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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Unitarian Universalist Military social network?

While listening to NPR a few weeks ago I heard about where people can create their own social network (think Myspace or Facebook but on a smaller scale). I thought how cool it would be to start a UU Military network. I would start it myself but I'm about to rotate back to sea duty and it's a new construction ship so I really won't have the time to manage a site. Is anyone interested? I was thinking that a "social network" might get some more hits especially among the younger members.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Friendly Footprint...

A proposal for action to aid Iraqi school children, sent to UU's in the Military by Richard Anderson of the Boone NC UU Fellowship:

On May 13th at 6:33 am, my son called me via satellite phone from a small village in Iraq. He was exasperated with the conditions he found on the ground. He described the village his unit was based in as total squalor but his greatest disappointment was the condition of the school. The students had neither pencils nor paper, few books and no games or sports equipment. Our Church, the Boone Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship has taken on the mission to provide school supplies for distribution by the Marines on the ground. As a church, we can buy at a discount and avoid the added expense of sales tax. We can also get uniformity in the supplies, which makes shipping and distribution easier. This is a volunteer run effort with no administrative costs and will not be used to promote or publicize the church. We are merely the vehicle for this assistance. Your contribution is tax-deductible and you will get a statement at the end of the year. Make checks payable to the church. Please help out our bookkeeper by writing “Will’s Kids” or “Friendly Footprint” on the memo line of your check. Send donations to:

Boone Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship
381 E. King St.
Boone, NC 28607

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Problems with UU's in the Military

Hello everyone,

Well, our hosting service did something odd this morning, and completely trashed the customized template that UU's in the Military has had for years. Because of upgrades and changes, I was not able to restore the old template, and had to upgrade the site...

So, we have lost a few elements, such as our blog listing (which we can restore) and our listing of Congregations with UU Military members in them (about which I have questions whether we want to restore).

I think all UU Congregations have Military Affiliated UU's in them, but some dont know it. By keeping such a list, we are implying that only these congregations have military UU's... and that is just not the case.

So, over the next several days I will be changing the template and restoring some of the lost items.

All of our posts are fine, so dont worry about that.

Thanks all!

Yours in Faith,


Fill out the Survey!

Hello All,

Lou Portella (Ret. Navy ET1), the founder of the UUniforms military support group at the UU Church in Norfolk Virginia has put together a survey on military attitudes within our congregations.

Check out this article at UUMM to learn more, and to fill out the survey!

Yours in Faith,


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Welcome Chief Smith

UU's in the Military would like to welcome a new member, CW2 Edward Smith... here is his introductory email!

Hi! I'm CW2 Edward Smith. I found your website searching for potential congregations to join when I get out of the army in the coming months. I was raised Unitarian between the Eastside congregation of Pittsburgh, PA and the Orlando, FL congregation.There have been two main benefits of the military on my spiritual life. The first (and most obvious) is that in the military, especially with current circumstances, I have faced very difficult decisions and stressful situations. During those times, I felt that life was pulling me around by the nose. I was barely keeping up with things as they happened, with little time for forethought, there was no time for reflection. After these short, intense events though, I was able to reflect and learn some life lessons. I can't say that I have them organized enough to put down in a few short sentences though. The second (and more interesting) is that in the military I have been forced to work, live and socialize with people to whom I would not normally gravitate. I took the opportunity to learn a lot about the Mormon faith. I have engaged in lengthy conversations with a southern baptist who was running around camp informing everyone else that they were condemned. Normally, the evangelical nature of these faiths have caused me to avoid forming relationships with the people of that faith. But, through military service I was able to (forced to?) learn about the people, their faiths, and still get a lot of work done together. I'm leaving the Army shortly and hope to move to an area with an active UU fellowship. Unitarianism hasn't made its presence felt yet here in southeast Alabama. I look forward to reading some more of the older and upcoming posts on this site.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Religious Discrimination in the Military Article


I came across this article in the NY Times Today:

Article Here

Is anyone familiar with this situation?

I haven't personally encountered what I would call serious religious discrimination in my 18 years in the Army & Army Guard. I have seen a couple of cases of soldiers who identified as being Wiccan or Pagan getting some "crap" from people, but it mostly seemed to be the kind of sophomoric hassling a soldier would get for being "different" in any way - not any sort of serious discrimination or inappropriate behavior from their chain of command.

