Much more than a chapel: Aspen Chapel celebrates 50 years, looks to next chapter |

Much more than a chapel: Aspen Chapel celebrates 50 years, looks to next chapter

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

The Aspen Chapel is not your average house of worship.

While its iconic steeple and stained glass windows may appear more traditional, the chapel’s progressive, inclusive ethos embraces and caters to spiritualties and faiths of all types.

“We do feel that we’re filling a role here,” Aspen Chapel spiritual leader Nicholas Vesey said Thursday. “If Aspen is really (of the) mind, body, spirit ethic, we’d like to think that we represent the spirit side of that.”

As the chapel celebrates 50 years of enriching locals’ lives and ensuring the city’s founding principles ring true today, its leaders want to know what the community hopes to see next.

As part of this outreach, Aspen Chapel will host a series of communal events throughout the year, beginning with a heritage forum series Monday.

The chapel’s offerings to date are so diverse, Vesey said, future opportunities run the gamut.

Along with its spiritual services, throughout the week the chapel features scores of community classes that range from choir and music to meditation and yoga. In the basement, local artists’ work adorns the walls as part of its art gallery, with proceeds benefiting the artists and a partnering nonprofit.

“I think it is unique,” Vesey said. “It represents, I think, the openness that’s in Aspen.”

Over the years, the chapel also has opened its doors to thousands of weddings and several hundred memorial services, along with other life milestones.

Community service is another important aspect of the Aspen Chapel; last winter, it also operated as a night shelter for the local homeless population. Chapel officials have since met with Aspen city officials to determine how to best address the problem and be of service to the homeless.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, families and children of the chapel helped prepare and serve food to those in need.

“When you think ‘chapel,’ you think of a religious institution, but I think a lot of what we’re doing is reaching out. It’s very service-oriented, and it’s putting your own spiritual practice into action,” Heather Macdonald, managing director at Aspen Chapel, said Thursday. “And it’s one thing to develop a spiritual practice for yourself, but it’s another thing when you take that one step further and you go out into the community and you serve.”

Former Aspen Chapel reverend of 37 years Gregg Anderson said he considers it “not only the Aspen Chapel, but as Aspen’s chapel.”

Anderson retired as reverend in 2014, but remains a fixture at the chapel.

Although he expresses concern over a “hurting” church community, generally speaking, he is optimistic about Aspen Chapel’s next 50 years.

“I want the chapel to (remain) very progressive philosophically, spiritually, theologically, so that it makes religion real and relevant to people today,” Anderson said. “I’d like to somehow see the Aspen Chapel be a real lighthouse for a new form of spiritual gathering.”