Letters to the editor
Trying to save
Red Cliff church
I moved back home over three years ago from California, where the church I was attending was just beginning what promises to be a long, expensive, drawn-out court battle (one that is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court). The battle there is not with the ACLU over the word God or anything like that, but rather with the local municipality which is wishing to exercise its perceived power of eminent domain to prevent them from building a new church on property that was acquired for that purpose.
Here in Red Cliff, we are not engaged in anything quite so newsworthy, or eye catching as a possible case for the U.S. Supreme Court. No, we are in a fight with of all things, the Denver Presbytery.
The details here are notes and minutes from meetings that literally go back to the turn of the last century. People who were battling perceived enemies of a different kind built our tiny little church in the mountains in 1891. The congregation actually formed in 1871.
Red Cliff was a town developing on the wings of the Leadville silver boom, and was expanding into the Vail-Eagle River Valley. Back then, the fight was for souls, and the church served as a place where people could go and hear the word of God during what had to be a pretty tough existence by all accounts.
Today the lifestyle is different, based on the proximity to several of the premier ski resorts in the world. While many in town are families that remain from the glory days of mining, many are new in town and base their livelihood on the resorts and the surrounding businesses.
Today, the town has the make-up of a typical metropolitan suburb. We have small-business owners, attorneys, environmental activists, employees and a few retirees.
What is drastically different today is the cost of property. Twenty years ago, the small leftover mining houses were selling for a mere $5,000 or less. Today those same lots are selling for close to $200,000.
A couple of years ago when the vision of the Presbytery was to build a new large
church in the heart of the valley (where the money is), the way to fund the new building was to sell the old church in Minturn and Red Cliff. The former Presbyterians of the town of Red Cliff were able to get the sale of their building stopped. Today the church in Minturn is a recycled clothing store called Holy Toledo, creative but very depressing. The new church in Avon is up and running, although I understand they have gone through the process of changing pastors once again. You may not have noticed it. It sits in the valley below the new super stores – progress?
Now for reasons known only to them, the Denver Presbytery has decided to sell the property in Red Cliff. The interesting thing is whether or not they have the right to sell the property, as the deed has some verbiage in it that could prevent this.
This same issue came up 30 years ago. Back then the Presbytery decided to sell the property. The minutes from the Denver Presbytery General Council from April 23, 1974 show an agreement was reached to sell the property to the Red Cliff community for a nominal sum. The members of the congregation paid an existing mortgage which was a part of that sum, and the remainder was to be paid as the title was conveyed.
The only reason the sale was not completed was that the actual title could not be located. Turns out the title was located in the Summit County Courthouse because this all used to be Summit County. Regardless, the years passed by, and the members of the Red Cliff Community Church have continued to worship in the former Presbyterian Church based on an informal agreement that allowed them to use it as a church building.
Last September things changed. The Presbytery sent us a written notice asking us to cease and desist from using the property based on what they said was an unsafe building. The same pastor who was responsible for the Red Cliff and Minturn congregation closing down and relocating to Avon’s new church convinced the Denver Presbytery that it was best to sell the building because the floors and walls in the Red Cliff Church were unsafe. In separate inspections conducted by an engineering firm representing the Denver Presbytery and by an engineering firm representing the Red Cliff Community Church, the building has been noted to have some potential for problems and some repair work may become necessary. The Denver Presbytery chose to use their version to determine the building was unsafe.
Since then, out of a sense of respect for what we believed to be a just authority, we have conducted weekly services with a regular pastor in the Red Cliff Community Center. We have conducted services there based on idealistic hopes that we will regain rights to the property that we believe are already ours. But we are the little guy in this case, and last summer the Presbytery did have the locks changed on us.
I can understand from a corporate point of view why they do not feel they can continue to recognize Red Cliff as one of their participating churches (not enough money coming out of here).
But on several occasions they have conducted themselves in a manner that is contrary to what we are supposed to be doing as Christians. To turn around now and want to sell the property without any consideration to the community’s well being I believe is the perfect example of why so many people are dropping out of the ranks of denominational churches. The politics and the corporate point of view have absolutely outweighed the ecclesiastical point of view.
