Saturday, November 17, 2007
Yes, the holidays really are upon us!
If there is anyone out there who is serving, and would like to be on my Holiday Card list, please send me your APO address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in Faith,
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Veteran's day this year is on a Sunday, and this is one of those days in which many congregations ask military and veteran UU's to participate in the worship service. I invite any of you who are participating in a service this Sunday to post here how you are participating. Perhaps it is a reading, a poem, a reflection on your own service. Perhaps some of you are preaching full sermons. (In the case of a sermon or long reading, it would be better if you could provide a link.)
Here is a link to the sermon and service that I am presenting this morning at the Unitarian Church of Evanston. http://celestiallands.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=150
Whether you are participating in a service or not, know you are in my thoughts, and I say, quietly and with reverence... thank you.
Yours in Faith,
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I'm just finishing up my 2nd month here in Iraq. I'm down in the southern portion of the country, Basra Province, which fortunately has been (comparatively) quiet. As a result, I've got a lot of down time, so I've been trying to do as much reading as possible. I've just recently finished Buddhism: A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith & Phillip Novak which I found to be an excellent primer on Buddhism. I'm a member of my congregation's book club, and I'm currently reading on of the club's selections - 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann which is absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in American history. I've also picked up a translation of the Qu'ran which I'm going to start reading as well (a bit at a time I expect, it seems a little daunting).
I'm finding that being a UU on active duty was a bit more challenging than I had expected. I wasn't a UU during the 8 years I spent on active duty, and I think I had forgotten how much the attitudes of most soldiers is at odds with the UU outlook on most social issues. There have been more than a few times that I've found myself biting my tongue on hearing a particularly unpleasant comment on homosexuals or women. On one hand I know I should say something - but on the other hand I have to work and live in close proximity with some of the individuals making the remarks, and I'm reluctant to jeopardize good relations with people whom my life very well may depend on. It's a very awkward position, and I'm honestly not sure how best to deal with it. I love the Army and I am proud of my service and the service of my comrades, but at the same time I am reminded on almost a daily basis on why there are so few UUs (or just "progressives" in general) in the military. (I am perfectly open on my positions regarding the environment however, and I was quickly dubbed the unit "tree-hugger" which I consider to be something of a badge of honor.)
I'm curious on how UU Chaplains address the issues of homophobia and sexism in the military - or if they even do address them. Both in many ways are endemic in military culture (especially the former) and while officially they are not tolerated, everyone knows how most people feel about the subjects. I think sexism is much less of a problem than in the past, and has become more "underground", but few people even attempt to hide their homophobia - and given the fact that homosexuals are not allowed to serve openly, there really is no-one to complain and file charges of harassment or discrimination. Are social justice issues things that can be addressed in a UU Chaplains sermon? Or are they too "political" for a Chaplain?
Does anyone know if there are any UU Chaplains deployed over here currently?
SGT Adrian Gunn
Camp Bucca, Iraq
P.S. I've attached a photo of my team and I - I'm the short bald guy in the middle!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Well my turn has finally arrived - I've been notified that I am being activated and will be deploying to Iraq this summer with my unit's sister battalion as a "filler" (along with several other soldiers from my company). The timing is a bit lousy, as I was notified of the deployment just after starting the police academy, but I suppose the call of duty waits for no-one. I would love to be able to keep you all updated here on my deployment, but with the new blogging restrictions in place I'm not sure that will be possible (hopefully I'm not violating the policy as we speak).
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I am so honored to share this with you, and pray to my God that She hold all Veterans in Her hands this day. Those in harms way today, those wounded inside and out, and those who never did make it home.
Blessed Be, Blessed Be, and Blessed Be Again
Hat tip to Joel Monka
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Workshop time: Saturday 10:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Workshop title: #4023 Military and UUism: Respecting Inherent Worth?
Sponsored by: UUA Staff
Description: Congregations struggle to understand how to support military members and their families. Often times, our attitudes and/or behaviors inadvertently say to them, "You are not welcome." Why so? What can we do differently? We explore this reality, recent survey data on UU attitudes and real-lived experiences of UU military families.
Workshop leaders: Rev. Cynthia Kane, Dr. Vince Patton, Rev. Lisa Presley, and Rev. Beth Miller
For more information on General Assembly, Please visit the following link
Monday, May 21, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Sure glad this wasn't the case when I was in Iraq - I spent hours each day writing for my blog and it was one thing that helped me stay connected with the outside world.
