Support UU Young Adult Worship at Navy Boot Camp

By Rev. Rudra Dundzila

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Campaign ended on: April 30, 2017
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This requests your support for lay-led weekly Unitarian Universalist religious services in the chapel at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp.

Every single Navy recruit across the nation comes to Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Command for their initial 8 weeks of “boot camp” basic training. It converts civilians to sailors.  The vast majority are young kids, fresh out of high school – innocent, eager, energetic, and earnest in so many ways.

Since 2007, the Unitarian Universalist Military Ministry Great Lakes (UUMMGL) has offered weekly worship at Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, IL (northern suburbs of Chicago). Navy chaplains serve the major faith groups, but the remaining faiths, like Unitarian Universalists, are served by volunteer lay leaders.

Because there is such a variety of religious services available, the Navy encourages the recruits to try out new denominations during their time at Great Lakes.  In 2016, more than 500 recruits attended our UU services. Some come from a UU background, but for many this is their first exposure to Unitarian Universalism. They are very curious about who we are and what we have to offer. Some of the recruits become UUs and/or send their friends to us.

Basic training is a 24/7 boot camp experience. But when they walk into our chapel on Sunday mornings, they are honored as unique individuals and find a safe space. Worship is young adult style, with chants/hymns, joys and concerns, an inspirational reading, shared reflections, and a brief introduction to Unitarian Universalism.

Recruits can: express themselves; wrestle with their deepest beliefs, values and conscience in the context of their Navy service; learn what a free and liberal religion offers them; explore or deepen their spiritual lives; and have a chance to briefly recover their humanity during the Navy’s extremely rigorous training. Joys and Concerns is a vital and often emotional component of the service for them.

All participants receive a copy of the UU military ministry prayer/meditation manual Bless All Who Serve. It’s the second most requested religious literature, after the Bible. Returning recruits are offered a copy of the UUA young adult prayer/meditation manual Becoming.

The UU Military Ministry at Great Lakes is supported by about 10 local UU congregations in the Chicago area. We are asking for Faithify donors to help us make our 2017-18 budget ($7000 ministerial coordinator, $2300 books, supplies, web site and cost of doing business). Local congregations have provided $4000. We need $5300 more.

Can you chip in to provide the rest?

Comments (9)

  1. Lynn Garman

    As a retired military spouse, retired religious educator, and UU for over 25 years I can attest to the value and need of this ministry! As Unitarian Universalists, our inclusive language and theology can be a source of support, healing, and strength to those in uniform. Thank you for all you have done and for the continued outreach.

  2. Rev. David Pyle

    Over 10 years ago, Seanan Holland and I began presenting Sunday morning Unitarian Universalst Worship services at the Recruit Training Center (Basic Training) at the Great Lakes Naval Base. 10 years later, the ministry continues, having reached thousands of sailors with a message of inherent worth and interdependence. Dozens of lay leaders, seminarians, and ministers have participated, and been transformed by being in worship with these young women and men, and hearing their stories at one of the most transformative points in their life.

    The ministry is run by volunteers and a coordinator who receives a very small stipend. This ask is to meet the logistical needs of keeping our faith present at our nation’s only Basic Training for the Navy. Please give to this Faithify campaign, even a little bit. Be a part of our being present in the lives of these service members.

    I will tell you two stories, and I invite all of those who have led worship at Great Lakes to share stories as well.

    I will never forget the email I received from a Unitarian Universalist mom, desperately worried about her son having joined the navy, expressing her relief when he wrote her to say he was attending UU worship at the base. Later, when her son graduated, she came to the base and attended the UU worship service with him before the graduation ceremony.

    Or, the time when I was standing at the front door of our church in Ventura California (near the Port Hueneme Naval Base) greeting members and visitors. When I shook the hands of one visitor attending, I asked if they had ever been to a Unitarian Universalist congregation before. He smiled really big and said he had “become a UU at Navy Basic Training” just a few weeks before, and was now at Port Hueneme for additional training. I had to go to him after the service and explain why I had suddenly started crying…

    I got better at not bursting into tears the next few times it happened. It really is “the most evangelical pulpit in Unitarian Universalism” to quote Rev. Bill Sinkford.

    I want to thank all the leaders who have kept this ministry alive these past 10 years, and all the congregations who have supported it. Now is your turn. Please give as generously as you can. It is worth it.

  3. Rev. Rudra Dundzila

    Hello, Lynn,
    Thank you for your warm comments and support of the UU military ministry at Great Lakes,
    Rev. Rudra

  4. Kellie Kelly

    As a former US Navy spouse and Family Ombudsman, I can tell you that programs for our military members mean so much to them. As a Unitarian Universalist minister and hospital chaplain, I see the UU Military Ministry Great Lakes as one of these very special programs, supporting recruits during US Navy bootcamp. Thank you for your service to our recruits!

    1. Rev. Rudra Dundzila

      Hi, Kellie,
      Thank you for your testimonial. The recruits often need a community connection that is more than the 24x7x8 weeks of basic training. We create a faith community anew each week.

  5. Roger

    As a life long atheist, and one who filed for recognition as a Conscientious Objector to military service, I’m pleased to support a program that brings a humanizing touch to the process of basic training.

    Rev. Roger Brewin

    1. Rev. Rudra Dundzila

      Hi, Roger,
      I appreciate your support and testimonial.
      The UUMMGL strives to support recruits with a religious-spiritual home as they go through basic training.
      In faith and fellowship,

  6. Frank Coon, LT, USN(ret)

    This is such an important ministry to Unitarian Universalism, the Navy, and our country. I am proud and humbled to be a small part of it.

  7. Rev. Rudra Dundzila

    Lieutenant Coon,
    Thank you for your financial and moral support, and especially for your service to our country.
    Very respectfully,
    Rev. Rudra

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