Edwards interfaith chapel nearly 20 years in the making
Vail, CO Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado – Thursday was an emotional day for the founders of the Edwards Interfaith Chapel – at least 20 volunteers helped move furniture into the brand new building as they looked on in awe of what was happening.
Stephen Baird, a committee chairman of the capital campaign for the new chapel, and C.J. Tenner, vice president of the Eagle Valley Religious Foundation, couldn’t believe their eyes.
“I’ve been on the board for 6 years – they’ve been working on (getting this chapel built) for 16 years,” Tenner said.
Tenner met with Donald Sigman earlier Thursday and chatted about the earliest days of the Edwards Interfaith Chapel, which opens Saturday with a dedication ceremony and donor appreciation reception. The Edwards Interfaith Chapel will be home to four congregations – B’nai Vail Jewish Congregations, Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Covenant Presbyterian Church.
The earliest meetings happened at a home in Potato Patch, Sigman told him. Members of the Vail Religious Foundation and Beaver Creek Religious Foundation recognized growth downvalley and knew someday they’d like to expand.
“This small group of people kept the dream alive when some people were saying we didn’t need another chapel,” Tenner said.
The group looked at just about every available piece of property in Edwards before finding a spot just west of the Habitat for Humanity Fox Hollow site, nestled into a mountainside with beautiful views.
Baird said Eagle Valley Religious Foundation members Carolyn Cage and Jo Brown found the land about six years ago, and that’s when the campaign began to raise money for a down payment.
“It’s incredible. I’m just in awe that we’re here – I’m getting emotional,” Baird said. “It’s been a real blessing to work with everyone.”
Fundraising proved that there are kind people in the valley who were 100 percent behind the idea of the new chapel. Baird said they received everything from $1 donations to a donation of more than $2 million throughout the fundraising campaign.
A true community space
The foundation raised close to $10 million for the first phase of the building. Tenner said they’re hoping to raise about $130,000 more to finish the six classrooms in the chapel building, as well as a library and study.
The foundation would also like to upgrade the chapel’s kitchen someday – they built the infrastructure now that would make an expansion into a commercial kitchen easier.
The board made sure to spend only the money it had, rather than go into debt over the building.
Tours throughout the building Saturday night will show off the incomplete classrooms in hopes of raising some of the needed funds.
The need for classrooms has become more and more apparent over the years, Tenner said.
Myrna Sigman helped start B’nai Vail Congregation’s Hebrew School in someone’s basement about 20 years ago. Today, there are more than 60 children in the Hebrew School. The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration also now has about 50 to 60 children in its religious school.
Baird said the first phase of the Edwards building had to include spaces for education – the board recognized the need for such uses, he said.
The building is state of the art, with about $800,000 worth of audio and visual equipment. The board also decided to get portable chairs for the main worship room, or great room, so they can hold various events and community gatherings there. The carpet is even a special carpet that allows the children to play basketball inside, Baird said.
“It can be set up for anything,” Baird said.
The building also features a shower, which will come in handy during Vail Pass closures when the chapel serves as a shelter, Tenner said.
Tenner hopes to put the Edwards Interfaith Chapel, as well as the entire interfaith community in the valley, into the national spotlight through a show like “60 Minutes.” He said that with all the negative media relating to the mosque at Ground Zero in New York City, this is a story that should uplift people’s spirits about Americans and their acceptance of one another.
“This is the opposite of the Ground Zero mosque debate,” Tenner said. “We are four faiths working together.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.