenandoah is his son Dale, who serves as head of school and CEO of the Village Charter School in Trenton, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“Historically, fathers have been concerned about how they pass to their sons and daughters a baton that represents the learnings and experiences of one generation to a new generation,” said Rev. Caldwell. “This has been of significant interest as those who were veterans of the Civil Rights Movement shared their experiences with their children.”
The younger Caldwell has written extensively and led seminars on Intelligent Influence. He contends that “only as we explore what were the influences in our lives and the lives of others that have shaped how we think and act, will we achieve ‘The Beloved Community’ of which Martin Luther King spoke.” He also believes that the emphasis of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is essential to today’s economic woes in urban areas and beyond.
The Rev. Caldwell has served as senior pastor of United Methodist churches in Boston, Massachusetts; Brooklyn and Harlem, New York; Chester, Pennsylvania; and Denver, Colorado. Caldwell was also executive director of the Ministerial Interfaith Association of Harlem, campus minister for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an adjunct faculty member for Harvard Divinity School, University of Massachusetts Amherst and New York Theological Seminary.
Caldwell earned degrees from North Carolina A&T State University and the Boston University School of Theology. He also pursued further graduate study at Harvard Divinity School.
He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the African American Methodist Heritage Center board of directors, National Committee of Black Churchmen, and United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, and is one of the founders of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.
His writings have appeared in The Christian Century magazine, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Huffington Post, The Denver Post, The Coaster, The Asbury Park Press, The Press of Atlantic City and The Trenton Times. He has authored four books and written numerous chapters in other books.
Caldwell’s honors include an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Dakota Wesleyan University; induction into the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel’s “Board of Preachers, Board of Sponsors, and Collegium of Scholars” at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia; and a Distinguished Alumni award from the Boston University School of Theology. He is also the inaugural recipient of the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Justice Ministry Award from the Church Within A Church Movement for his lifelong witness on racial, gender, sexual orientation, economic and peace issues.
He has been married to Grace Dungee Caldwell for 57 years, and has two sons, Dale and Paul, and one granddaughter, Ashley.