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

Tag Archives: Unitarian

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 →

On the Contract-to-Call Process

This is the second in a series of articles that I am bringing to Celestial Lands over the first few months of this New Year, exploring several aspects of the interrelation between professional ministry, congregations, and the current UUA search process.  Future articles will include an exploration of the different Read more →

Hire a Contract Minister or Call a Settled Minister?

This is the first in a series of articles that I am planning to bring to Celestial Lands over the first few months of this New Year, exploring several aspects of the interrelation between professional ministry, congregations, and the current search process.  Future articles will include an exploration of the 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 →

To Write or Not to Write… A Systemic Theology Book

One of the aspects of a Clinical Pastoral Education Residency that was most valuable to me was spending a year with ministers from other religious traditions, being required to have deep discussions about theology, about pastoral care, and about our life experiences.  It not only helped me to broaden my Read more →

What Would a UU Religious Order Look Like?

One of the first essays I ever wrote in seminary, and the first essay I ever had published, was on the need for Unitarian Universalism to develop integrated spiritual practices that can be shared and engaged by large groups of Unitarian Universalists.  In that essay, I make the case that Read more →

The Center of a Liberal Faith Movement

What it means to be a Unitarian Universalist has been on my heart this last week.  Not surprisingly, considering that many UU’s are currently thinking about similar things in reaction to the recent white paper from Rev. Peter Morales titled “Congregations and Beyond”.  I know there is a lot behind Read more →

Our Responsibility to those Beyond Our Walls

Break not that circle of enabling love, Where people grow, forgiven and forgiving, Break not that circle, make it wider still, Till it includes, embraces all the living. –Hymn 323, Singing the Living Tradition Recently, the conversation has begun again about what makes a Unitarian Universalist.  Are you only a Read more →

Let it Be a Dance! — Sermon by Rev. David Pyle

This sermon was presented at the UU Church of Ventura, on January 15th, 2011.  As a child growing up in Hawaii, I danced the hula.  This was not an abnormal thing, growing up in Hawaii.  In fact, my first encounter with the hula was in a class at school, where 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 →

Introspection and the “Set Apart” Life of Ministry

There are times where the internal shifts necessary to be in a life of ministry in our liberal faith tradition are more obvious than others.  As Unitarian Universalist ministers, we often emphasize a radical leveling in our ministries, and many UU ministers react against the classical understanding that ministers should Read more →

Ministry is Big, so Have Faith

I want to give thanks to my colleague Christian Schmidt for being one of two inspirations for this post, through a question he posed to me in a comment on my article on our denomination’s feelings about supporting ministries.  It is a topic that I have thought about engaging many Read more →

Our Feelings on Supporting Ministries

Over the past few months, I’ve been surprised by some of the reactions from colleagues and former colleagues about my decision to accept an Assistant Minister position.  Those reactions have covered a broad range of concern and emotion… all of which was heartfelt.  I do not want this article to Read more →

The Honor of Being on “Smiley and West”

This weekend I will be on a short segment of the Public Radio International program “Smiley and West” with Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West.  It was recorded today, to be aired this weekend.  It was an honor to have a letter I sent to the program selected for the Read more →

To Live Like Jesus

Last week and this week, I have been attending some military chaplaincy training in San Antonio Texas, as a part of my continuing education as both a UU Minister and an Army Reserve Chaplain.  The first week was a wonderful course, put on by the Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker and Read more →

My Seminary Graduation Gift: A Year with Honor Harrington

I was determined to give myself a gift at the end of 5 years of seminary, church internship, military chaplain basic training, hospital internship and hospice residency… and I did not know what I wanted.  Could I be craving a vacation on a beach in the Caribbean?  Well, always… but Read more →

General Assembly Day 5: Passionate Arguments for Our Faith’s Center

I want to say on Celestial Lands what I said in person to many people about the overall “theme” for this General Assembly.  In my most humble opinion, the overall theme was not the 50th Anniversary of the UUA.  It was not where we will be as a religion in Read more →

General Assembly Day 4: Universalism, Compassion, Spiritual Practice and Salvation

My experience of the fourth day of the 2011 General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, was framed around two lectures… the Murray Street Address by the Rev. Bill Sinkford… and the Ware Lecture by Karen Armstrong.  For me, these two lectures swam in my personal pond through waters that have been Read more →

General Assembly Day 3: A Tale of Two GA’s…

I remember my first General Assembly many moons ago.  I was so excited for the opportunity for all the workshops I could ever dream of on every aspect of church life, of theology, and of our ecclesiological history.  I packed each moment full of engaging panel discussions, of plenary sessions, Read more →

General Assembly Day 2: Lions, Tigers, and Ministerial Authority, Oh My!

