Dear St. Martin's Members,

While my original intent in sending you this email was to announce some exciting news for the coming weeks, I have to pause first in light of not just of one, but two potential hurricane strength storms as of this writing headed our way. While I always pray that these kinds of storms will dissipate, I also know that God answers our prayers in different ways. I think, today, we need to pray for all those who are in the potential landfall areas of these storms. However, beyond prayers, let me assure you that St. Martin's, as we are able, is, as always, here to support you. Let us see, together, how the days ahead unfold.

After "Harvey," we established a well-organized response system not only to our members, but also to our larger community. If, in the coming days, these storms affect you in any way, let us know how we can help: pastoral care, prayer support, yard and/or home clean up, etc.; please reach out to Will Scheel, St. Martin’s Disaster Response Coordinator, at 346-335-8711.

Let me also briefly share with you what we have planned for the coming weeks.

I urge you to open and read any mail in your box or in your email that you receive from us. In addition, please regularly visit our web page. We have many plans coming your way, including virtual live and recorded opportunities for worship, discipleship and fellowship. By now, I hope that you know that plans are in place for:

  • Continued virtual traditional worship Sunday morning at 10 a.m. and Noon Day Prayer services on Wednesdays, as well as the virtual Family Table service at 8 a.m. on Sundays.

  • Christian Education programs for our children and teens: We will have weekly Bible story videos for both preschool and elementary school children each week as they learn about God’s plan for us. Student Ministries will explore questions of social justice this year in their Big Sundays and midweek Life Groups that begin on Sept. 23.

  • Sunday morning Basic Bible Study will be both video and worksheets with your clergy on the topic, “The Ten Commandments as Jesus Taught Them: What do Christians do?” Have you ever realized that the Ten Commandments are important for us as people of the New Testament? But how do they affect discipleship? This series will look at how the Ten Commandments are fulfilled and expanded through Jesus’ teaching.

  • A special class, Alpha for Families, will focus on faith questions for families: How do we get talking about big questions of faith within our families? Have you ever thought about why we are here? Why do we pray? What about the Spirit? Moreover, how do we discuss these things with our middle schoolers or teens?

  • On Wednesday evenings, beginning at 7 p.m. Sept. 16, I will offer a 10-week series, "Growing in Grace." This will look at various Christian beliefs such as grace, sanctification, Jesus as Lord and Savior, etc. along with reflections on some of our Christian disciplines. They will remain on the website for review and later access. Study guides will be available after Labor Day. Watch your email on how to request and receive your guide.

  • Our 20s & 30s group will study “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” as they continue to meet on Wednesday evenings via Zoom.

  • Virtual opportunities are many, including Christian Life Study with its day and evening groups, Men of St. Martin's via Zoom, and OSL’s Healing Prayer service also via Zoom.

  • We will continue to mail our Daily Word devotionals on weekdays.

With a continued decline in the positivity rate of COVID-19, as well as declining numbers of new cases and hospital and ICU admissions, we have decided to reopen our doors.

On Sunday, Sept. 13, we will reopen our doors for public worship. We will begin at 10 a.m. with one service for 50 people. Our practices for earlier this summer will resume. You will need to make reservations and all the previous guidelines, including social distancing, wearing of masks, no physical greetings, etc., will continue. As I shared before, this will not ‘feel like’ church as you remember it, but for those eager to return to our Holy Space, this opens our doors just a bit. If this first Sunday goes well, and we believe it will, we will bump up attendance to 125 the following week and continue, as we are able. Registration will open on Monday, Sept. 7. Watch your email for more details.

EUCHARIST with bread will be celebrated and offered at these Sunday and weekday offerings. If interest grows, we will add additional services on Sunday and on weekdays.

NEW SMALL WEEK-DAY EUCHARISTS: Beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Thursday, Sept. 17, we will offer a small weekday Eucharist at 5:30 p.m. in The Church. We will limit attendance to 25 congregants, and you will need to make reservations.

NEW COMPLINE SERVICE: Beginning on Monday, Sept. 14, we will offer a virtual service of Compline. This beautiful evening service (found on page 127 of the Book of Common Prayer) is brief, but a lovely way to close the day. Our clergy will guide these services at 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. While this will not be an 'interactive' service, you will be able to join others in a Zoom moment of worship.

THE CHURCH WILL OPEN FOR PRAYER: Beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 23, we will open the doors of The Church from 2 to 4 p.m. to allow you time for private prayer. Reservations will be required, but you may come for a 30- to 60-minute window to offer your own prayers while experiencing the ambiance of our Holy Space.

We offer these additions with the hope that you will feel and, in fact, stay connected to our worshiping family. Of course, if we see another spike in our area, we may have to shift these plans. For now, let us hope that these and all other plans we make will move forward and deepen our connection to one another and to our Lord, until we can swing wide our doors again!

Now, a closing thought. This last Sunday morning, in my personal prayers, I began with the acclamation from the Morning Prayer service, "Give thanks to the Lord, and call upon his Name, make known his deeds among the peoples." (BCP, p. 78; from Psalm 105:1) What struck me is of late, frankly, I do not know if I have been very thankful. I spend a lot of time talking about the inconveniences and frustrations of this time, but not of the blessings–of daily breath and bread, of friendship of others and the love of family, of more time to pray and reflection, and of greater room in a life not filled with back-to-back appointments. And I realized I have spent a lot more time making the 'deeds' of COVID known than I have the "deeds" of our Lord.

Maybe you have not reacted to our Pandemic in this way, but I confess it was a word I needed to hear. I am thankful for many things and high on that list is each member of St. Martin's–our Church. And I do want to proclaim his deeds even more. May words about Jesus trump words about the Coronavirus as we move ahead.

Until we can 'really' worship together again, my brothers and sisters, I am praying for you and pray each offering coming your way from St. Martin's in the coming weeks will be a source of joy and strength for you as you meet the days ahead.

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