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A priest, a rabbi and a minister

Eugene C. Scott

There was a priest, a rabbi, and a Presbyterian minister. Laugh if you like but this is no joke. Here in the Vail Valley itís reality. Jews and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Rabbis and Priests really do hang out together here. Seven congregations representing two different faiths and several hundred unique people share their lives and faith together through the Beaver Creek and Vail Interfaith Chapels. Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, and Presbyterians embody nearly forty years of a Vail Valley tradition of lay people and clergy (lay people being regular folks who have not been to seminary and clergy being irregular folks who have been to seminary) working together to attempt to meet the spiritual needs of those living in and visiting the valley. No easy task, that! The people who make up these congregations also present an uncommon picture of an uncommon unity.For example, no one of our congregations could afford either of the beautiful chapels we meet in at the base of the slopes. These buildings provide space for congregational worship, funerals and memorials, weddings and celebrations, and also sanctuary for prayer, study, support groups, and simple quiet. Also our combined support for vital organizations such as Vail Valley Cares, the Samaritan Center, and Salvation Army help us reach out to the community. Further Catholics, Protestants, and Jews gathered together to pray and hope and grieve after 9/11. Several of the Christian denominations work together to offer youth groups for kids in the valley: Freestyle for high schoolers and Cabin Fever for middle schoolers. Aspen Grove Caf was a worship service that met at Trinity Baptist, had Lutheran and non-denominational musical leadership, and was led by a Catholic and Presbyterian. Bínai Vail, the Jewish synagogue, regularly invites their Christian brothers and sisters to participate in their cycles of feasts and classes such as Passover and a Holocaust Memorial. And finally in a feat of absolute selfless unity we actually share closet space! We may not be able to agree on who left the vacuum cleaner out, but we certainly believe that our unity reflects Godís love for each of us.And we donít always agree. But somehow we cooperate without losing our distinctiveness. We donít pretend that the Jews and Christians donít disagree on who Jesus was. When necessary, we discuss this, and more, openly and with grace. We rarely hide behind the facade that our differences donít matter because we all believe the same thing in the end. We know we donít always believe the same and we know it does matter! Therefore tolerance is not our watchword. We donít merely tolerate one another. We strive to know and accept and respect one another. That means Catholic worship and Presbyterian worship not only meet at different hours but also reflect our distinct histories and theologies. We play well together, most of the time. Though I am proud to be a part of this interfaith community, I hope I am not bragging. It is much easier to write a glowing report of our cooperation than it is to live it out. Utopia itís not. But our life together is real.In reality hanging out with this diverse group I have learned much about faithónot only different expressions of faithóbut actual trust in God. It seems to me that when I believe I am right about some crucial theological point and others I honor and respect believe something 180 degrees differently but just as deeply, I have several choices: prove I am right (good luck there!), pound them into submission (seen any good Holy Wars lately?), give up my beliefs (no thanks), pretend we agree (sounds easy), start my own religion or country or whatever (been there, done that), or trust God to eventually straighten us out and show us the truth. In the mean time that means living in love and walking together in the tension of doubt and disagreement. Unfortunately I often stumble on that path. Incredibly someone in the interfaith community often extends a helping hand when that happens.Eugene C. Scott is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church. Services meet on Sundays at 8 a.m. in the Beaver Creek Chapel and 11 a.m. in the Vail Interfaith Chapel. You can reach him at Eugene@connectcpc.com or 477-0383.Vail, Colorado


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