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.