UU Services for Boot Camp Recruits

Navy Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois

The Unitarian Universalist Military Ministry Great Lakes (UUMMGL) conducts weekly worship services for Navy recruits at Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Command’s Memorial Chapel in Great Lakes, IL (about 40 miles north of downtown Chicago and 60 miles south of downtown Milwaukee). The ministry serves more than 600 recruits annually, with weekly attendance ranging ~5-25. The recruits are all young adults, 18-35 years old. The ministry also distributes ~300 copies of Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage and Faith for Military Personnel and Their Families and ~100 copies of The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide each year.

Establishing a program at the base chapel

Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17(4a) states, “The DoD places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all. It protects the civil liberties of its personnel and the public to the greatest extent possible, consistent with its military requirements, in accordance with DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1000.29 (Reference (c)).

Execution of this instruction varies from command to command. The UU Military Ministry Great Lakes depends on an established infrastructure at the base chapel and ongoing organizational support from the senior chaplain and base commander.

The chapel at the Recruit Training Command has Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chaplains on staff. More than a dozen smaller denominations are served by a network of volunteer lay leaders that is coordinated by the chaplain’s office. Faith traditions range from Baha’i to Christian Science to Eastern Orthodox Christian to Unitarian Universalist. Each faith group is allowed up to five lay leaders who are represented by a point-of-contact with the chaplain’s office. There are more than 70 lay leaders who conduct the traditional worship services of their faith.

The program is managed by one of the officers in the chaplain’s office. Responsibilities include determining the schedule of services and allocating rooms (UU services are from 9:30 – 10:30 each Sunday morning in Chapel D), ensuring that each lay leader has been certified by their denomination (in our case, a contact at the UUA), had the proper security clearance, and hold an annually renewed photo ID and pass for their vehicle. At a mandatory training session the chaplain spells out the do’s and don’t of the lay leader’s interface with the recruits: no food other than sacramental, no touching, no sharing of personal information, and a reminder that lay leaders do not have the confidentiality privileges of chaplains.

Becoming a Volunteer Lay Leader

Applicants must be a Unitarian Universalist who is member in good standing of his/her congregation. Applicants are requested to have documented young adult UU worship leader credentials, for example the UUA Renaissance Worship module or other training that will be provided. They must be able to receive UUA Military Ministry endorsement to facilitate UU young adult worship. Applicants must also complete Great Lakes Naval annual 2-hour volunteer worship leader training on the do’s and don’ts of relating to the recruits.  For security purposes, they must pass a computerized National Agency Check of Social Security Number and Drivers License numbers in order to be issued a photo ID and vehicle pass that allows access to the base.  These are renewed annually.

The volunteer Lay Worship Leader includes the following responsibilities:

  • ability to relate to young adults training for military service,
  • lead worship 10 times a year, about once every 5 weeks,
  • attend lay worship leader meetings/trainings about once a year,
  • coordinate the worship leader schedule together with other volunteers.

The work load is about 2-4 hours worship preparation and 1 hour to lead worship.  Since it is a different group of recruits each week, many lay leaders create a portfolio of services that can be easily repeated.

UUMMGL is an Equal Opportunity Employer and encourages women, persons of color, young adults, and persons with disabilities to apply.

Contact Information

The UUMMGL stands ready to help those interested in providing young adult UU services at another boot camp/military base or becoming a Great Lakes lay leader. At this time (June, 2023) all five allowed positions are filled, however openings do occur.  

If you would like to learn more, email  Roger Baron, UUMMGL Board Chair, at info@uummgl.org with a cc: to rbbaron@comcast.net or mail hard copy to Unitarian Universalist Military Ministry, c/o North Shore Unitarian Church, 2100 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015.

Recruit Training Command Chapel