Has anyone here ever run into anything like this before?



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Unitarian Universalist Military Ministry News!

Spring 2008

In this Spring issue:

1) General Assembly Workshop
2) Presence at the Ministry and Professional Leadership Booth at GA
3) Salute to Maj. Greg Rouillard
4) Update on the Great Lakes Project
5) Request for UU’s in the Military participation in the Peacemaking Congregational Study / Action Issue discussion

1) General Assembly Workshop

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations General Assembly is coming up, from June 25th to 29th, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. UUniforms, a program at the UU Church in Norfolk, VA, will be presenting a workshop entitled “Founding and Sustaining a UU Military Support Group. Here is their blurb:

"FOUNDING AND SUSTAINING A UU MILITARY SUPPORT GROUP" --- Unitarian Universalists always have been integral to our nation's military and Department of Defense. Many congregations want to be more welcoming to its military/DoD members and their families but don't know how. This presentation offers practical advice about successfully founding and sustaining a group for fellowship and support. The program is scheduled for Thu 26 June, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM, Convention Center, Grand Floridian G. The program will be presented by Lou Portella and CH Cynthia Kane… though other UU Military Ministry members will be in attendance.

Click here to see a flyer on the workshop. Join us!

Click here to learn more about General Assembly.

2) Presence at the Ministry and Professional Leadership Booth at GA

At the invitation of Rev. Beth Miller, UU Military Ministries will be maintaining a “Uniformed Ministry of Presence” at the Ministry and Professional Leadership Booth at General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale. Our goal is to have a Chaplain, Chaplain Candidate, or UUMM Project Associate at the booth to answer questions about the military, military chaplaincy, and UU’s who serve in the military, as well as to provide a contact point. Literature will be available for clergy, as well as for families and spouses of servicemembers. There will also be literature available on the UUA’s Committee on Military Ministry. Please come by and say hello!

There is also a planned meeting of the Committee on Military Ministry at General Assembly, as well as an opportunity for those who are interested in Military Chaplaincy and Military Ministry to ask questions of the Committee, serving Chaplains, and Rev. Beth Miller, the UUA’s official Military Chaplain Endorser. When those plans are finalized, the dates and times will be announced through the UUMM website.

3) Salute to Maj. Greg Rouillard

UU Military Ministries wants to salute and congratulate Maj. Greg Rouillard on his upcoming retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps. Many of you may know Maj. Rouillard from his online name of “Slidestorm” and also from his blogs “(r)evolutions” and “A Virginia UU in King George’s War”, as well as being one of the panelists at the UU Military workshop at General Assembly in 2005.

Maj. Rouillard also began the “UU’s in the Military” Blog, when he sensed there was a need for UU’s to build greater community. His faithful service to our nation, as well as to our liberal religious tradition, reflect great credit upon himself, his family, his friends, and his congregation. Greg has been instrumental in being one of the first voices calling for UU’s in or affiliated with the military to build community. Here is the email he sent out…


This e-mail is to announce my upcoming retirement from the Marine Corps.
I wish that all of you could join me for my ceremony on May 9 in Virginia, and I realize that it's pretty unlikely given where you live.

If for some reason you think you might be able to come, please let me know and I'll send you more details.

At any rate, my retirement is official on June 1, and on June 2 I begin a new job with Organizational Strategies, Inc. (OSI), doing much the same work I've been doing the past two years, in the same office, with the same people. We have decided to stay in Virginia for the time being to see what happens with the housing market and some other things. Our eventual goal is to live in an intentional community in Boulder, CO.

I hope to hear from you - with some it's been years since we've been in touch.
If you know of anyone else who might be interested in knowing about my retirement, please forward this message.

Best Regards,
Greg Rouillard

We salute you sir! Thank you for your service. And on a personal note, I (David Pyle) would like to thank you for the trust and confidence you have shown in trusting me to steward the UU’s in the military group. Semper Fi! (or, in my language, AIRBORNE!)

4) Update on the Great Lakes Project

The UU Military Ministries sponsored project that provides Sunday Morning UU worship services for the basic training recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center is growing, and seeking to find ways to build deeper connections with local UU organizations. The program, which has been a partnership of UUMM with the Meadville Lombard Theological School and the Unitarian Church of Evanston, is seeking to broaden its base of support.

