Friday, August 07, 2009

New Blog by Former Naval Officer and Current UU

Hello everyone who reads this blog. Nearly a year ago, I retired from the Navy. During this time (actually beginning some time before retirement) I have been doing a lot of thinking and studying about what it means to be a UU, what it meant to be a serving officer, and what my beliefs really are. As reflected in a number of writings and addresses I have given to my own Congregation and others, I've come to some surprising (for me) conclusions. I have posted these writings on my own blog. If you are interested, you can find the blog at:

The title of the blog is "Living the Prophetic Imperative" inspired by Rev. Richard Gilbert's book, "The Prophetic Imperative: Social Gospel in Theory and Practice". This book has been a guide for me. Even if you don't read my stuff, I really recommend you read this book, which is available through the UUA.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Army Guardsman named 'Chaplain of the Year'

Army Guardsman named 'Chaplain of the Year'

By Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. (7/9/09) - Chaplains have a myriad of reasons for
serving their country, but recognition is usually not one of them.
"Chaplains are often in the position where we love to serve so much, it's
always a surprise to be rewarded for it," said Army Capt. Rebekah
Montgomery, who will receive the "Chaplain of the Year" award from the
Military Chaplains'
Association July 17.
A Unitarian Universalist chaplain serving at both the Army National
Guard Readiness Center, Arlington, Va., and Maryland's 58th Troop Command,
Montgomery, she has been a student of religion since high school.
She found that religion fascinated her. "I was always drawn to how people
negotiate their daily lives with the experience of the spiritual," said
Montgomery, who grew up in Bethesda, Md. "I got so much stimulation out of
understanding other faith traditions and I still do."
After an 18-month tour in Afghanistan, Montgomery found herself back
in Maryland with two jobs. One weekend a month, she is the brigade chaplain
in the 58th TC, a job that she says keeps her grounded in the "M-Day" unit
"With my state, that's where the real nuts-and-bolts mission is,"
she said.
"I feel like I'm staying in touch and serving at the local level."
During the week at the readiness center, she focuses on a broader
mission, advising high-level officials on spiritual issues.
"My position at NGB is sort of an aide-de-camp for a general,"
she said. "You
go places and see things you would never see in an M-Day unit."
At the readiness center, Montgomery has also participated in the
recent Suicide Prevention Stand-Down, making herself available to Soldiers
who need counseling.
"Suicide has been an issue I have seen deployed, in the field, and
on drill weekends," she said. "It's a fact of life, and is something
chaplains are often involved in."
While Montgomery feels she has made a contribution, she said it is
hard to trace. Morale and the number of infractions can be indicators, but
one can't measure exactly something that didn't happen.
"We don't see the direct results, but we trust God is using us in a
profound and positive way," she said. "You can't quantify how many divorces
didn't happen. You can't quantify how many suicides didn't happen."
Her efforts have been noticed though, and Montgomery said she never
forgets the reason she was nominated.
"Just having the opportunity to serve Soldiers is the greatest
mission on earth."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Announcing the new Church of the Larger Fellowship Military Ministry Website!

It is my honor and privilege to invite Military Affiliated Unitarian Universalists (and indeed all Unitarian Universalists) to visit the new Military Ministry Website, sponsored by the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF).

We hope it will become a place for those of us of liberal faith with a connection to the military to build community with one another, to connect with serving Chaplains and Chaplain Candidates, to post resources, and to share our stories. At times, it is hard to be a military member in Unitarian Universalism, just as it is hard to be a Unitarian Universalist in the military. Our hope is to bring those military members and their families whose service keeps them away from our congregations into community with Military Affiliated UUs who find a home in the congregations of our faith.

A Military Affiliated UU is someone who identifies as a Unitarian Universalist who is a military servicemember, a military spouse, a military veteran, a military family-member, a Department of Defense employee, a military contractor, or the friend of any of these who wishes to build community with other Military Affiliated Unitarian Universalists.

The Church of the Larger Fellowship began during World War II, as a way for Unitarian Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to stay connected to their faith while they were serving overseas. Though Unitarian Universalists may disagree on issues of war and peace, our faith supports all of those who serve, who have served, and their families.

We would like to thank the Church of the Larger Fellowship for making this ministry a part of their vision, and we look forward to working with them in the years to come in partnership on this important ministry. Specifically, we would like to thank the Rev. Jane Rzepka, Lorraine Dennis, and Andrea Fiore for their help and support in putting this online presence together.

Come, come whoever you are….

