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Blended Va. parish told to change practices

Wednesday - 11/21/2012, 10:04am  ET

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A church that has offered blended Roman Catholic and Episcopal services for three decades has been told by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond to meet in separate rooms for Holy Communion.

Clergy at the Church of the Holy Apostles were told to devise a plan that allows parishioners to remain under the same roof but worship separately. The plan is subject to approval by Roman Catholic Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo and Bishop Herman Hollerith of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.

Parishioners told the Virginian-Pilot ( the blended church has allowed families in mixed marriages to worship side by side and strengthen their community.

The Rev. Michael Ferguon, the parish's Episcopal leader, said representatives of the Catholic diocese were supportive of the ecumenical congregation at a meeting this week but were firm on some degree of separation of worship. For instance, the use of a combined liturgy in which the priests move to separate altars in the same room was deemed unacceptable, he said.

They instructed the parish to come up with a plan that provides for separate liturgies in separate rooms, Ferguson said.

"What was left in our laps was to develop a way to be together in those parts of the service where it would be acceptable to the diocese for us to be together and then to separate." Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he is confident an acceptable arrangement can be worked out. "It could have been much worse," he said.

DiLorenzo said he was sending in a team to determine whether the way the parish worships is consistent with Catholic doctrine.

Ferguson said parishioners are still upset by DiLorenzo's removal of the parish's Catholic co-pastor, the Rev. James E. Parke, earlier this month. He gave no reason for the dismissal.

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