Friday, January 19, 2007

How does a UU become a Military Chaplain?

Though there is a long history of Unitarian and Universalist ministers serving as chaplains in the military, there are very few such chaplains right now. The reasons for this are varied, but the need for liberal religious chaplains in our military is greater now than ever.

If you are considering a call to the Unitarian Universalist ministry, consider if that ministry might not be found within the ranks of the military.

Right now, a policy working group is meeting, with the approval of the UUA Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group, to evaluate and re-draft the UUA policies on how military chaplains are endorsed and supported by the UUA. As this policy review is ongoing, the details of this reveiw are not currently available. But the following are the general outlines of how the process is likely to be conducted.

(That group has since completed its work, and the new policies can be found at )

First, all UU Military Chaplains are required to fulfill all of the same requirements and standards of all Unitarian Universalist Ministers. This includes a Masters of Divinity degree, completion of a Clinical Pastoral Education course, and successful completion of the UUA Ministerial Fellowship process. For more information on these requirements, and how the process can be started, please visit the UUA Ministerial Credentialing Website.

There are two different ways to pursue receiving an endorsement as an ordained and fellowshipped UU Military Chaplain. These are the Chaplaincy Candidate Program, and direct endorsement as a Military Chaplain.

Each of the military services maintains a way to begin your training as a military chaplain while you are still pursuing your Masters of Divinity degree. These Chaplaincy Candidate Programs are supported by the UUA as a way to both discern your call to military chaplaincy, as well as to train and form for this ministry. Participation in this program means you spend your summers during seminary serving and training on active duty. Each military branch has a selection process for this program, and the UUA requires that you go through an associational approval process as well, including an application, essays on military chaplaincy, and possibly an in-person interview. Completion of the Chaplaincy Candidate program would allow the candidate to be considered for an endorsement to military chaplaincy after recieving fellowship.

If you have already received fellowship from the UUA, and wish to be considered for an endorsement to Military Chaplaincy, then the process will involve an application, a series of essays on the nature of military chaplaincy, an interview with a committe on military ministry to be designated by the UUA, and completion of any and all requirements of the military.

When the new policies for the endorsment and support of Military Chaplaincy are approved at General Assembly in 2007, UUMM will publicize them, and make the process described here more explicit. However, the idea of the policy review is to make the process more accessable, while at the same time maintaining a high level of standards for those called and endorsed to serve as Unitarian Universalist Military Chaplains. If you have specific questions, or are interested in pursuing a call to UU Military Chaplaincy, please contact .

Websites of interest:

U.S. Army Chaplaincy Recruiting Website

U.S. Navy Chaplaincy Recruiting Website

U.S. Air Force Chaplaincy Recruiting Website

U.S. Coast Guard Chaplains Website

What does it mean to be a UU who serves in the military?

Just as there are many different ways in which all Unitarian Universalists find connection to our liberal religious faith, there are also many different reasons why some UU's find their vocation in the Military. These are a few of the more common answers to this question.

For some UU's the experiences they have had while serving in the military are what has brought them to their Unitarian Universalist faith. Serving overseas with the military will often bring someone face to face with war, with human rights abuses, with hatred, with poverty, and with the responsibility that we have to the rest of the world. For these military UU's, service in the military not only is the basis of their liberal faith, but can also be how they live their faith, by working through the military to address some of these global social concerns.

Some UU's who serve in the military find in that service an expression of the separation of Church and State, a touchstone of liberal religious faith. For these UU's their religious life is separate from their military career, and in doing so they are able to be ethical presences within the military in a way that maintains the essential authenticity they need in both their religious faith as well as in their military service.

Some military UU's find the motivation for their service in the belief that the military needs the diversity of liberal religious voices from many traditions, Unitarian Universalism among them. Without such voices, the military will find it difficult to live up to the standards of religious pluralism that is written into military policy and regulations. The only answer to the perception of the increase of conservative religious views within the military is for liberal religionists to be willing to serve.

