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Essay

Farewell, 2012, and farewell, Dr. Arthur Caliandro

By December 31, 2012 3 Comments
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I was musing over some vintage images of Father Time and Baby New Year when I saw on Facebook (source of breaking news, for better or worse) that Dr. Arthur Caliandro, senior minister emeritus of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, has died. My thoughts turned to the ecclesiastical passing of time, and the handoff of leadership from one generation to the next. I felt it would be fitting to close out the year with a nod to Dr. Caliandro and the legacy his ministry leaves. I didn’t know him personally, but I know he was beloved by many; I trust that others who did know him will share memories and tributes in comments here and elsewhere. I hope that the confluence of his passing and the passing of one year to the next might give us occasion to reflect on the sweep of history in which God has seen fit to bless the the ministry of the body of Christ in New Amsterdam/New York, and on the sweep of time in which each of us lives our sacred journey.

For 42 years Arthur Caliandro served as a minister at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, succeeding Norman Vincent Peale as senior minister in 1985; he retired in 2009 Many of his sermons and reflections can be found at his blog and on Marble’s website.

During Caliandro’s tenure, women came into leadership roles and the church’s media ministry expanded to reach millions. His time at Marble was a fruitful chapter in the church’s history, a history which dates back to 1628. The oldest congregation of the collegiate churches in New York, Marble is also the oldest congregation in the Reformed Church in America, turning 385 years old in 2013. It’s mind-boggling to think of how much New York has changed in that span of time, and amazing to think of how the gospel has been expressed in timely and meaningful ways all throughout.

For God’s servant Arthur and for all of us, a prayer from the Book of Common Worship:

O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging,
and a holy rest, and peace at the last;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

In closing, here are some excerpts from Dr. Caliandro’s January 2009 sermon, “Always Walk Towards the Light.” May Christ’s light, so brightly reflected in people like Arthur Caliandro, beckon us forward into another new year.

“…You and I know very well that on life’s journey—and I believe life is a journey—there is an overwhelming abundance of darkness. There are dark moments when it seems as if a black shroud is put over your head and you cannot see anything. It is total, pure, unadulterated darkness. There are dark days when we see no light. The sun is not coming through, and we wonder will we ever see light again.

And then there are the dark periods, extended periods of depression, discouragement, disillusionment. Those of us who have gone through periods like this often call them ‘the dark night of the soul.’ I wish it on nobody, and if you have experienced it I know you feel the same. This darkness can be overwhelming.

Yet there is in this world, and always has been, from the creation of humankind, a light, a light that in the history of the world has never, ever gone out, and I can say with confidence it will never go out. This light always is. Yes, there will be dark days. Discouragement, depression. But the light is there. We have the power to choose to walk toward the light.

Something that always fascinates me when I am walking around the city is how, when I see a sidewalk, or a concrete wall, with a big crack in it, somehow, in some miraculous way, there will be a weed or a wildflower sprouting out. It is a miracle. Somehow a seed blew into that tiny crack, and once it got into earth which could nurture it, and a little bit of moisture was added, the seed began to germinate, looking, reaching for the light. When it found the light it began to grow and flourish, no matter how tiny and cramped the space. Light is life. There is no life without light.

….When I tell you—tell all of us—to walk toward light, let me remind you that you are also a source of light. The more you walk toward the light the brighter the light inside you will be. The thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart talked about this. He said that deep within the soul of every person is a sanctuary, a quiet place, a place of tranquility, a place where there is the light. It is the Christ-light. Quakers have done the best job in describing this light, because they live and worship and gather by the inner light of the Christ.

To experience our Christ-light we have to take some time. We have to go into that inner room and close the door to pray, to sense the light of Christ that is in us, and as time goes on and we nurture and give room for this light, we become different people. We have insight, the insight of the Christ.

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world,’ and I believe that He is. ‘Anybody who follows me will always walk in the light and have no darkness.’ Let light guide your footsteps, the light that never goes out.”

3 Comments

  • Ed Bruinsma says:

    A nice way to start the new year with a memory of one who has gone before us. We must always look for the light and need to be reminded that it is always there

  • Jeffrey D Forchelli says:

    The relationship between the Caliandros and the Forchellis dates back to St Pauls Methodist Church is Astoria and has spanned at least 3 generations. Words are totally inadequate to express the respect and admiration all of my family had for the Caliandros and for Arthur. He was a person who changed people's lives and their ability to deal with the world and its many problems. After he left Marble I kept in touch with Arthur, and last spoke to him a few weeks ago. We gave each other encouragement with our physical issues. He was a positive force until the end.

    He will be missed .

    Jeff Forchelli

  • Ron says:

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with those of us who have had only a tiny glimpse of the greater academic/theological world in which Arthur Caliandro played such an important role. It is incredibly inspiring to learn about his life and world and to read this insightful piece on the Light.

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