"There are no atheists in the foxholes," U.S. Army chaplain William Thomas Cummings said in March 1942. Back at base camp, there are plenty of believers—but no church building.
Enter the "containerized chapel," developed at the Army's Natick Labs. Within six hours of being dropped out of a cargo plane, the $125,000, 64-foot-long tent can accommodate services for up to 100 Protestants, Catholics, Jews, or Muslims. Different kits allow for different ceremonies: the Jewish version, for example, includes camouflage prayer shawls and yarmulkes. The Muslim kit has prayer mats. A television, VCR, and coffee maker are included for informal Bible study sessions.
The chapels also have portable linen-covered altars and podiums, digital keyboards pre-programmed with 1,000 spiritual tunes, even offering plates for long-distance tithing. But traditionalists are out of luck: there's only grape juice in the Communion kits.
The U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School was given a sample chapel tent to test. It arrived in a 8-foot by 8-foot by 20-foot ISO container and was set up by about 12 officers. The school's site has a report on the test and several images including demonstrations of the different versions: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish.
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center is located in Natick, Massachusetts, and thus known locally as the Natick Labs. The official site includes a detailed article on the development of the chapel and what it includes.
Other related articles include:
'Containerized Chapels' Open — Military.com
Army's Containerized Chapel Has Everything Except a Chaplain — Associated Press1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more