The first question to ask is, why has this been going on for 30 years? This will be a painful transition for all involved in this for so long. I’m still trying to figure out what a “combined liturgy” is. (emphasis mine)
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond has told the nation’s only blended Catholic and Episcopal parish it must change its worship services so Catholics and non-Catholics meet in separate rooms for Holy Communion.
The parish, Church of the Holy Apostles, is led by Catholic and Episcopal co-pastors and has worshiped together for more than 30 years.
It’s an arrangement, parishioners say, that over the years has allowed families in mixed marriages to worship side by side and has helped build bonds that transcend denominational boundaries.
In an emotionally charged meeting Monday with parish leaders, representatives of the Catholic diocese voiced support for the ecumenical congregation, said the Rev. Michael Ferguson, the parish’s Episcopal pastor.
But the officials made it clear the current worship practice – using a **combined liturgy **in which the priests move to separate altars in the same room to say the Eucharistic prayers – was unacceptable, Ferguson 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…without making it disjointed,” Ferguson said.
Once a plan is developed, Ferguson said, it will need approval of both Catholic Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo and Bishop Herman Hollerith of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.
Ferguson said he is confident an acceptable arrangement can be worked out.
“It could have been much worse,” he said.
Ferguson said parishioners at the church on Lynnhaven Parkway are still upset by DiLorenzo’s removal of the parish’s Catholic co-pastor, the Rev. James E. Parke, earlier this month.
DiLorenzo gave no reason for Parke’s dismissal, which was communicated in a letter to the parish on Nov. 2 – one day after the parish celebrated its 35th anniversary. Parke has been temporarily replaced by Monsignor Raymond Barton, the parish’s founding Catholic pastor in 1977.
In the same letter, DiLorenzo said he was sending in a team to determine whether the way the parish worships is consistent with Catholic doctrine.