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle
1LT, USAR Chaplain Candidate
MOD Minister, Great Lakes Military Ministry

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is this a "dead blog"

There hasn't been any new posts on here in over six months. Did the military do a purge of all UU's and miss me? Is there a new online forum for military UU's? I've been looking online for a while to see if there is any new activity somewhere but so far nothing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Retiring from Navy and from Congregation Leadership - At Loose Ends

Hello everyone,

I haven't looked at this blog in a while and need to catch up. I am going on separation leave from the Navy in about a week and have also just "retired" from two years as President of my Congregation - so as you can imagine I am doing a bit of soul searching.

As a Congregation President, I focused a lot on church business, fundraising, "growth" (all four kinds), building consensus, and on vision / strategy development. As a result, I kind of lost sight of why I joined a UU congregation in the first place. I was looking for two things - a compassionate community to which I could "come in from the cold" of an increasingly harsh world and also a place in which I could explore my growing awareness of social injustice - to include the injustice of war and social and economic inequality.

Instead, as a church leader, I found myself in what I (only half jokingly) refer to as my "third command". Now that I am done with that, I am reflecting on what I am doing in the UU community. I am wondering where we as a faith community are going with regard to issues of war and peace, and social injustice. I know that the UUA has a peacemaking focus for the next few years but I am wondering what issues we are embracing and how deep is our commitment to them. My contact with our district and with the UUA has been mostly concerning issues of church management, growth, and money. All of the efforts in these areas are important but only if those efforts support accomplishing something greater in the world.

I have been inspired recently by President John F. Kennedy's 1963 American University speech ( as well as by President Jimmy Carter's statement about war: "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children." My hope is that UU's can be at the forefront of realizing the vision these two men have.

So, not so much as "military UU's" but as UU's who happen to be in the military, what are your aspirations for our faith community? What would you like us to achieve and be known for in the next 20 years. I'd really be interested in your thoughts.


Tom Beall

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The ACLU, Prayer, and Annapolis

The American Civil Liberties Union has requested that the US Naval Academy stop it's moment of silence prior to the brigade's noon meal. ACLU considers this a form of mandatory religious practice in violation of midshipman civil rights according to the July 29, 2008 issue of Christian Century weekly newspaper (page 17). To me, the Civil Liberties Union is going too far. Perhaps a moment of silence does make some midshipmen uncomfortable, but an important part of the curriculum at the US service academies is to take students out of their zones of comfort. Standing in respectful silence is a duty an officer of our armed forces must perform at times, and what with the rigor, by design, of academy life standing for a moment of silence might seem to be a vacation.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who's the guy with the beard?

As you might have heard, I recently retired after 20 years in the Marine Corps. I had a unique and very enjoyable retirement ceremony, and would like to share the story with you here.

The typical Marine retirement consists mainly of the retiring officer telling the story of the retiree's military career, saying what a great guy he is, and pinning on a medal. Then the retiree gets to talk, thanking his family, boss, coworkers, etc. Then everyone eats BBQ or chicken wings, and talks about work until it's time to leave.

Being anything but a typical Marine, of course I wanted my ceremony to be different. First of all, no BBQ. I've been to so many retirements where I ate a coleslaw sandwich (or the like), I decided to have my reception catered from a vegetarian restaurant. Second, rather than talk, I wanted to play my guitar and sing. Finally, I wanted my Marine friends to hear about the rest of my life outside the Corps.

So I invited four close friends from my "other lives" - Bull Run UUs, The Shambhala Center of Washington D.C, the Capitol NVC Organizing Team, and the Men's Council of Washington D.C. - to talk after the Colonel had his say. And there was a twist - I asked them to relate how they experience their relationships with me, rather than talk about my activities and accomplishments. My desire here was to paint a picture of a human being as well as a human doing.

It was everything I wished for - Reverend Nancy, Larry, Jeanne, and Duane all spoke from the heart, and I experienced great joy in bringing together so many diverse people in one place. This was really an opportunity to practice integrity - no chance to play any role but "I am" with people from every corner of my life in the room.

Once everyone had spoken, I had little to say. I gave flowers and gifts to my loved ones, spoke my gratitude and appreciation for all who had spoken, and performed an original song in honor of my contractor buddies (now fellow contractors). Then we ate vegetarian food, drank organic juice, and talked about UUism, buddhism, NVC, and men's work until it was time to go home.

Funny thing, all the Marines seemed to leave right away - I guess they missed the BBQ and beer.