There are many other reasons that a Unitarian Universalist might find their vocation in the military: they might have a family tradition of such service, they might have chosen to serve for the economic or education benefits, they might have chosen to serve because being a liberal and being a patriot can still be the same thing. For whatever the reason, many UU's find their life's vocation within the ranks of the Military, and UU Military Ministries is dedicated to supporting them on their religious path.

But, beyond those who serve on active duty or in the reserves, there are also many UU families who have military members serving, be they spouses, parents, or children. These families need support as well, especially in this time of war. Also, there are many more veterans in our congregations than might first be apparent, partially because it may not always be apparent to our UU Military Veterans that their military service is accepted within our congregations. In truth, we should be seeking to learn from the experience of these military veteran UU's in our congregations, while at the same time realizing that many of these veterans still carry spiritual and physical wounds from their time in military service. Our congregations need to learn to better minister to these veterans.

The next twenty years will see a spiritual crisis in the lives of the men and women serving in the current combat operations around the world, and Unitarian Universalism can present a healing message of love, community, and transformation in their lives and the lives of their families. Many UU's with experience in the military may find their call to ministry (ordained or not) in helping to minister to those returning from our current wars. If we are to address this need, Unitarian Universalism needs to turn to our veterans and equip them for this ministry.

These, among others, are some of the reasons for the importance of Unitarian Universlist Military ministries. If you are a serving military member, a veteran, or a spouse, then perhaps you would like to connect to other UU's in the military at . If your congregation would like to start a military ministry, or already have one, please contact UUMM at .

There is one other reason that some UU's serve in the military, including myself. And that is love. Not love of war, but of those women and men who choose to stand between their beloved homes and the desolation and hell that is war. That is my call to military ministry.

Yours in faith,

David Pyle
2LT, USAR Chaplaincy Candidate

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Great Lakes RTC Ministry Project

Beginning January 28th, 2007, students of the Meadville Lombard Theological School, in coordination with the UUMM and the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL, will begin presenting Sunday morning UU worship services at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinios.

Approximately 40,000 naval recruits per year train at the Great Lakes RTC, and the chapel on post presents over 30 worship services each and every Sunday. The goal of the Great Lakes Ministry Project is not only to provide UU services for sailors who are already UU's, but also to provide an opportunity for those interested in our faith to attend UU Worship, and to learn more about our movement of religious liberalism. This project presents us with the opportunity to reach more than 1,000 young women and men per year with a message of Unitarian Univeralsim.

The project also provides for our Meadville Lombard seminary students valuable experience at the practical aspects of ministry, leading worship, and chaplaincy. Funded initially by collections taken at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, the students donate their time, only receiving reimbursement for travel and worship material costs.

If you would like to see some of the worship services and sermons that are being presented at the Great Lakes Recruit Training Center, then please visit The Military Chapel Services section of Celestial Lands.

We will be putting the services presented by David Pyle into that blog/journal. We will post links to the services of other project members as they become available.

If you are interested in learing more about the Great Lakes Ministry Project, or you would like to support the continuance of the project, please contact David Pyle through the UUMM website.

Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Military Ministries Website!

Welcome to the new home of Military Ministries for the Unitarian Universalist Association!

This website serves as a way for Unitarian Universalist Chaplains, the future UU Committee on Military Ministry, and UU Military Chaplaincy Candidates to share information with our movement of religious liberalism about issues relating to UU'ism and the military. While our Chaplains will post here, we do ask that all communication with UUMM be through this website. As we have so few serving UU Military Chaplains, allowing communication to go through UUMM allows our chaplains to focus on serving the needs of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

This website is also the home for several ongoing projects of UU Military Ministry, allowing those UUMM Project Associates to share information with other religious liberals on the opportunities and challenges of those projects.

Also, if you are considering serving both your faith and your country as a UU Military Chaplain, there are articles and information available on this website to assist you in decerning if this is your call to ministry. Please, if you are considering such a call, contact UUMM so we can begin to build a relationship with you.

This website is partnered with the UU's in the Military website, found at, so if you are a veteran, active duty or reserve servicemember, military spouse or family, or DoD employee, please consider becoming a contributor to that forum.

Thank you very much for your interest in UU military ministry!

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle
2LT, USAR Chaplaincy Candidate

UU Military Ministries