How Holy Apostles Got Started
The people of Holy Apostles, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, share a vision with their Bishops and Priests to form a visible sign of Christian unity. Ours is a Christ-centered community which draws on the best of renewal in both Churches and on two decades of ecumenical dialogue. We are committed "to do all things together which deep conviction does not require us to do separately." (Summary Statement 1977)
Membership in the Church of the Holy Apostles is a commitment to this vision. The vision is lived out in the congregation's life, which is characterized as:
- eucharistically centered
- intent on mission
- involved in shared ministry
- creative in liturgy
- expressive in total stewardship
- committed to Christian education and formation
- ecumenically optimistic
In light of the historic signing of A CALL TO COVENANT in November 1990 by Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran Bishops in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we pledge to continue to be a visible sign of Christian unity and an ecumenical witness and a resource to all others who hear the call of the Holy Spirit for unity in Christ.
Holy Apostles, the Anglican/Roman Catholic Congregation is located in the southeastern corner of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, one of three dioceses in the state of Virginia, and is under the leadership of The Rt. Rev. Holly Hollerith, Bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.
Catholic members of Holy Apostles are under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond led by Bishop Francis Dilorenzo who resides in Richmond, the See City. The Diocese of Richmond comprises the southern portion of Virginia. In 1983 the first annual Anglican-Roman Catholic (ARC) conference was held to educate clergy and laity on the ARC dialogue. This conference was expanded in 1985 to acknowledge the international dialogue inclusion of the Lutheran Churches. In 1990 the Lutheran-Anglican-Roman Catholic (LARC) Conference had the great honor of witnessing the signing of a LARC Covenant by the Bishops of two Lutheran Synods, three Episcopal dioceses, and two Roman Catholic dioceses in Virginia. This Covenant was renewed in 1995 in Roanoke in celebration of 10 years of cooperation.
Our story begins with a small seed - a dream, an idea, a hope. And like the parable of the mustard seed...
'It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come shelter in its branches.'
The concept of a shared Episcopal/Roman Catholic parish was conceived during an after-dinner conversation in 1974 between two men with a dream - Walter F. Sullivan, Roman Catholic Bishop of Richmond, and David S. Rose, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. A year later the two Bishops announced the formation of a Joint Committee charged with giving that vision shape, to develop guidelines for the establishment of an ecumenical shared parish.
After three years of dedicated labor by religious and lay leaders, the "Summary Statement of Joint Committee for A/RC Parish" was published on All Saints Day, 1 November 1977. The Rev. Donald W. Gross (Episcopalian) and the Rev. Raymond A. Barton (Roman Catholic) were installed as co-pastors by their respective Bishops. Within one year, the congregation presented to the Bishops a ratified constitution for their signatures. This enabling document provided the framework by which the people of Holy Apostles could develop a parish reflective of the convergence of the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches. Additionally, the Mission statement was adopted.
Inherent in our community, there has been an emphasis on sharing all aspects of our life together. Awareness of common traditions brings a greater understanding of our commonality and a sensitivity to our differences. Our commitment to ecumenism is witnessed through a high degree of involvement in all areas of parish life.
The priests, ecumenical couples, and other families have traveled to workshops and presented topics of interest to those seeking Christian Unity. Our membership as well as our Clergy stand ready to speak to interested parties.Taking leadership roles, our members have served on diocesan ecumenical commissions, the Virginia Council of Churches, the state and local planning committees for Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic conferences and have provided positive, informed, ecumenical witness. The parish has sponsored programs for prayer and scripture study, parenting groups, church issues, church history, Christian stewardship, marriage, family, and spirituality. We hope to renew these programs and our ecumenical mission with our co-pastors.
Our first home was the school chapel at James Barry Robinson Home for Boys. During the early years at James Barry Robinson Chapel in Norfolk, our efforts were concentrated on defining the structure and form of our life as an ecumenical symbol. As we outgrew our space there, we moved to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Norfolk where we shared a facility with the existing parish. This time offered additional challenges as the dream took shape using the many of the gifts of the community.
An unexpected and exciting opportunity to purchase a permanent home in Virginia Beach brought challenge to all. Active and former parishioners, as well as friends of Holy Apostles raised $60,000 within four weeks. The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia turned over one third value of the property; this was matched monetarily by the Bishop of Richmond. By providing a gift of two thirds ownership, both Dioceses expressed their commitment to the future of Holy Apostles. Thus we were able to move to our present building in the Green Run section of Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. We have since enlarged our building.
Our dream lives on in Virginia Beach, but our former members are carrying the message of ecumenism around the world.