The Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) is the UUA’s largest congregation, serving more than 3,000 isolated UUs with online communities, religious education and worship resources, and a prison ministry. Now it has a military ministry. “It’s a perfect fit for us,” said Lorraine Dennis, CLF’s executive director. “Military members can be isolated, and they have a need for doing church in nontraditional ways. They are also often fighting against an evangelical zeal in the military. We think our website will be helpful in countering that kind of influence.”
The website, clf.uua.org/military, which debuted in February, is open to service people, spouses, children, veterans, Department of Defense employees, defense contractors, and others who wish to support military families. The site includes stories of those in the military, online discussion forums for military members and their families, sermons, and an “Ask a Military Chaplain” feature. “That last item can be very important,” said Pyle. “There are times when you need to ask a specific question of someone in your faith.”
Pyle, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve and a fourth-year student at Meadville Lombard, is helping build the site. He says part of the inspiration for it came from the Great Lakes Military Ministry Project, organized by Meadville Lombard students and members of the Unitarian Church of Evanston, Ill., to provide Sunday morning UU worship services at the Naval Station Great Lakes Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill. Services began in January 2007.
“At the Naval Recruit Training Center, we have eight to nine weeks with recruits,” said Pyle, who is a distant relative of famed World War II war correspondent Ernie Pyle. “Some of them would ask for ways to stay in touch with us. We needed a website. So at GA last year we had a broad-ranging conversation about military ministry and CLF. The website came out of that, and now there’s a way for service members to stay connected, even when deployed.”
Pyle is hoping to add much more information to the website, including online courses and the stories of military members and veterans. “We are encouraging military members, their families, as well as veterans from our congregations, to add their stories to the site. People currently in the military can learn a lot from the experiences of our veterans.”
When Pyle served last year as ministerial intern at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, a member of the church, Margaret Shaklee, began collecting veterans’ stories. “Those stories were profound,” Pyle said. “Military service deeply affected the lives of these veterans and in many cases provided a foundation for their later lives. To the congregation, it brought a deeper awareness of war and of conflict.”
This story has been updated.
- Church of the Larger Fellowship. Online congregation for isolated Unitarian Universalists. (clf.uua.org)
- Church of the Larger Fellowship Unitarian Universalist Military Ministry. Online community for Unitarian Universalists in the U.S. Armed Forces, their families, and their supporters. (clf.uua.org)
- Celestial Lands. U.S. Army chaplain candidate and UU seminarian David Pyle's blog. (celestiallands.org)