Rev. Mario Meléndez, Episcopal Chaplain and Co-Pastor
Deacon Gary Harmeyer, Roman Catholic Sr. Pastoral Associate
History and Mission
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 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 a 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.
The people of Holy Apostles share a vision with their Bishops and Priests to be 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).
· eucharistically centered
· intent on mission
· involved in shared ministry
· creative in the liturgy
· expressive in total stewardship
· committed to Christian education and formation
· ecumenically optimistic
Remembering that we, as a unique community of Episcopalians and Roman Catholics,
are entrusted with a vision of God’s action in His people,
we declare that we have been called to a new venture
In the history of the Church.
As the Church of the Holy Apostles, we are called to be a living sign
of the Church’s efforts toward organic unity,
and to promote ecumenical ventures among Christian bodies.
We are called to share the gifts of ministry with one another,
and to be channels of God’s love in the world
by involving ourselves with all others.
As Apostles, we commit ourselves to build community
by discovering our wants and needs and those of others
through calling members to share their gifts freely and to grow;
by nurturing in faith and tradition;
by celebrating renewed life together in worship and fellowship.
We commit ourselves to spread the Good News
of our life in Jesus Christ, who calls us into oneness.