History of Aspen Chapel
The Aspen Chapel was born in the mind of Bishop Erving M. Yost, overseer of the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference.
In the 1960s, Bishop Yost traveled to France to attend a World Mennonite Conference and a World Council of Churches Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. During these travels, he was also attracted to some old windmills which were converted to wayside chapels by the simple addition of a steeple. They were often referred to as “Paux Mulon” or “Mill of Peace.” These and other such encounters inspired Bishop Yost to dream of a more ecumenical and interfaith chapel situated in his home state of Colorado and in a town which attracted people from all over the country and world. He was familiar with Aspen, as the Mennonite church sponsored a Mennonite Voluntary Service Mission here as well as administration to Aspen’s local hospital. Aspen was selected as his site for the Aspen Chapel of the Prince of Peace.
The structure of the Aspen Chapel was brought to fruition through the abilities and efforts of Bishop E. M. Yost’s nephew, Mr. Lyle E. Yost of Hesston, Kansas. Mr. Yost was founder and chairman of Hesston Manufacturing Company which created and manufactured many innovations in farm implements, especially the harvesting of wheat. Many other significant contributions were given as well, such as the land from William Chambers, J. W. Vanderveer and Clarence Thomas and the 19 rank Moler Pipe Organ from Mr. Kenneth and Mrs. Almira Synder. This organ was first built in the home of the Snyders in Kenilworth, a suburb of Chicago. When the Snyders planned their retirement to Aspen, they read about the plans for a Chapel in Aspen and offered their pipe organ on the condition that Mrs. Snyder could come by and play her pipe organ anytime. This offer was not only naturally and gratefully accepted, but developed into a relationship in which Mrs. Snyder became the first voluntary director of the Chapel.
Plans for the Chapel in Aspen began in 1966. The articles of corporation were signed on December 21, 1967. The first board of directors consisted of Erving Yost, Denver; Lyle Yost, Hesston, Kansas; Clarence Decker, Denver; Melvin Jantz, Denver; Warren Oswald, Nebraska; Ewing Taylor, Aspen; Ross Bender, Indiana; Glenn Martin, Denver; Ron Birkey, Denver; Paul Martin, Aspen; and John Rudy, Indiana. The ground breaking ceremony commenced on June 8, 1968 with board members, representatives from different religious backgrounds, the public and the Governor of Colorado, John Love. The Chapel was dedicated with a worship service on Sunday morning, August 31, 1969.
Melvin Hull was hired as the first director, but fell ill within a year unable to continue. Paul Martin assisted briefly until Mrs. Almira Snyder became the voluntary director. She served the Chapel and gave numerous organ recitals until 1976. Robert Longenecker temporarily managed the Chapel from 1976 to 1978. Gregg Anderson was then hired as the director in the spring of 1978. Mr. Anderson had a graduate degree in religion and was certified as a Local Pastor with the United Methodist Church and was able to provide some pastoral responsibilities as well. While administrating the Chapel, Mr. Anderson continued his theological education receiving his Master’s of Divinity degree in 1983 and full ordination with the United Methodist Church in 1986. In 1996, he completed the Doctor of Ministry degree and is still very involved as the Chaplain Emeritus of the Aspen Chapel.
Initially, the Aspen Chapel served various situational needs in Aspen, but through the leadership of a local chaplain and initiation of a regular Sunday worship service, a small core group of people began to emerge into a sense of community providing personal and on-going support to the forging ministry. A Local Committee was established in 1981 which soon evolved into a Local Administrative Board in 1984. This board was given specific authority by the original Board of Directors of Trustees to provide programming for the Aspen Chapel. Eventually the Board of Trustees evolved into a board consisting of all local Aspenites. The current Board of Trustees provides overall supervision of the Aspen Chapel while the Board of Administration provides supervision of all the specific programming and administration of the Chapel. The board of Administration currently consists of multiple committees providing a host of services for the Chapel to serve the core constituents as well as the broader community of Aspen.
In 1987, the Chapel entered into an initial agreement to become a permanent home for the Aspen Jewish Congregation to hold weekly services and education. This arrangement was formally adopted with a simple three page letter of agreement signed in 1990. The Chapel has also added many other programs and associations, such as the Youth Program and Tuesday School, Music Program and Choir, Chapel Gallery, Spiritual Paths Institute, Aspen Wisdom School and host to numerous and various interfaith and inter-disciplinarian seminars. The Aspen Chapel is home to many special spiritual and communal endeavors while always maintaining on-going spiritual services of worship, weddings, baptisms, memorials, education, seminars, counseling, outreach, visitation, missions and other creative ministries.