One of the things that always amazes me about my time at a General Assembly is how different my experience is depending on what I wear.  Now, for most people this might not be literally true, but it my case it is.  Let’s take the first and second days of Read more →

General Assembly Day 1: Unitarian Universalists of the Holy Spirit

As I sat in the second row, center aisle of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 General Assembly of the UUA, next to my military chaplain colleagues, what struck me most about the service was how many times the word “Spirit” came into the ceremony/celebration/worship service.  By the time I Read more →

A Tribute to the Rev. Barbara Pescan

The following were my words at the Tribute and Celebration of the ministry of Rev. Barbara Pescan, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, on June 4th, 2011… I remember a day at General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale in 2008.  A few weeks after Barbara had sprinkled some pixie dust on Read more →

The Church and Leadership Development

One of my developing ecclesiological theories is that the church, especially the liberal church, serves among its many purposes as the laboratory for being a whole, full, and religious human being.  The liberal congregation is the container, the laboratory where we are able to learn how to engage one another Read more →

Unionized Ministry

Recently, I had the honor and privilege to meet Rev. Don Southworth, the current Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), at the Spring Minister’s Retreat for the Heartland Chapter of the UUMA. This is my first year as a “regular member” and not a student member of Read more →

The Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how Read more →

Dawn Breaks on “Offer Day”

It is an interesting part of being an Interim Minister, that you come to love a congregation, that you have ministered among them, that you have hopes and dreams for them, that you are an intimate part of a religious community… and you know that you are only there to Read more →

What Turned a Conservative into a Liberal?

I regularly have conversations with conservatives, both political and religious conservatives. Sometimes that is through my work as an Army Chaplain, sometimes through my work as a liberal minister in a fairly conservative town, and sometimes it is through people from my past who seek me out to ask me Read more →

Faith is Hard… and Liberal Religion Needs Some

One of the earliest articles I wrote here at Celestial Lands is one where I seek to define, for myself, the meaning of faith (that faith is not belief, it is “sacred trust”). I sometimes think we Unitarian Universalists and others of Liberal Religion have a harder time coping with Read more →

A Quick Welcome

Now, I know I say that I write the Celestial Lands Blog for myself, and for my own spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and theological development… but that does not mean I do not check out the site statistics on a regular basis. Over the past week or so, I have noted Read more →

On Why I Write

Every year around the New Year I take a retrospective look at my writings of the past year… not just here at Celestial Lands, but my sermons, newsletter articles, and assorted other writings. I write a lot… it is part of my spiritual practice to do reflection upon life, the Read more →

The Journey from Conservative to Liberal

I remember a day in seventh grade when I came home all excited to tell my parents that I had discovered that I was a Liberal. We had been studying the American political system in social studies class, and in our textbook was a little box that showed the typical Read more →

Joy and Sorrow are Woven Fine

There is something about the way congregations come together, to support one another, to grieve with one another, to celebrate with one another, to laugh with one another… often all at the same time… that amazes me. Something in the way a disparate group of people, brought together by belief, Read more →

We Give Thanks, For this Blessed Day

As is customary on Thanksgiving morning, I woke up thinking of all the things that I give thanks for. All the things in my life that I am grateful for… and I thought I would share a few of them. I give thanks for my wife, and for the fact Read more →

Worship as Emotive Experience

This past Sunday, I became emotional in the pulpit… again. Ok, truth to be told, I’m always emotional in the pulpit. It’s part of why I never schedule anything for Sunday afternoon, because preaching a good UU sermon will wipe me out, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I usually maintain enough 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 →

Glowing Coal

Something that regular readers of the Celestial Lands might have picked up on… and something that anyone who has been in a congregation I have served as a minister probably could not have missed… is that I love our congregations. I love the congregations of this Liberal Faith Tradition we 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 →

To Love but not Befriend

I don’t know if there is another human relationship like that a minister needs to build with their congregants. Or even the relationship a minister needs to build with the congregation as a whole. As I have been building my relationship with the members of the congregation in Midland Michigan, Read more →

Commonalities in Liberal Faith

This summer I had the privledge to preach a four part summer sermon series at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL, that has explored what some of the ties between us as Unitarian Universalists may be.  I specifically sought to name some things that are rarely said, and to make Read more →

Meetings and Meeting

For the past week I have been with the congregation I am serving as an Interim Minister, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland Michigan. In fact, this is my inaugural article for Celestial Lands written in the ministerial study of the Fellowship. They are a congregation easy to love, in 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 →

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