The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say. Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.
The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update. "This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging," said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. "No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has -- it's most honest voice out of the war zone. And it's being silenced."
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
"Pretty! She called me pretty! I am the official tartan of the United States Marine Corps," declared my plaid shirt.
"I'm sure my mother-in-law meant it as a compliment," I said as soothingly as possible. "
"All of the other shirts in the closet will laugh at me after this," he bellowed.
"They will not. Why that chiffon scarf will forever be in your debt for jumping off your hanger and pulling her back up from behind the cedar chest. And that chambray shirt with the embroidered flowers--I think she'd like to hang next to you. That is, after your bath. I mean wash."
"OK, but hang me out on the line to dry."
"It's below freezing, I said.
"All to the good. I can take it."
This is just a rough sketch of the possibilities that can be used in discussing differences in social roles with children.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I'm going to try to set up a collection within my congregation to send care packages to a reserve unit from our state (the 399th Combat Support Hospital). I found the unit on www.anysoldier.com, which is a great website to check out, if you haven't seen it. Has anyone else done something similar with their congregations?
I was poking around the UUA website, and came across the section on the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy. Curious, I looked around for any military related issues. I was pleased to find a section entitled " Welcoming Veterans and Military Families in Our Congregations and Community", though I was a bit non-plussed at it's location - at the very bottom of the "Occupation of Iraq" Issues page. Obviously not as important as say "America Says NO!" or "Iraq for Sale" or a link to a website for the short film "The Ground Truth" an anti-war documentary that focuses on a small group of soldiers who after serving in Iraq became anti-war activists.
What I found a bit more disturbing was in the Links section.
Under the section "Military Spending and Disarmament" (Sets the tone) there were links for various anti-war/anti-military organizations such as the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (www.nwtrcc.org) which entourages activists to evade paying portions of thier income tax as a means of protesting war. Oh, and it also refers to the military as a "bigoted" institution and goes on to say "The military is, bar none, the most homophobic institution in our culture. Yet for all its sexism, heterosexism, racism and persecution of sexual minorities at home AND overseas, the military continues to be funded at enormous levels while programs everybody needs - health care, housing, food, environmental protection and education - continue to be gutted. More continues to be spent on the military each month than has been spent by the U.S. in the entire history of AIDS research. Killing, it seems, is far more important than saving lives." Oh and it also says "Over 50% of federal tax dollars go to fund one of the most misogynist and destructive forces in our society: the military."
Now, I realize that simply because this organization is in the links section of the UUA website does not necessarily imply that the UUA in anyway endorses or agrees with any of the positions taken by this organization, but it does seem to indicate that somebody within the UUA thinks highly enough of it to put the link up.
Several other websites listed that are also anti-military (as opposed to simply being anti-Iraq war) and focus on opposing military recruitment, selective service, and ROTC.
While I certainly respect the opinions of those Unitarian-Universalists who are pacifists, I am bit chagrined that it seems to be the position of the UUA (perhaps unofficially) to only support one, rather extreme, viewpoint on the subject.
P.S. Oh and when you google "UUA military" the first thing that comes up is a section on the UUA website about conscientious objection. This blog is third.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I got a large coffee mug and a button. I wanted to get more but funds are short as of right now. The coffee mug now proudly rests on my desk at work. Several people have asked about it and expressed delight in finding out its meaning.
The button I wore on my lapel today at church. Proudly displayed above my name tag. I didn't get any questions of comments about it. That may be because my name tag itself holds various items. Blue background representing the fact that I am a board member, a lapel pin in red and gold from The Church of the Larger Fellowship, and an orange ribbon and golden safety pin that represents a promise I keeping for myself this year.
Still, next Sunday, if people do not ask about it I think I might start pointing out. "See my new UUMM button?"
Also check this post out from Cee Jay. She is a fellow congregant of mine, and a good friend. Great advise on how to really, actually, support our troops.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
ET1(SW/AW) Lou Portella, USN Active
On shore duty at Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic / Surface Nuclear Propulsion Administration code N92V /
Unitarian Church of Norfolk (UCN), Thomas Jefferson District
Founder and co-chairperson of UUniforms, UCN's military support group
Welcome Lou to UU's in the Military!
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I have been intending to do this for awhile, and this morning I had a choice...either read William Ellery Channing's "Unitarian Christianity" for class tomorrow (I'll do it tonight) or actually do a project that is kinda fun for me...
So, I opted for the "fun" project this morning. Now, fun is a relative term... But you will see what I mean.
