Arnold Isidore Thomas, M.Div., D.Min. | Pastor | Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Rev. Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas was inspired to become a pastor after watching his father, LeRoy Chadwick Thomas, who was a conservative pastor, and by the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While he differed in views from his father, he always respected how he tried to answer his questions theologically, spirituality and in his best ways through the Bible. For this reason, when he was ordained as a minister, Dr. Thomas chose his father to be his keynote speaker. Throughout his studies, he was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and decided to embody and exemplify his work as a religious leader. He was also motivated by Letty Russel, his professor and advisor at Yale Divinity University. She was often referred to as the “founder of feminist theology,” but in his life, he credits her as opening his mind to better understanding God, humanity, and the human relationship to the world. He appreciates her influence upon his life in ministry. His mother, Lorene Marjorie Ware Thomas, was an important influence in his growing years also. She was an elementary school teacher and was the one who influenced his love of reading, writing, and literature.

In his academic pursuits, Rev. Thomas first earned a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and philosophy from Hiram College in 1976. He continued at Yale University Divinity School to receive an M.Div. in 1980 and later earned a Doctorate in Ministry from Hartford Seminary, now known as Hartford International University for Religion and Peace. He has been a pastor with the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Jericho, Vermont since 2017, and has also served pastorates at The Riverside Church in New York, the Wilton Congregational Church in Connecticut, the First Congregational Church in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the First congregational Church in Little Rock, Arkansas–now known as Faith United Church of Christ–and was chaplain and member of the faculty of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Coming full circle to his love and appreciation for the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Thomas received a Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker Award in 1998. He is also the recipient of the Wolcott Calkins Award for Excellence in Preaching, a Public Speaking Award from Yale, and several humorous and dramatic acting awards.

Rev. Dr. Thomas came to Vermont as the executive minister for the United Church of Christ in the state, commonly referred to as the Congregational churches, and served as the first African American denomination leader in the state. He came in 1998, when Vermont was considering civil unions, same-sex marriage, and at the same time, his denomination was discussing whether it should welcome and affirm people of different sexual orientations. In that capacity, he helped the churches of the state move toward becoming what is known as an “open and affirming conference,” welcoming people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He considers that an important step.

In every phase of his ministry, there have been important issues that he had to address. In 1999, he was featured in the African American Jubilee Edition of the Bible. Another career highlight was when Rev. Thomas moved to Williamstown, MA, another college town, where he helped several people to organize a Northern Berkshire Human Rights Committee that mainly addressed issues related to human rights in Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts. The organizers of that group in different years were acknowledged by the community as peacemakers.

Rev. Dr. Thomas considers his philanthropic work to be some of the most important work of all his endeavors. He has initiated programs, such as Food for Thought, co-sponsored by Mount Mansfield Union High School in Jericho, the Racism in America Forum, co-sponsored by the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and Mount Mansfield Community Television, the Criminal Justice Ministry of Arkansas, the Center for the Study of Science and Religion with The Riverside Church and Columbia University, and Toastmasters of Harlem.

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