The Rev. Homer “Jerry” A. Goddard III died on October 15, 2017 at the age of 87.
Jerry was born on October 29, 1929 in Cincinnati, OH to parents Jeannette and Homer A. Goddard Jr., and grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated in 1952 from Denison University with a Bachelor of Arts in economics, and in the following year he married his beloved wife Margaret “Peg” Goddard. After serving in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer, Jerry worked for the next 17 years as a sales engineer for the Aluminum Company of America. He became active at Pennsylvania’s Main Line Unitarian Church—serving as the congregation’s board president for two years—and began discerning a call toward the ministry. He and Peg moved their three children across the country so that Jerry could attend Berkeley, CA’s Starr King School for the Ministry, where Jerry earned his Master of Divinity in 1975.
Rev. Goddard was ordained on January 9, 1976 by the First Parish of Sudbury, MA, where he served as minister until 1985; during this ministry he discovered an ancestral connection to the early-1700s minister of First Parish, Israel Loring. Jerry was then called to serve the UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA for five years. In 1990 Rev. Goddard was called to the UU Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, NY. He ministered in Poughkeepsie until his retirement in 1996, at which time the congregation honored him as their Minister Emeritus. Finally, Jerry carried out interim ministries in New Zealand, England, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Rev. Goddard also performed an array of service to the denomination. He sat on the board of Starr King School for the Ministry from 1973 to 1974, and was Alumni President from 1981 to 1982. Rev. Goddard served on the board of the UUA’s Joseph Priestly district from 1968 to 1972. He also held leadership positions within two chapters of the UU Ministers’ Association: board member and treasurer for Massachusetts Bay from 1976 to 1980, then board member and later president of Connecticut Valley (now part of the Clara Barton chapter) from 1986 to 1990. Rev. Goddard also chaired UU Ministers’ Day for the 1978 General Assembly in Boston. And he later served as a trainer for the Metro NY district’s professional sexual misconduct awareness workshops.
Throughout his life, Jerry was fiercely devoted to the causes of human rights and social justice. In the late 1960s he founded the drug counseling center Daemion House outside Philadelphia. He joined the March on Washington in 1963. Rev. Goddard was also an organizing member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and served on the boards of Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts and in Northern New England. In 1988 Rev. Goddard served as a plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Kendrick v. Bowen, arguing against the government’s biased support for anti-abortion, pro-abstinence religious denominations. He also served on the National Steering Committee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State from 1987 to 1990. Finally, Jerry was an activist for the American Civil Liberties Union since 1963, and joined its board in 2005.
In his spare time, Jerry loved skiing—both downhill and cross-country—as well as jogging, canoeing, and snorkeling. He also greatly enjoyed reading, perusing used bookstores, and collecting old religious books. Jerry was a scholar of western religions and a lecturer on Islam and Judaism. Later in life he offered lessons at the University of New Hampshire on local history and plate tectonics, and worked with his local immigrant community as an ESL teacher. He deeply loved traveling the country and the world with his family, most especially with “the love of his life” Peg; the two companions backpacked across the Middle East in their sixties and explored Southeast Asia in their seventies.
Reflecting on his denomination in 1990, Rev. Goddard shared this lovely vision:
I believe the liberal church is a community for the whole person. It is a place where we can find fellowship and friends, ethical values and inspiration; a place where we can find and give love and caring. It is a place where we can share ideas and be a part of the eternal quest for “truth.” … The liberal church also must be a witness in the community and the world for justice, peace, love and compassion. It must inspire people to live and work for a world in which life can be lived with dignity in freedom and without injustice everywhere.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years Margaret Goddard; children Linda Goddard (Spencer Amesbury), Kirk Goddard (Kathy), and Jan Goddard-Taylor (Mark Taylor); and grandchildren Will Amesbury, Elena Goddard-Amesbury, Lauren Withers, Eliza Goddard, and Isabella Goddard-Taylor.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Civil Liberties Unionand to Planned Parenthood.
A memorial service will take place at 11am on Saturday, November 18 at First Parish in Concord, 20 Lexington Rd, Concord, MA 01742, following which guests are invited to gather with the family in the Parish Hall.
Notes of condolence can be sent to Peggy Goddard at 100 Russet Ct Apt 305, Lincoln, MA 01773.