War Story with a Difference

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Neil Ralley is making available to US and Allied Chaplains throughout the Theatre of Operations, other bases and onboard US Navy ships the slide show which he and Fr Timothy Butler created in 2004 to brighten up services of worship over Christmas. The slide show has about 100 of Ralley's images of vintage stained glass, each one with an Advent or Nativity theme and is being distributed to US bases, worldwide, via the internet.

On Christmas eve, all around the combat zones, services will be held for US and Allied troops, airmen and their support personnel. These services are usually held in large buildings, without character, which have to serve as briefing rooms, hangers, movie theatres and, sometimes, places of worship. They are almost invariably spartan and lack any of the decor usually found in a place of worship.

Last year at some of these locations things were different due to the efforts of a US Air Force chaplain who was based in Kyrgyzstan and a New Jersey-based photographer and stained glass enthusiast. Though these two had never met and were living thousands of miles apart they worked together to create a slide show which was made available to US forces installations in Iraq and the neighbouring countries, in Afghanistan and it's surrounds and even onboard US Navy ships around the world.

This year the slide show will again be made available with renewed efforts to ensure that chaplains and support personnel are informed about its availability and, if necessary, provided with help in downloading and using it.

Fr Tim Butler, who originally came up with the idea when he was chaplain at the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, explained "Last year we were under the gun time-wise getting this completed and getting the word around, this year we have more time to publicize it and I think that a lot of locations will make use of it. Certainly my experience in Manas last year was that it did a lot to help create a beautiful atmosphere for worship in an otherwise very basic setting and I know that those forces personnel who attended my Christmas services were very moved by the images and accompanying music."

Soon after Christmas of 2004 Fr Butler ended his tour of duty at Manas and he is now located at Keesler Air Force base at Biloxi, MS. Currently he is heavily involved in the rebuilding and recovery work arising from the impact of hurricane Katrina which hit the base and surrounding area. Fortunately there were no casualties on the base itself but there was extensive damage and the areas and people just outside the base were hit hard.

Neil Ralley has already uploaded a copy of the slide show onto his award-winning website (http://www.stainedglassphotography.com) so that it can be downloaded from anywhere in the world. His website has literally hundreds of images of stained glass windows, many depicting Christmas or Advent themes and new images are constantly being added.

About Fr Timothy Butler:

Fr. Butler has been an active duty chaplain in the Air Force for over 10 years and a priest ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston for over 15 years. He is currently stationed at the Keesler US Air Force in Biloxi, MS.

About Neil Ralley:

Ralley created and launched the website Stained Glass Photography (http://www.stainedglassphotography.com) in 2002 to provide free access to his photographs of vintage stained glass. The site became a Yahoo 'Pick of the Day' barely a month after it was launched and has received well over a million page views since it was launched. Ralley strongly believes that stained glass represents an important part of America's artistic heritage which is at risk and that it should be properly documented as well as being preserved for future generations.


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