Currently, the program is averaging between 25 and 40 recruits for worship each Sunday morning, and has involved over 12 worship associates from Meadville and UCE. This years project director is LTC Seanan Holland, a Marine Corps Reserve officer and a 3rd year Meadville student working towards Naval Chaplaincy. The program has been reaching a broad range of recruits, many of whom have never encountered Unitarian Universalism before.

Next month, the Great Lakes Project will be meeting with representatives of the Central Midwest District of the UUA, the Meadville Lombard Theological School, the Chicago Area UU Council, the Unitarian Church of Evanston, and the Chicago Liberal Association of Ministers to discuss ways to deepen the connection of the Chicago area to the Great Lakes Project. Our goal of that meeting is to develop ways to insure that the UU worship services for Naval recruits continues for years to come.

If you would like to support the project, please contact David Pyle at

5) Request for UU’s in the Military participation in the Peacemaking Congregational Study / Action Issue discussion

Glenn E. King, a member of the Peacemaking Resources Working Group, and the Ministerial Intern at the First Church UU, in Leominster MA, has requested that those military and military affiliated Unitarian Universalists who wish to have their voices heard in the continuing discussion around the current Congregational Study / Action Issue contact him. Here is the email he sent to UUMM.

Greetings, I have a request which I hope you can help with. I am not in the military, however I am hoping your blog members can help out. I am currently working with a core team on the Peacemaking Congregational Study Action Issue and one thing we have determined is that voices from the military are not being heard on this issue. If any members would like to be involved in a "Military Voices" working group, that would examine this issue, please have them get in touch with me.

More information on the CSAI can be found at

Thanks much,
Glenn E. King
Peacemaking Resources Working Group
Ministerial Intern, First Church UU, Leominster, MA

Our voices are important in this discussion, so lets be heard! Anyone who is interested can contact Glenn directly.

6) “Deployment Resources for America’s Clergy” is now online!

Over the years, UUMM has regularly received requests from Unitarian Universalists Ministers for resources on how to better minister with servicemembers and their families. The U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains has produced a resource document for civilian clergy on this issue. Here is a link.

We are currently using this document as the basis for a workshop for civilian clergy being presented by UUMM in the Evanston, Illinois area, and hope to expand that work. It contains information on the role of civilian clergy in providing information and support to military families, and also provides some basic pamphlets that can be handed out. It also contains an excellent article written by military psychologists on the emotional cycle a military family goes through during a deployment. It is a great resource for ministers to have on their shelf.
If the brochures in this version do not print well for you, let UUMM know and we will send you a version in Microsoft Word.

Thank you all for your service, as servicemembers, as military family members, as veterans, and as allies. If UUMM can be of service to you, just contact us at .

Yours in Faith,
David Pyle
2LT, USAR Chaplain Candidate
Student, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Ministerial Intern, Unitarian Church of Evanston
Coordinator, UU Military Ministries

Saturday, March 29, 2008

PBS Series: Carrier

Carrier is a ten hour series following the crew of the USS Nimitz at sea. For the majority of us who haven't "been there," this is an opportunity for an inside view. For those of you who've had the experience this is an opportunity to discuss the mission of the United States Armed Forces in the oft confusing context of UU values. I certainly want to know if the film's makers were fair.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another new member!

Everyone welcome a new member to UU's in the Military, Adam Ochs! Here is Adam's information...

Adam Ochs, US Navy, Petty Officer First Class, I'm stationed at Submarine Base New London, in Groton, CT. I'll be transferring soon to Norfolk, VA then up to Bath, ME while my ship is being built.

Welcome Adam... and Lou, notice it says Norfolk there... hint hint.

Yours in faith,


Friday, February 08, 2008


Then SSgt. Michael Fay at Camp Babylon in 2003
Then GySgt Michael Fay in New Ubaydi, Iraq during Op Steel Curtain, November 2005

Greetings one and all. My name is CWO-2 Michael D. Fay and I'm one of two official combat artists serving the Marines through the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Like the rest of you the word UNITARIAN is pressed into my dogtags. I'm going to assume that we also share something else in common, we are all zebras.

