Community building: Vail Interfaith Chapel’s renovation project gets off the ground

First phase of project will replace aging roof, windows and parking lots

Religious leaders who serve the six congregations at the Vail Interfaith Chapel break ground Monday to launch the first phase of a years-long $7 million renovation project. From left are Father Jose Maria Quera, Rev. Brooks Keith, Rabbi Joel Newman, Rev. Tim Wilbanks, Rev. Matthew Wyatt and Rev. Scott Beebe.
Chris Dillmann/

VAIL — The Vail Interfaith Chapel needs a new roof in a bad way. Considering all of the different congregations and community organizations that come together under that one roof, the need is great.

On Monday, leaders of the six congregations that share the chapel, along with an array of town officials, donors and community members, came together at the front steps of the Vail landmark to officially kick off the first phase of a $7 million renovation project.

Speeches were made and gold shovels were plunged into the ground to launch a years-long facelift of the iconic building.

“Thank you for getting us here today,” said the Rev. Tim Wilbanks, who is the board president for the Vail Religious Foundation and the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church. “This is a place for the community to become better. It’s not about individuals, it’s about our community.”

The Vail Religious Foundation has already collected more than $3 million of the $10 million goal it set for a capital fundraising campaign that launched last year. That money should cover the first phase of the project, which includes replacing the wood shake roof on the 52-year-old structure, replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones, replacing parking lots, replacing the building’s elevator and installing solar panels. Construction will commence this spring and continue into the fall.

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Wilbanks, in his closing remarks, mentioned that he found inspiration for all that the chapel stands for in the community while out on a morning walk with his dog. The source? A bumper sticker that read: “God bless the whole world — no exceptions.”

For a house of worship that serves six different congregations and is used by as many as 50,000 people annually, as well as provides shelter for stranded travelers, those seven words pretty much sum it up, Wilbanks said.

Vail Mayor Dave Chapin and Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger also addressed the crowd.

In every iconic alpine village throughout the world, the chapel is always the centerpiece of the community, and Vail is no different, the mayor said.

“Oftentimes, in business stuff with the town, we always talk about return on investment,” Chapin said later during a reception at the nearby Sonnenalp hotel. “How do you even codify return on investment on something like this? This return on investment is so much more than a dollar amount.”

Henninger called the chapel a “community treasure” that provides a meeting space for 20 or so Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every week. And when Vail Pass shuts down, as it often does during the winter, those without a place to stay are always welcome under the chapel’s roof. The chapel also hosts Bravo! Vail performances, Vail Symposium events and an array of other non-religious meetings and groups.

“We could learn from what we have here,” Henninger said.

Others who spoke included Rabbi Joel Newman of B’Nai Vail and Father Jose Maria Quera of Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church.

Newman cited Psalm 133, which reads: “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together in unity.”

He later added, at the reception after the groundbreaking, that landing at the interfaith chapel eight years ago after serving as a Navy chaplain was a natural transition for him.

“I don’t think there’s another chapel like this in the country, outside of the hospitals and military bases and ships,” he said. “It works with everyone. You just say, this is a shared space, and you don’t have any symbology that would make someone feel uncomfortable.”

For more information about the campaign and construction projects, visit

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