When I moved back home, I did it for several reasons: family, lifestyle, the area, the mountains, friends. The list could go on, and on. When I first decided to go back to the church of my youth, I did not expect to end up in a battle that has lasted for three years now (and really for the last 30 years is unresolved). Several lives have literally been changed because of this battle.
You could never have convinced me that the large Denver Presbytery with its programs on developing ethnic relations would be attempting to sell the church in a community that is about as ethnically diverse as you can find in the state of Colorado.
We do need your support in this matter. We do not have the resources, financial or otherwise to battle the corporate giant Denver Presbytery. If you are Presbyterian, contact your local elders, pastors, and speak out at your local session meetings. This is wrong!.
If you are not Presbyterian, then possibly your interests are with preserving one of Colorado’s oldest Churches. Who do you know that you can call or write to? Maybe you are a Christian who believes the good fight is not only in the money centers and the suburbs, but also with the little guy. Maybe you’re an attorney who would welcome the challenge of taking on the Denver Presbytery for the sake of what is right. I can dream!
We have decided that the fight for this historical church is worth the fight. We have presented the Denver Presbytery with a check that represents the final portion of the amount agreed upon back in the 1970s for the purchase of the property under the name of the Red Cliff Community Church.
Most of all we ask that you join us in prayer that the Denver Presbytery will accept our offer to purchase the building so that we may continue to fight the good fight, and do so in the building that represents more than just a block description on a map in the county (no one from the Denver Presbytery has even been to Red Cliff).
Ramon V. Montoya
Red Cliff Community Church
Didn’t like photo
Publication in the paper of the photo of the human skull found by several Eagle anglers last summer shows an extraordinary lack of sensitivity for people who might find this image disrespectful. No one yet knows who this person was. No one yet knows whether or not this person was a Native American.
The article’s comment that the skull had teeth with fillings means nothing more than this person lived sometime in the last century or so. Native Americans get cavities, too, and do visit the dentist. Most Native Americans consider the display of images of human remains to be extraordinarily disrespectful to that person, to their relatives, and to other Native Americans, regardless of whether there’s a direct biological relationship.
Most people, regardless of ethnicity, would find this photo disturbing, and its publication lacking in any sort of respect for the deceased and their relatives. The anonymity inherent in not yet knowing who the person was should not dimish our recognition that this person probably has living relatives somewhere.
The men who found this skull did exactly the right thing by calling local law enforcement. Colorado state law requires anyone who finds known or suspected human remains on state, municipality, or private land to notify local law enforcement immediately. Someone, unfortunately, decided to snap a picture of the skull. That mistake was only compounded by your publication of the photo.
Above and beyond
Visiting Vail for a family ski trip about a month ago, my girlfriend and I witnessed generosity and selflessness that can sometimes be missing in this busy and chaotic society developing around us.
Here’s the story: After a day at Vail we happened to board the wrong bus after some confusion on my part regarding the bus schedule. We figured it would just be a big waste of time riding the bus two ways before having to get on the right bus from Vail to Beaver Creek.
Upon arriving in Leadville, you heard right, Leadville, we asked when the return bus would be and were astonished to learn that no bus would be returning to Vail until 6 a.m. the next day. It was recommended for us to hitch-hike.
So we tried, and tried, and as our hopes faded with the disappearance of the sun behind the mountains and a single light next to the trailer park illuminated a small portion of the street, a little red pickup truck with a topper on the back pulled up and out popped Jeanne, our wonderful bus driver from the ECO Transit bus service. She had returned to check up on us and see if we had succeeded in catching a ride. But since we hadn’t, without a second thought, she had us toss our stuff in the back of her truck, and drove us through the beginnings of a snowstorm all the way to Vail before having to return to Leadville later that night on her own.
This wasn’t my first visit to Vail, nor will it be my last. I have always been impressed by the welcoming atmosphere of Vail Valley. It is people who create this atmosphere, but it is the people like Jeanne, going above and beyond just a smile, who make visiting the Vail community a memorable experience that can renew one’s trust and happiness. Thanks Jeanne!
