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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    ‘Visions and revisions’: Rev. David W. Good leaves social justice legacy

    Rev. David W. Good, senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, delivers a sermon Jan. 22, 2012 at the church where he had been a charismatic leader for 37 years.
    Rev. David W. Good, senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, delivers his sermon during a Sunday-morning service on Jan. 22, 2012 Good stepped down after 37 years at the church.

    Old Lyme ― The Rev. David W. Good loved ellipses.

    “I’ve always said my favorite form of punctuation is the three dots at the end of a statement indicating there’s more to be said,” he once said in an interview.

    The conversation was recorded as part of the Old Lyme Historical Society’s 2010 oral history project. At the time, the senior minister with a self-described “rebellious soul” had two years to go until his retirement from the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme meeting house where he’d end up serving for 37 years.

    One of the features he loved most about the church, he said, was that it had no creed: no single, immutable statement of faith that everyone was required to memorize and believe. Instead, those in the congregation were challenged to create their own creeds ending in three dots rather than a full stop.

    “I don’t think statements of faith should be in concrete,” he said. “I think they should be open ended and subject to visions and revisions.”

    He died on April 2 at the age of 74 from complications of advanced leukemia. He was at home with his wife, Corinne, in Lyme.

    Good in the interview described a ministry influenced by the natural beauty that lured impressionist painters more than a century ago to the spot where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound. And more than that, he credited the “magnetic force” of the people he had met along the way.

    For Good, the quality of life in Old Lyme was something to be celebrated. It was a call to action, too.

    “One of the things that has struck me about the nature of our community is not only the great beauty and the people that are here, but also, as many others have observed, the rather homogenous nature of it,” he said. “I felt that our young people needed to be exposed to what the human family is all about, and needed to be exposed to other races and other cultures.”

    His obituary outlines a life itinerary that linked Good and his fellow travelers with the Lakota people of Green Grass, South Dakota; with those fighting apartheid in Soweto, South Africa; and with Black and white farmers living together at Koinonia Farm in Georgia.

    Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Good’s outreach turned to the Muslim community and the Jewish Federation of Southeastern Connecticut in an effort to counter fear and paranoia. A visit to the Holy Land with Christian, Muslim and Jewish participants led to the creation of the Tree of Life ministry, which he founded.

    Good, in a quote included in his biography on the Tree of Life Educational Fund website, put it this way: “After 9/11 our church intensified its efforts to be in community with those of other faith traditions, which led to my first interfaith journey to Israel and Palestine and engagement on the human rights issues for which our own country is at least partially responsible.”

    ‘All of us human together’

    An article in The Day upon Good’s retirement said the minister emeritus was leaving behind a legacy of powerful, thought-provoking sermons and an insatiable desire to tackle current and long-standing social justice issues head on.

    The Rev. Steven Jungkeit, who became senior minister in 2013, remembers Good passing along a compilation of those sermons as part of a stack of books the younger theologian “might want to think about.”

    “The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh my god, these are really, really good, and I have my work cut out for me,’ ” Jungkeit recounted. “The second thing I thought was ‘Thank God these are really, really good. This is the kind of place I'm comfortable and honored to be able to come as a member of this community.”

    Jungkeit described Good as a guide through some “tricky and sticky situations” over the years that come with navigating the complexities of interfaith relationships as Jungkeit carries on the local church’s focus on Palestine.

    “Especially every time there’s been a flare up of violence in the Middle East, David has been really good about helping us all to understand the importance of reaching out to the Muslim community but also the Jewish community in those moments,” he said.

    The two ministers also shared an interest in art and literature. They found spiritual meaning not just in the Bible, but in poetry and the Bob Dylan concerts they’d attend together whenever the counterculture icon played nearby.

    When Good couldn’t join him at a Dylan concert this past fall in Providence, Jungkeit said he knew things were not well for the man who’d been diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago.

    Good’s decline was difficult to witness, consider, and accept, according to the senior minister.

    “I think what he would say is this was final proof that we’re all of us human together, and no one’s exempt from this kind of suffering,” he said. “He bore it with courage, he bore it with dignity, and he was always, always concerned about others and about how other people were doing, even unto the end.”

    Another legacy

    Good was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1949. He received a bachelor’s degree in literature and philosophy from Purdue University in 1971 before his marriage to Corinne Hogg two years later at St. Peter’s Church in Liverpool, England. It’s the same place where the introduction of Paul McCartney to John Lennon led to the formation of The Beatles.

    Shortly after earning a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School in 1975, he arrived in Old Lyme to inspire others on a spiritual path in southeastern Connecticut and across the seas.

    Another legacy is Cathy Zall, who credits Good with putting her on the trajectory to become an ordained minister. She is widely known throughout the region as the longtime executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.

    Zall said she came to the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme in the 1990s with a lot of questions about the Christian tradition that didn’t quite make sense to her.

    “He was just unbelievably generous with his thought and his time and sharing resources with me,” he said. “He really sort of helped me get another perspective that really just, I don’t know what to say, it just changed my life.”

    Zall is a former deputy commissioner of New York City's Office of Employment Services with an MBA in accounting from New York University.

    In his interview with the Old Lyme Historical Society, Good proudly recalled tapping Zall to lend her accounting expertise to the Koinonia Farm in Georgia on which he served at the time as a board chairman. He pitched it as a job for “the world’s first missionary accountant.”

    She had no idea what it meant to be a missionary accountant, but she agreed anyway. And while helping the nonprofit organization formulate a plan to dig itself out of a “deep financial mess,” she said she became inspired by its late founder, social justice activist Clarence Jordan.

    Habitat for Humanity International has described the farm as “a radical experiment” where everyone was welcomed regardless of race, gender or wealth, and where the first seeds for the international organization were planted.

    “I just sort of got on fire with this idea that we’ve got to make this real. We’ve got to take the spiritual sense and bring it out into the world,” she said. “From there, I decided to try ministry.”

    She came to the church in Old Lyme as an associate minister after she received her master of divinity degree from Yale in 2002. She served until 2007.

    It was a spiritual journey she would not have undertaken if not for Good.

    “He was absolutely instrumental in bringing me down that path,” she said.

    e.regan@theday.com

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