Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Category Archives: Military Chaplaincy

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation — Sermon by Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on May 25th, 2014 As both a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and as a Reserve Military Chaplain, I have conducted over a dozen military funerals    and memorial services. They were all for veterans of WWII, of Korea, and of Vietnam… I’ve never been called upon to lead a memorial Read more →

My Hobby

Do you know someone who has a passionate love of fishing?  Or perhaps golf?  Maybe amateur motorcycle racing? Or sailing?  You know the kind of person I mean… the person who has a “hobby” that they are so passionate about that it encompasses much of their soul?  The fisherman who Read more →

Give Them Not Hell — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on December 30th, 2012 Reading        excerpt from “Bring them Hope, Not Hell” by Carl G. Seaburg This reading is from the essay “Give them Hope, Not Hell” by Rev. Carl G. Seaburg, in the book, “Salted with Fire: Unitarian Universalist Strategies for Sharing Faith and Growing Congregations”.  “Although Read more →

The Consequences of Omniscience and Omnipotence

When I was at the U.S. Army Chaplain’s School at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, there was a day in class that we were responding to hypothetical counseling situations.  One of the scenarios presented to us was that of a young woman who came to us for counseling after having been Read more →

Beyond Military Borders — Homily at PSWD-UUA District Assembly 2012

I have received multiple requests for copies of the homily that I presented at the UUA Pacific Southwest District Assembly this year, and instead of continuing to email it out, I thought I would publish it here at Celestial Lands.  The task was to reflect on what “Beyond Borders” meant Read more →

Beyond Borders — PSWD District Assembly — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on April 28th, 2012   One of my first forays into District lay-leadership after I became a Unitarian Universalist was to an event celebrating the kickoff of a campaign of billboards and radio advertisements for Unitarian Universalism, being sponsored by the UU Congregations of the Greater Houston area. Read more →

I’m Sick Unto Death of Hearing about Protecting the Religious Liberty of Military Chaplains

I remember something that my Drill Sergeant said to me, my first day of Basic Training some 20 years ago, when I was an 18 year old private at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri.  We were all in one of our first formations, and he asked us if any of us Read more →

UU Military Chaplains and the Cross

Unitarian Universalists are almost always surprised when they see me wearing the Christian Cross on my Army Chaplain uniform.  Perhaps they should not be, given the Christian ancestry of our two founding denominations, but they are.  Reactions have ranged from mild curiosity to outrage to some deep pastoral need.  On Read more →

Is the Constitutionality of Military Chaplaincy in Danger?

This week, I received an email from an organization I track, known as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  It is an organization that advocates both legally and in the media, for the protection of the Free Exercise of Religion in the military, often with more passion than restraint. Yet, over Read more →

A “Real” Chaplain

The next person who even hints to me that, because I am a reservist I am not a “real” military chaplain, I might just scream at them. Fair warning. I’ve been somewhat defensive about this for awhile, and quite frankly I’ve moved beyond defensive to feeling darned angry. I’m not Read more →

Decline, Denial, and an 8K Ruck March

This weekend was a military drill / Battle Assembly for me, and it taught me something… that I’m not as young as I once was. Nor am I as young as I would like to be. Nor am I as young as I like to think I am. I was Read more →

They Just Fade Away — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached November 14th, 2010 Two and a half years ago, I had the honor and privilege to attend the retirement ceremony of the senior military chaplain of our Unitarian Universalist faith, Chaplain Colonel, the Reverend Vernon Chandler. After over 32 years as a military Chaplain, with time in Bosnia, Read more →

“Government-Paid Missionaries for Christ”

Recently I received a letter from a fellow Unitarian Universalist who is very concerned by incidents and attitudes he perceives among some military chaplains, where they seem to understand themselves as “government-paid missionaries for Christ”. The letter details some of his own research into the issue of some chaplains who Read more →

Military Chaplaincy, Congregational Ministry, and a Year of Discernment

I’ve written before about liminality, and about living in liminal spaces. To live in a liminal space is to live without certainty… to live without knowing what the outcomes of life will be, and to allow that creative not-knowing to develop new patterns and new possibilities. We humans are not Read more →

Civilian Control and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue

As a military chaplain, the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” does not apply directly to how I relate to soldiers. Any soldier can tell me anything in confidence, and I am bound by a level of confidentiality that is equivalent to the seal of the Catholic Confessional. In Read more →

A Salute to Chaplain Dale Goetz, KIA

It has happened many times, where a fellow UU or a ministerial colleague takes me aside and asks me if this military chaplaincy “thing” is really something I want to do. When I explore it with them, where their anxiety is coming from, it almost always centers around their concern Read more →

