Why Military Chaplaincy Calls to Me
I grew up in a non-political, liberal-ish, secular house that followed the major Christian holidays in the way that department stores do–we put up decorations but didn’t strive to ask questions or discuss the reasons behind any of the traditions or ornamentation. We started informally attending a Unitarian Universalist church when I was nine and I started to loosely apply the principles to my mindset. I’ve always felt a very strong sense that all people are to be treated with respect and dignity, that we all have the right to live a fulfilling life. Injustices raised so many questions and heralded the call to serve those in need.
It used to be that I would have never considered any career within the military. I am not a person who seeks combat, unless it’s a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match among friends–and my recent found love of combat sports was surprising to many including myself. I was one of those people who would get uncomfortable hearing that someone was either joining the military, deploying, or had just returned from a tour. This shifted a year and a half ago when I met Rev. David Pyle at the UU church in Ventura, CA and changed more drastically after meeting my good friend Michael, a UU and veteran who did two tours in Iraq and has PTSD along with physical disabilities from the last year he was there.
Rev. Pyle met with a group of young adult (ages 18-35) spiritual activists in a leadership training offered by the UU Legislative Ministry of California, and shared the stories of his congregation’s work to counter the oppression and numbers of the homeless population in Ventura and his own experience as a former solider and current military chaplain. Rev. Pyle’s evaluation of how UU churches often turn their backs on people serving in the military because the congregants don’t always agree with the reasons behind military action was very moving. His personal stories of struggling with how to identify himself to people and own who he was and how important the military has been in his life made me view those who serve in a new light. I had never disliked anyone for going into the military, but had always struggled with my idealistic desire for a world without armed conflict, pragmatism, and emotional response to lives in danger and lost. After hearing Rev. Pyle talk, I could understand–but didn’t yet feel–the reasons a person might go into military chaplaincy.
Read Sarah’s entire post on Vive-le-Flame here.