Dear Members of St. Martin’s,

I want to thank you for the nearly universal support and understanding regarding our reopening process and the guidelines we have put into place at the recommendation of the CDC, the Governor, our Mayor andmost especiallyour Bishops. This has not been an easy time, but our Clergy and Staff have worked very hard with the intent that when we do reopen, on whatever scale, we will do so in a way that protects the health and safety of all who may enter our doors.

That said, we have also heard from several of our members who are over the age of 65 who have asked us to reconsider the decision asking that they continue to worship virtually. Today, after discussing the matter with our Vice Rector and our Vicar, I did re-approach the Bishop’s office, and we have been given some flexibility here.

That said, I must make it clear that the CDC has said that those over the age of 65 are at greater risk to not only catch COVID-19, but also to then develop serious illness or death. The recent studies clearly show that the vast majority of deaths associated with COVID-19 are those who are above the age of 65. Our own Houston Methodist Hospital system just published a similar report this week. I am just south of that number so, to be honest, I don’t like it any more than you do!

It is still our counsel that those north of 65 worship with us virtually. We will not stop those who wish to worship from coming to be with us, but if you attend as one who is “high risk,” you are not only doing so at your own risk, but you have the potential of spreading the virus to others. I want to open our doors wide to everyone. I deeply miss being together, but it is important that I speak on behalf of the Clergy and Vestry candidly, clearly and concisely.

If you do come, you are expected to follow the remaining guidelines outlined in my email to you that came out on June 4.

Following those guidelines, you will be asked to:

  • Take your own temperature before coming to worship. If you have a fever or any other symptoms of illness of any kind, we would ask that you refrain from worship and join us virtually. If you forget to take your temperature before coming, we will ask that you allow a member of our staff to do so with a touch-less thermometer before entering The Church.
  • Wear a face mask the entire time you are on campus and throughout worship. Please bring your own. If you do not have one, we will provide one for you.
  • Follow helpers as they lead you to your assigned seat.
  • Please refrain from greeting others physically in any way (handshake, hug and embrace) and observe the now well-known “six-foot rule.”
  • Refrain from singing. This will be especially hard for many of us, but recent reports of choir rehearsals and singing congregations spreading COVID-19 infection are very alarming. We do not want to add St. Martin’s name to that roster of stories.

Please read the remaining guidelines from Thursday’s email. If you missed that email, please read it in this link: https://bit.ly/reopeningmessage This also includes a link to the CDC Guidelines as to what other characteristics are high risk other than age (diabetes, cardiac or pulmonary illness, obesity, immune deficiency, cancer survivor or undergoing cancer treatment, and so on). Please re-read the email above, so you will know what to expect when, and if, you come to worship with us.

As many of you know, you will have to make reservations for worship every Sunday until we have moved through this phase of reopening. The 50 seats for his Sunday, June 7, filled up quickly. On Sunday, June 14, at 10 a.m., if all goes well, we will have one service with 125 worshipers. On Sunday, June 21, we will have two services of 125one at 9 a.m. and another at 11:30 a.m. This pattern will continue until mid-July when we hope to have this process well in hand.

Let me also share that since the latter part of Lent, when all the stay at home orders began and we inaugurated virtual worship, I made the decision to preach for most services during this challenging time through which we were living. I felt it was important as Rector to lead into this season and I had the support of our Clergy team. Having preached well over a dozen times in a row in the last three months, I am going to step aside for a few weeks from the pulpit and allow our other wonderful Clergy members to share their own gifts with us through preaching. I so appreciate them and look forward to what they will share. I will return to my preaching duties a few weeks out.

Lastly, I am grateful to our Bishops for their continued guidance and leadership, and ask for your prayers as we make our way into this new season. May the joy of the Lord be ever present in your life as the days ahead unfold.

Faithfully,
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
Rector