Eric David Carlson, a fellow student here at the Meadville Lombard Theological School, created a logo for the UU Military Ministries awhile back, on the promise that one day I would send him a coffee cup with that logo on it. Lou Portella sent me the wondeful logo that the UUniforms project in Norfolk VA had created... and I decided the time was right to make some UU Military Ministries Gear available!
Here is the link: http://www.cafepress.com/uumm
Now, it is done through CafePress, and so I could have added a markup on the gear... but no... not yet, anway. We may in the future do so to help fund some UUMM projects and the like, but for right now, all of this is as low in price as I can make it.
So, check it out and show up on Sunday morning for Coffee Hour with a UU Military coffee cup, or wear a UU Miliary baseball cap at General Assembly!
Oh, and Eric... I will get the coffee cup sent to you soon, I promise! As soon as mine gets here!
Yours in Faith,
2LT, USAR Chaplaincy Candidate
Student, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Monday, February 05, 2007
I was very excited to discover this blog - as far as I can tell I'm the only serviceman in my congregation so I really don't have anyone to discuss my experiences with. My wife and I have been members of our congregation for 14 months now and we are both very happy there. I've been sort of lost spiritually for several years after realizing that my agnosticism was not particularly fulfilling, and I've really found a home in UU. I was a bit apprehensive about how well I would fit in the congregation, knowing in advance that most UUs tend to be very liberal and have a strong anti-war stance. I don't consider myself a liberal in the modern understanding, but more of a classical liberal. I'm definitely a social libertarian, so many of the social justice activities of the UU dovetail nicely with my beliefs, but as a lifelong soldier (and infantryman too boot) I can hardly describe myself as a pacifist or anti-war. For the most part my congregation has been very welcoming, and usually the only response I get when I say I'm in the military is an expression of concern for my safety if I was deployed. What troubles me a bit is that I hear frequent denunciations of "militarism" and "warmongering" from both the pulpit and members of the congregation. Nothing seemingly directed towards me (and I get along quite famously with our minister) - but it still makes me a touch uncomfortable. Both the words militarism and warmongering are obviously pejorative, and I'm not 100% exactly what is meant by them - are they denunciations of an extreme, unnecessary use of military force - or the military and the use of force in general? I suppose I could simply ask my minister but frankly I feel a bit uncomfortable raising the issue directly - I certainly don't want to hurt anyones feelings of insult anyone by seeming to make accusations. Has anyone else felt this sort of tension? Am I overreacting (which I suspect I might be)?
I'm an Army veteran and member of the Massachusetts Army NationalGuard, and a Unitarian-Universalist. My wife and I have been membersof the First United Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts for thepast 14 months, and I'm interested in joining your blog.
SGT Adrian Gunn
A TRP 1-182 CAV SQD
Friday, February 02, 2007
My name is James White and I am a UU stations at Ft. Hood, TX. My wife and I got to the UU Church in Waco. I am in the process of becoming a chaplain and would like to join your blog.
Welcome to the Blog!
Monday, January 29, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I am happy to announce a sister-blog to this one, one that can hopefully become a public face for our efforts to conduct ministry both within the military, and to military affiliated members of our congregations.
The new website can be found at http://uumm.blogspot.com/
Our goal with this site is to create a space where our UU Military Chaplains can have a place to make announcements, to share information, and to connect with the UUA at large on military issues. It also can serve as a space for information sharing for the nacent "UUA Committee on Military Ministry" that is being contemplated by an ongoing review of UU Military Chaplaincy endorsement and support. This site can also be a centralized webpresence for connection to UU Military Ministry projects such as the UUniforms project at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk, and the Great Lakes Ministry Project here in Chicago.
I have invited as contributors to the site all currrent and former serving UU Military Chaplains (that I know of), Chaplaincy Candidates (that's easy, its just me as far as I know right now) and representatives of all of the current UU projects of military outreach and ministry.
I decided to base this site in a blog so that multiple people could post articles and information to it without the need for an intermediary. This will help prevent the kind of problems that have occurred in the past with the last time a UU Military Ministry website was set up (Eric Johnson, if you read this, please contact me, I've been trying to reach you for about 18 months). This way there is no need to go through a difficult transfer of the site on a regular basis, and all any contributor needs to put information on the site is an internet connection.
