Vail chapel serves more than spiritual needs in community

From weddings to concerts to stranded travelers, the chapel is well-used

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily

Chapels and churches almost everywhere serve purposes beyond ministering to the faithful. That’s particularly true in Vail, where one chapel serves many congregations.

Almost since the doors opened in 1969, the chapel has served as a community center for meetings and events, from concerts to weddings to meetings of various 12-step groups. The chapel also serves as a haven for travelers stranded when Interstate 70 is closed over Vail Pass.

When work starts in April of 2021 on putting a new roof on the chapel and repaving the parking lot — the first part of a $10 million capital campaign — that work will be done around the myriad community groups that use the chapel.

“We have more community events than religious events,” said the Rev. Tim Wilbanks, the president of the Vail Religious Foundation Board of Directors and the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which uses the chapel. Wilbanks said the religious foundation has already been in talks with Beck Building Company to ensure that work is done without disturbing the many groups that use the chapel.

Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the biggest chapel users, with between 14 and 18 meetings every week, Wilbanks said. The chapel also hosts bridge and mahjong players. The Vail Symposium hosts several sessions per year at the chapel.

The Vail Interfaith Chapel over the years has hosted thousands of weddings, both big and intimate.
Photo courtesy of Michael Rawlings Photography

Lots and lots of weddings

JoAnn Moore has long planned weddings in the Vail Valley and elsewhere. The Vail chapel and others are like homes away from home, Moore said.

The Vail chapel has long been a place of both contemplation and celebration, Moore said. More than once, she’s taken wedding clients on weekday tours of the chapel and found people just sitting in peace, finding respite from whatever has complicated their day.

Moore said the Vail chapel is the first place she takes Vail Valley clients. But, she added, the building is showing its age.

“As a wedding planner, the updates would help,” Moore said.

That’s the point of the capital campaign, of course. In addition to the roof and parking lot, plans include landscaping for the area that leads from the chapel to Gore Creek, as well as new windows and upgrading the current heating and ventilation system.

Wilbanks said the project also includes upgrading group rooms and the fellowship hall downstairs.

The fellowship hall will also have easier access to the outdoor setting leading down to the creek.

The Bravo! Vail Music Festival is a frequent summer user of the Vail Interfaith Chapel.
Zach Mahone/Special to the Daily

The sound of music

But, Moore added, “We don’t want to lose the history of Vail” that lives within the chapel’s walls.

Those walls often reverberate with music from some of the world’s best classical music performers.

Bravo! Vail Music Festival Executive Director Caitlin Murray said the chapel for several years has been the group’s primary venue for free community concerts.

In July of non-pandemic years, the chapel will host performances twice a week, packing the house.

Those free concerts are part of the Bravo! Vail mission, Murray said, helping foster appreciation of the arts.

The chapel concerts are a “real staple of what we do every summer,” Murray said.

While chapels around the world host music performances, “We always brag about the natural setting here,” Murray said. Coming to settings including the chapel and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is a “stunning” background for performers and performances, she added.

Wilbanks said the capital campaign, while still young, is already gaining momentum.

“We’re very excited,” Wilbanks said.


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