Is it possible to have no religious preference and, at the same time, a crisis of faith?
Not only is it possible, it’s the reality for a great many of our military women and men. Which is why Rev. Cynthia Kane, a Unitarian Universalist minister and chaplain with the U.S. Navy, is thrilled about the publication of Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage and Faith for Military Personnel and Their Families, new this month from Skinner House Books.
Bless All Who Serve, edited by Rev. Matthew and Gail Tittle, is a pocket-sized and durable little book of readings and songs from many faith traditions, ancient and modern, plus reflections by veterans and military chaplains.
“When our service members are dealing with issues ranging from death and mortality to peace and violence, they now have a resource where there wasn’t one before,” said Kane.
In fact, there was once a very similar resource. In 1941, Beacon Press published Think On These Things: Sources of Courage, Hope and Faith for Those Serving Their Country. It was the inspiration for both the look and feel of Bless All Who Serve and the fundraising that made the project possible.
Terry Sweetser is the Vice President for Stewardship and Development at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the department that raised nearly $38,000 to develop and print 25,000 copies, which will be distributed free of charge to servicemen and women. But Sweetser’s interest in the fundraising wasn’t strictly professional.
Sweetser’s father, Frank Sweetser, served as a commander in the Navy in World War II. His minister sent him a copy of Think On These Things.
“He carried it with him in the field, into battle,” said Sweetser. “He gave away his first copy, and then his second and third copies. The last copy, he kept. He gave it to me in the hopes that I would pass it on to a soldier.”
Which he finally did, to a young man headed to the first Gulf War. That young man quickly asked for more, but the book had long been out of print, and Sweetser had no more to give.
When Skinner House Books approached Matt and Gail Tittle to be co-editors of the new volume, they were excited to help meet the need for such a resource. Both spent more than a decade in the armed services, Gail in the Air Force and Matt in the Navy.
“In my years of service, I don’t remember having anything like this,” said Matt Tittle.
The Tittles took a Unitarian Universalist approach to compiling the selections in Bless All Who Serve, drawing from a multitude of sources and assuming a diverse readership.
For Sweetser, this project is more than a benefit to those actively serving in the military. It’s an important act of faith for all Unitarian Universalists.
“I believe that Bless All Who Serve is the continuation of a tradition that has been important to Unitarian Universalists for a long time,” said Sweetser. “Our roots in the idea of national service go extremely deep.”
In addition to copies funded by donors, the UUA has also printed copies that are for sale through the UUA Bookstore.
Free copies of Bless All Who Serve are available to military chaplains, ministers and enlisted men and women of all faiths. Chaplains and ministers should contact Julie Shaw (mplassistant @ uua.org) at the UUA. Servicemen and women should contact Lorraine Dennis (ldennis @ clfuu.org) at the Church of the Larger Fellowship.
To purchase copies, please visit the UUA Bookstore online or call (800) 215-9076.
For more information contact bookstore @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Friday, June 18, 2010.
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