BEAVER CREEK — The Chapel at Beaver Creek celebrated 25 years of interfaith unity on Sunday with local members of the Episcopalian, Jewish, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Baptist churches.
Honoring all those faiths, as well as the chapel building itself, was the theme of the evening worship ceremony.
The ceremony was also an opportunity to remember President Gerald R. Ford, one of the chapel’s founders who would have turned 100 years old Sunday. Ford passed away in 2006.
The celebration was open to the public and saw visits from people who had been attending the chapel for all 25 years, as well as those who were there for the first time.
“We were here on vacation and saw it was the 25th anniversary, so we decided to stop by,” said Carole Peck of Las Vegas, who attended with her husband, Art. “We think it’s really neat.”
With families like the Pecks in mind, Pastor Scott Beebe of Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church said the chapel is a place where the world gathers.
“It’s not just the community here in Beaver Creek, but folks from literally around the world gather to pray and celebrate in this building,” he said.
Like any good birthday celebration, fond memories of the honored was what many came to hear. Pastor Tim Wilbanks began at the chapel’s very inception by retelling the story of how the building came to be.
“In the Old Testament we read that the Balsam Poplar is the tree from which the extract is derived that produced the balm of Gilead — the place of healing, the place of ministry, the place of anointing,” he said.
A grove of the locally rare Balsam Poplar trees was discovered at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain 25 years ago, and it was decided at that time it would be a perfect site for a chapel. Since then, the chapel has provide a place of interfaith worship that’s not easy to find these days, said Rabbi Deborah Rappaport of B’nai Vail.
“When we come in, we don’t have religious symbols that we have to swap out, we can bring our own,” she said. “That doesn’t happen in very many places.”
John Galvin, chairman of the Beaver Creek Chapel Endowment Foundation, agreed.
“It is not a resort where people come, play, and go away,” Galvin said. “(The chapel) forms a different bonding between all of those people. It’s a bonding that provides a lot of fun and laughter, counsel and help to people when they’re sick, and it provides support when we lose some of those people that have been our friends. This is unique in a resort community.”
But Galvin said keeping the chapel up, standing and upstanding is not easy. A routine roof replacement recently cost the chapel more than $350,000, he said.
But thanks to the interfaith efforts of the chapel, the endowment foundation should ensure that the chapel sees another 25 years of service.
“We have programmed all the major maintenance for the next 20 years of the chapel on a scheduled basis, and the earnings from the endowment should pay for those repairs and capital maintenance,” he said.