March 12, 2020

Dear Members of St. Martin’s,

As I promised last weekend, here is an update regarding our worship and gathering moments at St. Martin’s with regards to the Coronavirus. We have, in Houston and at St. Martin’s, a unique challenge and opportunity . The challenge is how do we, as a community of Christians, best respond to the spread of the very contagious Coronavirus? Our opportunity is to be the people of God who, regardless of the circumstances put before us, continue to put our trust in our Lord, continue to pray and continue to care for one another and those who our Lord puts into our lives.

Before I share with you a few responses to this challenge, let me remind you of these Bible verses:

Isaiah 41:10 “... do not fear, for I am with you ...”
Psalm 27:13-14 “ I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
John 16:33 “ I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
I Peter 5:7 “ Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you .”
And brothers and sisters – He does! As I said last week, our good Lord will see us through. We will get to the other side. In the meantime, let us pray for one another, for a speedy end to this virus, for the health of our fellow citizens and for the well-being of our economy. Let us pray for those who are affected by the social disruptions the Coronavirus has brought because we know social interactions are crucial to our health and well-being.

Since my correspondence Saturday, we have not made any changes to our schedules of fellowship, discipleship, worship services or special Lenten gatherings. I encourage you to participate in these as much as you are able. If ever there was a time to “be the Church,” now is the time. So let’s be the Church!

Now, here are a few additional measures and reminders about steps that we are taking:

  • We have widespread availability of sanitizing solutions around our campus. Please use these and if you find one has been emptied, please inform a member of the staff.
  • We are increasing our monitoring of all restroom areas to make sure they are well maintained, clean and are well stocked with soap and paper towels.
  • As soon as possible (they are on order), we will have free-standing, motion-detecting sanitizers available in The Church, Bagby Parish Hall and the Activity Center. Please make liberal use of these as you enter and exit our facilities.

As already recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials:

  • If you are at high risk, I urge you to follow all the public precautions. Stay home, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If you have any symptoms of illness–cough, sneeze, fever, chills, exhaustion–please, please do not come to Church gatherings until your symptoms have passed.
  • If you have been diagnosed with this virus, PLEASE contact the Church right away so we can further assess as to whether there is any further need to take action in the buildings or on the grounds of St. Martin’s.
  • As always, when you are ill for any reason, we do want to know.
A few changes since last week:

  • At the direction of the Bishop, we will only serve communion in one kind–the bread–until it is considered safe to return to our regular Eucharist services. Again, bread will be served, but wine will not be served by common cup or by intinction.
  • We will have public offering plates that are in the Narthex and at the exit doors of The Church. We will not “pass the plate” for the immediate future. In addition, if you wish to place your offering in a plate as you approach the Altar, there will be two offering plates along the aisle for you to use. Your offering envelopes, checks and cash can be dropped in any of these locations. There will also be stationary offering plates for the Altar and Family Table services, or you can give online at any time by clicking here.
  • We have been asked by the Bishop to stop all home visits by lay Eucharistic ministers and reserve Clergy home visits to serious cases when pastoral care is needed. We will, however, continue to check on all members and communities who regularly receive these visits by lay and/or clergy visitors.
There may be more changes in the weeks ahead, but again, let’s keep this in the forefront of our prayers. Toward that end, as the Bishop has shared with me, so I pass onto you the below:

Scripture and Prayer in a Time of Sickness

Isaiah 41:10; 43:1-5
Psalms 30, 41, 91, 103 
Matthew 6:25-33; 7:7, 8; 11:28-30; 17:19, 20
Luke 17:11-19
John 14:1-3; 14:27; 16:20-22; 16:33
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 
Romans 8:18, 28
Romans 8:35, 37-39
James 5:13-16

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries, the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom: We commend to your loving care all those who suffer from any illness or disease. Relieve their pain, guard them from all danger, restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise them up to a life of service to you. Hear us, we pray, for you dear Name's sake. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift: Send down upon our bishops, and other clergy, and upon the congregations committed to their charge, especially during this time of concern and illness the healthful Spirit of your grace: and, that they may truly please you, pour upon them the continual dew of your blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blessings, peace and deep and abiding love to you,
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
Rector, St. Martin's Episcopal Church