There's a joke floating around out there in the politically incorrect ether where a zebra, upon entering heaven, asks Saint Peter whether he's a white zebra with black stripes, or a black zebra with white stripes. I've been faced with questions, especially in light of the current GWOT, by fellow UUs in particular about whether I'm a Marine or a UU first, and by folks in general whether I am an artist or a warrior first. Being an "either, or" person doesn't sit well with me. My hope is to aspire to being of the "and both" variety. We live in very polarized times and being both a warrior and a UU seems to many a contradiction in terms......sort of like military intelligence and male intuition.

I look forward to posting here and connecting with the UU Military Community. I believe, despite our stripes(and bars)we represent a unique bridging voice during these troubled times.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Another new member!

Please join us in welcoming LeAnn Weih! Here is her information:

Hi I'm LeAnn Weih. I'm a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Lubbock, TX. I'm a potter, partner, dog lover, and mother. My daughter is a nurse and my son is an army medic, serving in Mosul, Iraq at FOB Marez. It is not quiet there at the moment but my community and my church, especially, help to keep my partner and I sane.

Welcome, and may safety and peace come to your children...

Yours in Faith,


Welcome new UU's in the Military Member

I would like to Welcome Chief Michael Fay to UU's in the Military!

Here is his information:

CWO-2 Michael D Fay USMC, Fredericksburg, VA. I'm currently not affiliated with a church or fellowship. I have a milblog at (Fire and Ice)

I hope he will share with us his expeirence with the UU Church in his area.... it is something we military UU's need to give some thought to.

Yours in Faith,


Friday, January 18, 2008

New Blogger

Welcome Holly Leach!

We have a new blogger, Holly Leach... Here is little about her...

Holly (holly’s zoo)
31, married, 3 kids
Redstone Arsenal, AL
UU all my life, just didn’t know it.
Husband is in the Army, 3 kids, more animals than I can count on my fingers and toes
Working on my bachelor’s in Psychology with minors in Sociology and Criminal Justice. I want to be an advocate for the mentally ill in the CJ system.


Yours in Faith,


Friday, January 04, 2008


Hello all!

With the new year, Unitarian Universalist Military Ministries has seen some wonderful movement in bringing Military Ministry and the issues of military life to light within our liberal religious faith.

Article in UU World!

UU World, our denominational magazine, has published an online article on CH (CPT) George Tyger, our only active duty U.S. Army Chaplain. George is preparing for a deployemnt sometime later this year. See this wonderful article at:

Congratulations George!

New Chaplain Candidates!

Recently several UU Seminarians have been accepted to the U.S. Army Chaplain Candidate Program. 2LT James White is a student at the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and is a former NCO with service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. 2LT Luke Leonard is a student at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, MN, and is also a former NCO with service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as service in Seoul, South Korea. Learn more about them at Congratulations to both of them, and welcome to the largest young adult ministry in the UUA!

We also know that there are several other students who are at different phases in the process of becoming Chaplain Candidates, and we look forward to their commissioning! (Kelly, if you've been selected, please let us know!)

New UUA Policies on Military Chaplaincy

Last year, a working group put together a new set of policies for how the UUA will endorse and support Military Chaplains and Chaplain Candidates. The policies were approved at the most recent General Assembly, and they can be found online at:

The UUMM article on the new policies is at:

Thanks to Rev. Beth Miller, Rev. Lisa Presley, Rev. David Pettee, CH Cynthia Kane, CH Vernon Chandler, and all of the others who particpated in the development of these policies.

Workshop at General Assembly 2008

CH Cynthia Kane and ET1 Lou Portella (Ret) will be leading a workshop at the UUA General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on how congregations can better minister to the servicemembers and veterans in their congregations and communities. The program will highlight the UUniforms program at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Norfolk, Virginia. There will also be a breakfast meeting for Chaplains, Chaplain Candidates, and those interested or pursuing military chaplaincy. Dates and times are still fluid, but will be announced before GA. Stay tuned to for more information.

Remember UUMM Gear!

You can show your support for UU Military Ministry by sporting some of the gear that is avalilable. Coffee cups, shirts, hats, and even a UUMM clock are available at cost (UUMM does not make any profit on these items... they are offered only to raise awareness.) See all the UUMM Gear at .

Thank you all for your support, and for your service and connections both to Unitarian Universalism and to our nation's military.

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle
2LT, USAR Chaplain Candidate