Written by Holly MillerShank
The Lebanon Association Ministerium is a gathering of intentional learning and support for UCC clergy in its region of Penn Central Conference. In October as part of a series focused on sharing best practices, four local UCC ministers who are military veterans spoke about their experiences in the military and in the church.
Each shared their personal experience of military service as well as their experience of ministering to veterans within their congregations. Their reflections touched on the differing experiences of a WWII vet versus a veteran of Desert Storm, volunteering for service versus being drafted, differences in active combat and state-side service, heartfelt reflections on whether singing patriotic hymns were appropriate during worship and nuanced thoughts about American flags in the chancel. PTSD, suicide, moral injury, family strains, and reentry into civilian life were all also touched upon. I was deeply impressed with the safe space created by the ministrium to listen deeply and provide opportunities to engage in these conversations.
With Veteran’s Day just around the corner, are there opportunities for your congregation to create safe space for veterans and their families to explore deep issues of faith as it relates to their military service?
Several resources are available to congregations willing to engage in these sacred conversations.
- Soul Repair at Brite Divinity offers materials on moral injury
- Warrior’s Journey Home is founded and run by a UCC Minister
- Rev. Dr. Zachary Moon, recently called as a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, has a book entitled Coming Home focused on reentry for veterans
- Holy Joe’s Café started by a UCC congregation in Connecticut offers opportunities to support current members of the armed services.
- Rev. Stephen Boyd serves as the endorser for the United Church of Christ and maintains contact with our 55 currently endorsed military chaplains and 25 chaplains endorsed to serve in VA settings, firstname.lastname@example.org
When we in the UCC say “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here” we need to be intentional about creating the space and opportunity for sharing the fullness of our life’s journeys with one another.
Sparking Ministry Conversation
What opportunities does your congregation have for members / attendees to share their life journeys with one another? Are there ways in which the wide and varied experiences of veterans can be shared in a safe and meaningful way in your congregation?
Rev. Holly MillerShank is the Minister and Team Leader for the Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) ministry team in the UCC. She holds a four way covenant with St. Paul’s UCC in Schaefferstown PA and has been a part of the Lebanon Association Ministerium since her ordination in 2005.