Eagle County resorts’ chapels packed for Christmas | VailDaily.com

Eagle County resorts’ chapels packed for Christmas

NWS Christmas Eve Service DT 12-24-11

VAIL, Colorado – Forget “happy holidays.” For a lot of people, Christmas remains a religious holiday. Many of those people are visiting the Vail Valley right now, and taking time to worship.

Local Christian congregations expect thousands of people to worship Christmas Eve and Christmas day at the interfaith chapels in Vail and Beaver Creek. Local Catholics – who belong to the world’s largest Christian church, with more than a billion members – have even arranged for overflow services at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vail and the Vilar Center.

Most of those people are visitors of one kind or another, from seasonal employees to second homeowners to tourists. All will find a warm welcome from local pastors and their congregations.

“All the Christian congregations are opening their doors as wide as possible,” Episcopal Father Brooks Keith said. Keith said his church alone will host more than 1,000 people for Christmas Eve and Christmas day services, and estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 people will attend some sort of Christian worship service over Christmas.

“It’s a significant event in the valley,” Keith said.

And the local Episcopalians have special services in mind for the holidays.

“We customize all our services,” Keith said. “We’re going to put on an epic Christmas pageant, with special prayers and music. We’ll have 50 people taking time to get to know others. We totally re-arrange ourselves for this.”

This will be Lutheran Pastor Scott Beebe’s fourth Christmas at the interfaith chapels. He said he’s still struck by the number of people from just about everywhere he meets in Vail during the Christmas season.

“I was out skiing Vail for a few hours this morning, and I didn’t meet a single soul from the valley,” Beebe said Friday. Of course, he invited just about everyone to one of the services.

Beebe said the Lutherans plan to keep things fairly simple for Christmas, with some special music, of course, and a little time outside with candlelight and hymns.

“We get people to greet one another and spend some time getting to know each other,” Beebe said. “I wish we could do communion, but we just don’t have time.”

Father Roger Lascelle, leader of St. Patrick’s parish, said Catholics will follow the same traditions kept all over the world. People who don’t speak much English will know what the holiday mass holds.

Part of what makes worship special here, Lascelle said, is “you see the whole expanse of our faith in one place.”

Like his pastoral colleagues, Pastor Tim Willbanks of the local Presbyterian church said the diversity of people attending worship is something he treasures.

“We’re a community church for the country and the world,” Millbanks said.

Ultimately, though, people are people, no matter where they are, Millbanks said. “We just have a different congregation every Sunday.”

Even the local Jewish community is getting in some time at the chapels. Rabbi Debra Rappaport said the B’nai Vail congregation managed to get some time at the Edwards chapel for a Dec. 23 Hanukkah dinner. That eight-day festival of lights always comes sometimes in December, but moves around in December. This year, it just happens to coincide with Christmas.

That means B’nai Vail will be able to participate in a couple of old Jewish traditions. Besides the Hanukkah dinner, Rappaport will also welcome whoever wants to attend for dinner at Henry’s Chinese Cafe in Edwards.

“The old tradition is Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Eve,” Rappaport said. “Those were the only things that were open.”

Again, everyone is welcome.

And, while most people attending Christmas services have been to Vail and Beaver Creek before, Willbanks said there’s a handful of newcomers every year.

“We’ll have people come in off the streets,” Keith said. “But all are welcome.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism