Saturday, January 20, 2007

Unitarian Universalist Military Ministries

Hello everyone,

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

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 . 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,

David Pyle
2LT, USAR Chaplaincy Candidate
Student, Meadville Lombard Theological School


Vince Patton said...


In reading your entry, "What does it mean to be a UU who serves in the military?", brings to mind of a sermon I had done before my congregation (Mt Vernon Unitarian Church, Alexandria, VA) in May of last year. I'd like to share it with you and others:

Dr. Vince Patton

Duty, Courage, Honor, Service, Commitment, Respect and Integrity. These words collectively make up the composite definition of the five military services core values. The core values of an organization are those attributes we hold that form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. It is loosely defined as a ‘condition of employment,’ yet at the same time can also be interpreted as elements of guiding principles in fostering a work ethic as well as a moral compass. These words represent the character of a military servicemember. It also closely aligns with the words of our UU Guiding Principles.

In 1972, I had the privilege of joining our nation’s fifth armed service, the U. S. Coast Guard. Although most people, myself included at the time, did not know that the Coast Guard is indeed a military service – it had the uniqueness of being the only service that did not fall under the Department of Defense. This is due to its special authority to make searches, seizures and arrests within our nation’s 93 million square miles of territorial waters.

While the Coast Guard principally operated as a peacetime service performing such humanitarian missions as search and rescue, disaster response, environmental protection, maritime safety and law enforcement, under the Department of Transportation at the time I joined in 1972, and is now part of the Department of Homeland Security. The service nonetheless fulfilled its military readiness responsibilities operating as a component under the Navy in every major war since 1790. Even today, harbor security in the Iraq’s lone port, Umm Qasar is patrolled by 350 Coastguardsmen.

Although during my 30 year career from 1972 to 2002 did not involve me serving directly in a war zone, nonetheless, I fulfilled my military duties as a qualified law enforcement boarding officer, enforcing the United Nation imposed maritime fisheries sanctions to then Communist-block countries in the 70’s and 80’s, to migrant interdiction in the Caribbean waters in the late 80s, and well into the 90’s.

It was to me, indeed a noble cause to serve my country, and be in a service that closely reflected the compassioned definition of my faith as a UU and its guiding principles. In the words of the Greek philosopher, Epictetus: “You are a citizen of the world and a part of it.” I am often reminded of this from a poster that hangs in my office, of an actual photograph I had taken with one of those disposable cameras in 1994 during my deployment to Haiti during the military operation “Support Democracy,” bringing that tiny troubled nation to sovereignty. The picture shows a young Coastguardsman preciously holding a little Haitian baby while bringing dozens of that stricken country citizens who were fleeing in makeshift rafts, oversized boats, and anything that floated, as they attempted their dangerous journey to America. [show the picture]

As a fourth generation UU, I have followed in the footsteps of my father, as well as my two brothers, in wearing the uniform in service to our nation. Each of them served in different military services, my father having served in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam in the Army, and my two brothers, both Vietnam veterans Navy and Marine Corps respectively. While they too served with distinction and fulfilled military careers in their own right, at times they, as have I experienced great difficulties of celebrating our faith in an environment that seemed to often favor a fundamentalist way of life as a connection to the service’s core values.

But we served honorably, proud and with our own compassion of our faith in spite of it. We each found how our service to our country also translated to service to humanity. Keeping close with those you serve with, providing guidance, leadership, and sharing of compassion and even spirituality. Military service became a living opportunity for us to learn from others, and expand our knowledge of cultural understanding with our service colleagues, as well as those we served in foreign lands.

Because my father and brothers have served during periods of war, they have witnessed visually of death and destruction up close, and often times personal. Each of them wore the blood of a fellow servicemember felled by an enemy bullet. These are indeed devastating memories that has remained with them for the rest of their lives.

As a child, I recall how my first understanding of the true meaning of Memorial Day, where it is necessary to take time out of the day to devote to reflection of the lives of millions who had served and laid their lives on the line in defense of this country. My father made it clear to each of my siblings that Memorial Day is not a day of celebration, for there are scores of men and women who rest peacefully in the gardens of stone, here in this country and around the world and the oceans deep. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen, who answered the call to service, some voluntarily, many reluctantly. Serve they did, and in the name of selfless service they died.

On Memorial Day, it is a time to put aside any personal and political grievances on the discussion of war, likes or dislikes of elected leaders, or debating views of issues on national security. It is a time to devote some periods of reflection for those who served and lost their lives in the service to our country. It is a time to closely examine within ourselves just how precious life really is. It is a time to remind ourselves that our chosen faith defines specifically the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. Blessed be.

Vince Patton,Ed.D.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Retired

Greg said...

David, great work - thanks so much for keeping the fire going and building it higher!

Vince, can you put this sermon up as a regular post? I think more people will see it there rather than buried in the comments.

Robin Edgar said...

Permission to ask. . .

Whatever happened to U*U Navy Chaplain CCPO Eric Johnson, ENS USNR?

Robin Edgar said...

Permission to ask. . .

Sexual orientation aside. Is this some kind of those don't ask don't tell situations?

You certainly have my permission to answer.

Adios my friends, ;-)

Robin Edgar

Robin Edgar said...

P.S. Even though I am something of an "excommunicated" Unitarian (I never really thought of myself as an UU, or indeed an U*U, having some doubts about Universalist theology) I am none-the-less quite voluntarily associated with the military. ;-)