Vail Interfaith Chapel to hold Jan. 18 service against hate
Service will include ministers from all six congregations that worship at the facility
- What: A community gathering to celebrate kindness and compassion toward all people.
- Where: Vail Interfaith Chapel.
- When: Saturday, Jan. 18, beginning at 6:45 p.m.
- The event is free and open to the public.
VAIL — It’s time for the Vail Valley to stand up.
In the wake of a pair of anti-Semitic attacks in New York and New Jersey and a church shooting in Texas, Rabbi Joel Newman of B’nai Vail put a note to the leaders of the other congregations that worship at the chapel. The idea was to hold a service to stand up to the hatred that’s become too common in both places of worship and the world at large.
Newman’s counterparts quickly agreed. After taking a hard look at the calendar — the chapel is a busy place — a service was set for Jan. 18 at 6:45 p.m.
Newman said the plan is for every congregation leader to speak, pray or lead the group in a song.
“We want people to pray according to (their) own faith group,” Newman said. “We don’t want it to be ecumenical.”
While the incidents that sparked the service are now a few weeks past, it took some work to schedule a local response.
“It’s a touch late, but this is really the only time we could make it,” Rev. Tim Wilbanks said. Wilbanks is the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church and the president of the Vail Religious Foundation. That foundation is responsible for the operation of the chapel, which is home to six congregations, including B’Nai Vail, Covenant Presbyterian, Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Mountain of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church and Mountain Community Church, the Baptist congregation.
Newman, a former Navy chaplain, said the chapel is unique in his experience. And, he added, the Jan. 18 service is just exactly what the chapel is for — bringing together people from different faiths and backgrounds.
Not that far away
While the violence in New York, New Jersey and Texas seems far away, the fact is that security is enough of a concern that Vail Police officers stand watch over services, particularly during the holiday season.
“I for one am very grateful for that — as are the people I serve,” Rev. Brooks Keith said. Keith is the lead pastor for the Episcopal congregation at the chapel.
The point of the service, Keith said, is “to spiritually protect people as the police protect us.”
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger has been invited to the Jan. 18 event, as has Eagle County Schools Superintendent Phil Qualman.
While the Vail chapel’s model is unique, it’s far from utopia.
“We have our share of disagreements, and they’re vehement at times,” Keith said. “But what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.”
Making a statement
In this case, the clergy and their parishioners are uniting to make a stand against hate.
“Let’s say and do something that presents a positive way of life instead of the calamities,” Wilbanks said. “We are desiring to make a positive statement about accepting differences and living within a community rather than hate and discouragement.”
Standing together shouldn’t be hard, but it seems to be in places.
Newman noted that in the military, it’s illegal to disparage someone’s race, religion or background.
“If you do that, you’re gone,” he said.
But even in the civilian world, spending time together doesn’t have to be stressful.
Keith recently returned from a cruise on a ship with more than 3,500 guests and a crew made up of people from more than 60 countries.
“It was one of the most diverse (populations) I’ve seen,” he said. “Everybody was there to have a good time … people treated each other respectfully.”
Then, the first email in Keith’s inbox was from Newman, about putting together the Jan. 18 service. Turning on a news program, one of the first stories was about teaching self-defense courses to Jewish people in the New York City area.
The Jan. 18 service is open to all.
“We’re trying to bring together the whole valley,” Newman said. And the message is simple, he said: “There’s no place for hate here.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.
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