Chapel of the Interlude is a fitting name for a church in the middle of a narrow, winding canyon. In 1969, benefactors built the intimate wood-paneled structure in Drake, Colorado to provide an oasis next U.S. 34 — one of the busiest roads leading to Rocky Mountain National Park.
In 2013, a raging river between Estes Park and Loveland Colorado deposited mud, sticks and debris inside the chapel's Fellowship Hall — a casualty of the state's historic floods. The structure has been restored, but as the aging members of the small mountain church return, the biggest challenge lies ahead.
"It's a lot of work, it's a lot of strain, a lot of stress, but we just kept coming together," said Harry Fiechtner as he prepped for a recent Sunday service. "You see what we've got today it's just building right back."
The church removed walls and carpet to eliminate mold and water damage. One hurdle down, another to go: The house is in order, but what of the congregation? Their ranks are small and aging, with the average age around 75.
Bus Tarbox, who's attended Interlude for 10 years, said it's been a challenge recruiting new, younger members and families.
"We have very few young people," Tarbox said. "We don't have any children, so we're going to have to appeal to the people who live up here. And so far we haven't been real successful in doing that."
Members like the use of traditional hymns and gentle sermons, appealing to an older audience. Pastor Dave Orrison said he's not afraid to broach topics about aging and the fear that can accompany it.
He explained that recruiting younger members can come at a cost.
"I think many pastors have been pushed into the idea that growth is so important that disenfranchising certain groups is acceptable," said Orrison.
For example, while music with rock guitar and drums may help fill the church pews, it can alienate those who are older and have hearing aids.
Orrison added that there are also limitations on how this group can reach out to the nearby mountain communities.
"We have several of them who are 90 years old," Orrison said. "I'm not going to encourage them to get out there and knock on doors and tell their neighbors that they need Jesus, you know?"
There are also restrictions on how many people Chapel of the Interlude can recruit. The new sanctuary is already cramped. With overflow seating, they're squeezing in 60 people.
Even so, current members remain committed to their small-but-mighty mountain church.
One of the youngest members at 55, Liz Fiechtner loves the small community and from-the-heart sermons. For her, building up the church is about connecting with the right people.
"Before the flood there was a house and a lot of trees in front of the church. You never knew there was a church here," she explained.
Now the house and trees are gone. Their oasis is more exposed.
"So trying to bring some of the regular traffic maybe to come here,” she said, referring to the church’s location along U.S. 34. “And put it out that we're back open. That we're here again worshipping together.”