One of a kind
I want to thank Randy Wyrick for the beautiful piece on Dana DelBosco Jan. 26. I first met Dana in 1992, my first booking in the Vail Valley as an entertainer. Through the years, she shared her time, home and heart with me. I will miss her light, joy and wisdom. I, too, have a “Dana-sized hole” in my heart. She was truly one of a kind.
Bluffton, South Carolina
Fighting for freedom
Liu Chengjun, a member of Amnesty International’s rescue list, was tortured to death in China during the Christmas season.-Liu died in a forced-labor camp where he was sentenced to 19 years for tapping into a local cable to broadcast information about the persecution of Falun Gong.-
An American citizen, Dr. Charles Lee, is also imprisoned for suspicion of assisting in similar broadcasts.-
Both men are Falun Gong practitioners who endured severe torture for their attempts to inform the Chinese public. Thus far, Dr. Lee has managed to survive the abuse.-
The Chinese government currently uses its state-controlled media to cover up its human rights abuses against Falun Gong and to fabricate stories intended to discredit the peaceful spiritual group.-
Control of the media allows the Chinese government to control the minds of the populace and even convince citizens to participate in the persecution.- However, the average Chinese citizen would not know that reporting a Falun Gong practitioner to the government could lead to the death of an innocent person. For many Chinese, the local broadcasts are the first glimpse they have of a persecution being carried out in their own country.-
Liu risked his life for his beliefs and for the people directly impacted by a harsh and violent persecution.
Now that Liu’s time has passed, we should take a moment to remember him and all those who sacrificed for humanity. Their sacrifices allow freedom to flourish and help to bring all of us a peaceful new year. May the New Year also be a peaceful one for Dr. Lee.
Sitting in one of Vail’s chair lifts means quite often meeting somebody you have never seen before and you will never meet again. But it also gives me a lot of ideas to think about.
Some days ago I was riding up Chair 5 and somehow we talked about the story of Adam Aron and the parking lot. My neighbor told me that he thinks there might be a lot of people in this valley who are simply jealous because the guy makes so much money. If you or me would park on a handicapped space, nobody would mention it in the newspaper. And do we not all once while do something wrong? Does Mr. A.A. really have to be perfect and without any faults?
My argument was, his money is not my business. If you have money like A.A., or you have power like Mr. Bush in his white house, they will die like me and you. When the big box is closed and the ceremony is over, there will be no difference anymore.
The guy beside me agreed and added: Can they enjoy skiing, boarding, fresh air, blue sky and simply peace, or just to meet other skiers in a chair lift? I don’t think so, because all of this needs practice and to be in shape and to be as unimportant as we are.
What are the goals in life? Money or power? What do they get? What do we get? We decided we would never change our seat in the chair lift for their seat in a more important chair. So why be jealous? Let’s live our life as we like it. It is short enough. A great day on the mountain, with powder or maybe a great run in the Halfpipe at Golden Peak or through the race course there. We all have different goals.
Can other people imagine what it means to us?
OK, compared to Mr. Bush this may be peanuts. Mr. Bush likes his talks in the White House and to tell everybody what to do. A.A. likes to ride a snow cat and I like my skis and snowboards. For me, it is also much more fun to drink a simple bottle of beer with a good friend instead of having a glass of wine in an overpriced restaurant.
What is life quality? I bet most of us have more fun on this Vail mountain then a lot of other people can imagine. This kind of fun you get only when you develop the skills to do it. It looks like a lot of people are used to buying everything. Our kind of life quality is not for sale. But before we got too enthusiastic, we reached the top of Chair 5 and dropped out of it. Take care! We probably will never meet each other again.
What stayed is that this guy brought back to me what counts in Life. These are the hours of happiness. And I guess a lot of people who moved into the Vail Valley had deep inside the feeling they might find more happy times here than somewhere else.
To sit in Chair 5, to see the mountains and the birds and to feel the friendship with the guy beside you. Can you really ask for more?
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