Customized Military ID Tags

I was reading through the stories on Military.com this evening, and came across a story on the young soldier, now facing a court martial, who leaked classified information to Wikileaks.com. The story made me sad in so many ways… sad that this young man felt he had to do this, Read more →

The Torch May Pass From Me

Why I may not be becoming an Army Chaplain anytime soon, and thanks to all of the friends and collegues who have sent us support over the last week or so. Read more →

How to Listen to Me, A Veteran

1.  Telling the stories about our military service helps, but we veterans are taught that it does not. Almost every program for helping veterans come to terms with their military service is based upon learning to tell our stories, and yet the model of the veteran in our society is Read more →

My Essay on “Why I Want to be an Army Chaplain”

I am currently putting together my packet to accession as a U.S. Army Chaplain, and part of that packet is a 1-page essay titled “Why I want to be a U.S. Army Chaplain”.  Now, the regular denziens of the Celestial Lands can probably guess that what has been difficult has been getting it Read more →

Should Military Chaplains Meet Civilian Chaplaincy Certification Requirements?

Most times I take a position on an issue when I write an article for Celestial Lands. This time, I am torn. I know the reasons that I chose to complete at least the base educational requirements for becoming a Board Certified Chaplain by the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) Read more →

You Want to Join the Military? But We’re UU’s!!!

Over the last several years, I have had the privilege to be with several Unitarian Universalist families as they struggled through the complex emotions that arise around a loved one deciding to join the military. Recently, some ministers have even referred such families to me, and I thought it would Read more →

Military Ritual, Responsibility, and Mercenaries

My wife always worries that I will overstep my bounds on this blog, be it the bounds placed upon me as a military officer or those represented by the expectations of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA. It is good that she worries about such things, because sometimes it Read more →

Unitarian Universalists at Arlington National Cemetery

Click on the picture or this link to see the slideshow   During my time in Washington DC these past few months, I spent a few days shadowing the chaplains at Arlington National Cemetery. During a break, I went for a walk among some of the markers, and was surprised Read more →

In Honor of Memorial Day — UU Servicemember’s Devotional Project

“Each time I have to stand by the “Chaplain Corps” table strewn with religious and spiritual information for the National Guard Soldiers I support, I find myself yearning deeply for material that is representative of the open, diverse, nurturing, affirming and accepting ideas of the UU tradition…So many of our Read more →

A Moment of Awe and a Moment of Regret

,, A few months ago, I sat in awe as I watched a young U.S. Army National Guard Infantry First Lieutenant violate Title 10 of the U.S. Code on the Rachel Maddow Show, by saying three words… “I Am Gay”. He said it knowing full well the consequences of that Read more →

Continuing to Normalize Military Ministry

On his blog, “UU A Way of Life”, David Markham offers the opinion that military chaplains who are Unitarian Universalists are not living the principles of Unitarian Universalism.  While I honor his opinion, I believe it in part arises from an incomplete understanding of Military Chaplaincy, as well as a Read more →

Ministry and the Moral Implications of Combat

As I was researching for a speech I am giving this weekend, I came across this short essay I wrote on my theology of war and of military ministry when I was at the Chaplain School.  It is an attempt not only to define where I stand on the moral implications of Read more →

Combat Medical Ministry Course

The past two weeks, I have been at Ft. Sam Houston outside San Antonio for the Combat Medical Ministry Course. It was an incredible experience, which “reframed” my experience in Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy internship) in light of a military environment, and challenged me to use the self-reflective skills Read more →

A Seachange in our Faith

Rev. Kit Ketcham, a UU Minister, fellow blogger, and in some ways a kindred spirit has recently observed on her blog how UU’s and UU Congregations seem to have trouble reaching out to military personnel. Her article apparently was inspired in part by conversations she has had with fellow ministers Read more →

Straddling Worlds

This past week, I have been both serving on Active Duty for Training (ADT) as a U.S. Army Chaplain Candidate, and serving as the Summer Minister for the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL. In the mornings, I get up early, sit Zen meditation, and then put on my Army Combat Read more →

In Uniform at General Assembly

It was an amazing and enlightening experience for me at this General Assembly, in that I spent much of my time in uniform as a Chaplain Candidate. I was in uniform so much, some people might think I wear it often. In fact, I purchased the class B shirts just Read more →

Unitarian Universalism and Military Chaplaincy

A few years ago, at a Unitarian Universalist Houston Network event, a young woman challenged in a loud and public way how I could dare call myself a Unitarian Universalist, and be willing to serve in the military. I was not actually in the military at the time; I had Read more →

The Military and Religious Freedom — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached November 3rd, 2007 This is my first Sunday morning back here at the Great Lakes Recruit Training Center in over four months.  You see, this past summer I was in Basic Training myself.  It was my second time going through basic.  My first time was in 1991, at Read more →