Guest column: Origin of Aspen Chapel’s purpose, architecture rooted in Bishop E.M. Yost
Rev. Gregg Anderson
Bishop E.M. (Earvey Megli) Yost was the first founder of the Aspen Chapel of the Prince of Peace. He was a Mennonite Minister, but he had a vision for establishing an independent chapel that would be universally open to all people of many faiths.
He was born in Nebraska in 1902 and he died in Colorado in 1983. In 1920, at the age of 19, Earvey Yost experienced a call to ministry within a conservative sect of the Mennonite Church in Kansas called the Holdeman Church.
According to Mennonite historical records, however, it is stated: “Soon after 1928, Yost found himself in tension with some of the doctrines and traditions of the Holdeman Church. He wanted greater freedom to enhance his preaching with study and preparation in contrast to the Holdeman’s spontaneous Spirit-led sermon approach. He also questioned the theological position that the Church of God in Christ Mennonite (Holdeman) was the only true church. Because of his concerns, he was asked to stop preaching within that particular sect or denomination of the Mennonite Church.”
Yost then transferred to the more accepting and general Mennonite Church in which he later became a Bishop in Colorado.
Toward the end of his ministry, Yost attended both a world Mennonite conference in France and a World Council of Churches conference in Switzerland. It has been imagined by his family that such meetings further influenced him to establish an ecumenical chapel beyond any one church or faith.
As a Bishop in Colorado, Yost chose Aspen knowing that it attracts people from all over the country and world. He wanted the Chapel to be universal and common in structure.
Bishop Yost’s vision was further influenced by his visitation to renovated mills in France that had been transformed to “Mills of Peace” and Wayfarer’s Chapels. They were simply old wheat mills in a plain rectangular stone building with a pitched shake roof and a subsequent addition of a steeple.
A French artist Jean Jacques Duval designed the stained glass windows which surround the Chapel and depict the Beatitudes. As a pacifistic Mennonite, the purpose of peace was foremost.
Although the Aspen Chapel does not have a directly related statement from Bishop Yost, it is highly speculated that his early and personal conflict with any one church being the “only true church” coupled with the influence of two world conferences later in his ministry significantly contributed and gave birth to his universal vision of a chapel of global peace.
Aspen Chapel is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is writing a monthly column on the first Sunday of the month in 2019. Rev. Gregg Anderson is the Chaplain Emeritus.
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