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Father Babb finds new flock

Tim Mutrie

After nearly 20 years of service to the community, the head priest of Christ Episcopal Church is leaving Aspen for another parish, in Texas.

“Saying goodbye to Aspen is bittersweet,” said Father Bob Babb, wading through packing boxes at his home Wednesday. “It’s sad to end relationships that my wife and I have made, and it’s very difficult to say goodbye to those folks. But the other side of that coin is that we’ll be able to own our own house, and we’ll be in a new and different church setting. We consider it as a great adventure.”

Babb will lead his last two services in the church at North and Sixth streets at 8 and 10 a.m. this Sunday and then leave his longtime home later that afternoon with his family. Their destination: Longview, Texas, population: 80,000.

“It’s a much larger church than Aspen’s, with about 800 members,” Babb said. The Episcopal Church also has a parish school on the grounds, with about 500 students in kindergarten through high school, he said.

“Longview’s not a recreational community, like Aspen is. I believe life will slow down a bit, and there won’t be as much competition for things that we like to do spiritually. That makes a big difference,” Babb said.

Babb will be missed by his parishioners, friends and coworkers, said Liz Evans, his assistant at the church and friend of 20 years.

“Father Babb’s leaving will be a big loss, not only to our church and to me personally, but to the entire Aspen community,” Evans said. “He and his wife, Carol, have shown the love of Jesus Christ to so many of us in their daily living, their faithfulness, and their generosity and caring for all persons everywhere.”

The 61-year-old Babb said he considered retiring in Aspen. But, the cost of living here coupled with the effect his presence might have on his successor at Christ Episcopal Church convinced him it’s best to move on.

“I don’t think that would be fair to the new priest,” Babb said. “Besides, the church [in Longview] gave us money for a down payment on a house, so for first time in my 35 years in the ministry, we’ll be able to own our own house.”

The native Coloradan said he looks forward to the Lone Star State’s climate, but not its football team.

“I’m not going to miss scraping the ice off the windshields or continually shoveling the snow,” he said. “I know it’s going to be really hot down

there in the summer, and now I’ll be able to come back and be a visitor.

“I only asked two questions when I got interviewed in Longview,” Babb said. “The first was, `Is there any fishing here?’ And the second, `What do you expect from me when the Cowboys play the Broncos?’ They didn’t turn me down because I’m a Broncos fan, so we’ll be all right.”

Like many longtime locals, Babb has seen many changes in Aspen. But unlike many who grumble, he finds positive aspects in the transformation.

“Aspen isn’t like it used to be, but in many ways it’s changed for the better,” Babb said. “When we came here in 1979, we weren’t sure if we wanted to raise children here because it wasn’t much of a family community, and that’s all changed for the positive. I’m very supportive of that.

“The changes I have seen and the new experiences I’ve had because of the people I’ve met has just been great,” he said.


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