35th Anniversary celebration at Holy Apostles', Virginia Beach
Holy Apostles', Virginia Beach, is our diocese's ecumenical community with Episcopalians and Roman Catholics together in the same congregation. It is the only community of its kind anywhere and they are now facing some major changes in the way they worship.
Last November, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond told Holy Apostles to "bring its liturgical celebrations into conformity with the Roman Catholic Church."
In a statement released last week, DiLorenzo suggested other forms of liturgy, would allow Catholic and Episcopal members to worship together. Celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy continues to be separate. "As the shepherd of the Diocese of Richmond, it is my prayerful desire that this ecumenical community at Holy Apostles continues and flourishes," the statement said.
Bishop Hollerith expressed his obvious concern over how the requirements of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the liturgy would affect the life of the community. He also said that, from the Episcopal side of things, we have much to lose. "We will respect the Roman Catholic requirements because Holy Apostles' is a precious community and should be preserved."
Holy Apostles' was established in 1977 and Catholic and Episcopal clergy performed services according to each tradition and shared leadership of the community. The Episcopal and Catholic congregations prayed together before separating for the Eucharist. Participants say that this has allowed families in ecumenical marriages to worship together and strengthen their community.
Last week, Bishop DiLorenzo, accompanied by members of his staff, and Bishop Hollerith, accompanied by the Rev. Canon Ed Tracy, met with congregational leadership, including the clergy. Congregational leaders outlined what has been done since November to comply with the directives and to assure Bishop DiLorenzo that they have been working faithfully to do what was required of them while also trying to avoid pastoral trauma to the congregation. Bishop DiLorenzo assured them that he is aware of potential pastoral consequences and desires that they be as minimal as possible. The community has more work to do to bring their liturgy in line with the directive, much of which they have already begun.
The Rev. Michael Ferguson, the church's Episcopal priest said the meeting was productive, but that there are still "huge pastoral issues that have to be worked out because there are people here who have been worshiping together for years."