My dad is a veteran. He was part of the occupation of Germany in the early 1950s. I have been aware of my father’s military service since I was a small child. He shared funny stories of military life and talked about how much he learned about people from other cultures and places. He rarely talked about how he felt to be stationed in a place where war had destroyed so much and where the monstrous evil of the Holocaust had transpired, but, all of those experiences left their mark on him.
Our congregations are full of people touched by military service. They are veterans who count their service as a formative part of their lives and their identity. They are parents, cousins, siblings, spouses, and children who care about active duty personnel and worry about their well-being. All of these people have rich stories to share—and they might like to share them with us, if only they felt their stories would be welcome. Many of them have insightful perspectives on war and peace, on the role of the military in our nation, and on the thorny questions of power in our interconnected world. Some have spiritual wounds that need pastoral care and compassion. Unitarian Universalist military ministry is about offering safe space for all of these people.
Unitarian Universalist military ministry is also about reaching out into your community. There are people currently serving in the military who long for a free-thinking, justice-seeking, inclusive faith tradition like ours. They may be young adults facing spiritual crisis when their childhood faith no longer serves. They may be career military people who have not found a religious tradition that fits their understanding of what is sacred. They may be people seeking a faith community that embraces them and their same-sex partners. There are people who would welcome our help to find Unitarian Universalism.
If your congregation is exploring how you might begin or strengthen your outreach to military personnel and veterans, you may want to investigate excellent tools recently produced by the UUA. The Military Ministry Toolkit, available online at no charge,includes six 1-hour workshops and a 23-minute video to share with congregational leadership. We’re very excited about this resource! You can find out more about it and ask any questions you may have by attending a webinar:
November 2014: Military Ministry in UU Congregations
Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 1 pm Eastern
or, Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 9 pm Eastern
Presented by Gail Forsyth-Vail with Shawna Foster, a military veteran and the military ministry coordinator for the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship.
To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Specify the date/time of the webinar you wish to attend.
Gail Forsyth-Vail is Adult Programs Director in the UUA Faith Development Office, a position she came to after many years serving congregations as a religious educator. She is passionate about creating ways for people to connect their own lived experience to the depth and richness of our Unitarian Universalist tradition. She loves learning things, meeting people, telling stories, and being part of a terrific extended family!