Aspen Chapel, home to local Jews and Christians, turns 35
The chapel perched on the hill overlooking the primary entrance to Aspen turned 35 last weekend.The stone edifice and tall steeple of the Aspen Chapel, an interfaith organization that features both Christian services and Jewish Shabbat weekly, has been a recognizable part of Aspen since it was dedicated in 1969.
Chaplain Gregg Anderson has been with the chapel for the last 26 years as its first and only minister. He said there is no formal membership for the chapel, since “if there are no insiders, there are no outsiders, and we want it to be a chapel for the broader community of Aspen rather than a denominational church.”This unique mission dates back to early in the 1960s when Bishop E.M. Yost from the First Mennonite Church in Denver attended the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Anderson said that Bishop Yost went to a renovated mill in the mountains of France along a stream, known as “The Mill of Peace.” It was essentially a wayfarers chapel for anyone who needed a place for meditation, including hikers passing by.
“[Bishop Yost] had visited Aspen, and knew it was a cultural place, and thought a chapel like that would work in such an environment,” Anderson said. The financial backing for the venture came from Bishop Yost’s nephew Lyle Yost, who had become successful as an industrialist in Hesston, Kan. Lyle Yost, who is now 91, was at the Aspen Chapel Sunday for the birthday party. He is still the chairman of its board of trustees.
As a truly interfaith, ecumenical chapel, it welcomed the participation of the Aspen Jewish Congregation in the mid-1980s. The Christian/Jewish relationship was made official in 1989, and the chapel became the congregation’s synagogue. In May, the chapel held a joint Christian/Jewish service as a Holocaust remembrance.”We’re a small chapel but a very, very active chapel – just like Aspen is a small community that accomplishes big tasks,” Anderson said. The chapel has grown 10 percent over the last 10 years through programming, attendance and tithing. For the next five years he said the chapel hopes to become more progressive in its theology for Christian services, and continue to work with the local Jewish community.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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