Church of the Transfiguration in Vail, Colorado, does not own a building. But that has not stopped it from growing in 39 years into a parish with 600 seasonal and year-round members, three campuses, and a record for steering 10 percent of its budget into missions.
In fact, sharing worship and office spaces with other congregations has been key to the church’s success, said the Rev. Stuart Brooks Keith III, Transfiguration’s rector since 1998.
“We can focus so much more resource on people and ministries because we don’t have to worry about our own brick and mortar,” Keith said.
Since its inception in 1974, Transfiguration has relied on a shared-space model that keeps overhead down and ecumenical ties strong. Offices are at the Vail Chapel Ministry Center, where various Christian and Jewish congregations share costs for copiers and other logistics.
“We all have our own staffs, but we do share back and forth,” Keith said. “I can call on the other administrators or secretaries when I’m in a jam, and they can call on us.”
For worship, the congregation rents space at interfaith chapels in Vail, Beaver Creek, and Edwards.
Because other local faith groups rely on the same shared-space model, the chapels brim with activity on weekends. In Vail, for instance, the interfaith facility hosts a Jewish group on Friday nights and Roman Catholics on Saturdays. On Sundays, it’s a rotating mix of Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.
Out of this collaborative model have grown benefits both financial and spiritual, Keith said. The congregation’s rent expenses — including $18,000 per year to use the Edwards Interfaith Chapel and Community Center, where Transfiguration meets for most of its worship — provide bargain access to facilities valued together at more than $10 million.
Building on close working relationships, Transfiguration has taken ecumenism to heart in structuring its own leadership team. The church’s staff reflects five different denominational backgrounds.
Interfaith collaboration shapes the church’s outreach, too. Partner congregations came together recently to lobby a local medical center for a part-time chaplaincy position.
What’s more, they pool resources to fund Vail Valley Cares, a charitable foundation that pours upward of $150,000 into community services each year.
“Because we’re not all wrestling with our own physical structures, we’re able to be far more generous in partnering with the community,” Keith said.
The shared-space model has captured the attention of churches in other resort communities, Keith said. He would like to see it tested and replicated even more broadly as an alternative for churches seeking relief from burdensome maintenance costs.
G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Image of the Rev. Stuart Brooks Keith III courtesy of Church of the Transfiguration