So, if you are involved in a Military Ministry or outreach effort, and you have not received an invite from me, then please send an email to email@example.com . I would love to hear about your efforts, and possibly get an article about them on the site. And if you are a UU Military Chaplain or Chaplaincy Candidate and have not recieved an invite, then by all means please contact us. We are still in the process of making those connections.
Yours in Faith,
2LT, USAR Chaplaincy Candidate
Student, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Monday, January 15, 2007
Recently, Blogger moved all their membership accounts to Google, and that left us with a password problem that would not allow us to add any new members to the UU's in the Military Blog. We now have that fixed, and I would like to welcome the following new Bloggers. Here is their information...
Commander Randy Carol Balano, USNR
I started my military service in 1977, joining the Marine Corps Reserve right after high school. I transferred to the Navy Reserve in 1983, and earned a commission as an intelligence officer in 1987. I have served on active duty in Europe and did a two year tour as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy. In addition to my reserve career, I am also a civilian employee of the Department of the Navy. My husband John is also a Navy veteran. We are both active members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, MD. Many members of our congregation have a connection with the military, either
having served themselves or having relatives who have served. I have had discussions with other members of our congregation about organizing some kind of a support program for military UUs and their
families, and perhaps extending it beyond the local congregation to the wider community. We started talking about this more than a year ago, but the timing was always problematic for one reason or another.
We hope to start planning and organizing in earnest after the holidays. I would welcome any ideas from other people who have or are trying to develop a program within their congregations.
Private Ethan Osborne, USMC
Hello my name is Ethan Osborne. I am a member of St. Johns Unitarian Universalist Church and consider myself a gnostic pantheist and am a member of CUUPs. I am leaving for Paris Island in feburary and wanted to be connected to unitarians in the Military.
And someone I know when he came to visit Meadville, Andrew Mertz
Andrew Mertz, Army National Guard vet, son of Vietnam vet, grandson of WWII vet, all UUs. I work for the UU Church of Arlington, Virginia. I am applying to Meadville-Lombard Theological School this winter.
I met David Pyle at Meadville in October. He turned me onto this blog spot, and the "Founding the UU Military Fellowship" document. I have finally been able to sit down and read all of it. I was curious about where "we" are in the process it describes? I was not able to attend the 2005 GA discussion, but was wondering if the working group has taken any action beyond what I see on this blog and in the document?
I am keenly aware that our church has an undercurrent of "Defense" personnel. The National Guard Headquarters and Foreign Service Institute are literally across the street. Ft Myer 1.6 miles away, Pentagon 2.7 miles. Several of our members work for the DoD. I don't hesitate to say the majority of our congregation works for or is retired from the federal government or related contractors [DoD, State, EPA, CIA, Justice, Social Security Admin, Labor, Health and Human Services, etc]. The same is true for many of the congregations in the greater Washington area.
I often get the feeling that we just don't talk about that stuff. Obviously some of them can't like CIA and NSA employees, but that's not why. There is no out right contempt, but there is no support either.
As I said the National Guard Headquarters is literally across the street and we have a sign posted "no national guard parking." I chuckled when I first visited the church 2.5 years ago for the job interview. See, being in the Virginia Army National Guard at the time my car had NG license plates, and still does. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone left a note under my wiper, or told the office there was "another Guardsman parking in our lot."
A few days ago it happened. A church member gave a note to the church office that the same car with guard plates has been parking in our lot for the entire week "in blatant disregard of our policy." Obviously this member thought I was working for the NG across the street and was parking here because of a lack of spaces, which is somewhat common. Apparently not noticing the fact that I have been parking in the church parking lot 6 days a week for the past 2 years. I even have our famous blue "Uncommon Denomination" bumper sticker, and UUSC decal. Anyway, I chuckled again when I heard the news. Our facility manager told the member it was an employee and was OK. But I just can't stop thinking about the motivations behind this member who was blind to the obvious.
USAF Civil Engineer
Member of Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists (although I will start a 10 month stint at Ft. Leavenworth KS (no, not like that) for Command and General Staff College, on 16 Jan 07)). Hoping to attend and volunteer with the All Souls Church in Kansas City, KS.
We welcome you all, finally, to the UU"s in the Military Blog!
2LT, USAR Chaplancy Candidate
Student, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Friday, January 05, 2007
The drive by the Christian right to take control of military chaplaincies, which now sees radical Christians holding roughly 50 percent of chaplaincy appointments in the armed services and service academies, is part of a much larger effort to politicize the military and law enforcement. This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state. A successful politicization of the military would signal the end of our democracy.
Read the rest of the article here.