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Meet the Author

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Russ Levenson is a husband, father, grandfather and has been an ordained Episcopal priest and pastor
for over thirty years. Russ and his wife of nearly forty years, Laura, have been fortunate to live in a
number of places – serving in various Churches in Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana and Florida,
before Russ was called to serve as rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in 2007. With nearly 10,000
baptized members, St. Martin’s is the largest Episcopal Church in the United States and the largest
expression of the Anglican faith in North America. Photo of st. martin’s


Russ was baptized, confirmed and reared in the Episcopal Church, but experienced a significant
conversion moment in his late teen years. Like all of Jesus’ followers, Russ did not consider this to be a
“touchdown moment” in his spiritual journey, but a fresh beginning point by inspiring him to take Jesus’
invitation to enter an lifelong journey of discipleship by growing in the grace and love God made known
in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.


So, backing up a bit, Russ and Laura met in Chapel at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham,
Alabama during their college years. Picture of Yeilding Chapel at Birmingham Southern. Soon after they
graduated, Laura and Russ married. Laura began a career in Advertising and Russ went to work for his
alma mater, first in the office of admissions, and then as Assistant to the President of the College. It was
during this time, that Russ began to enter the process that would lead to full-time ordained ministry.
Prior to attending seminary, Russ served as a Lay Assistant at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama under the late Reverend Dr. John Claypool, who would be a lifelong mentor to Russ, until John’s death in 2005. Photo of Russ and John… I’ll get one to you!


Russ entered seminary in 1989 and received his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in
Alexandria, Virginia in 1992. Photo of Virginia Theological Seminary Aspinwall Hall…. Upon graduation,
and ordination, Russ and Laura moved to Sewanee, Tennessee where he served as the Assistant
Chaplain at the University of the South, before being called back to St. Luke’s to serve as Associate
Rector to Dr. Claypool for four important and formative years. During this season of ministry, he also
completed a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham. He then
went on to serve as Rector of The Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Lafayette, Louisiana from 1997
until 2002, when he was called to serve Christ Church Parish in Pensacola, Florida. During these early years of ministry, the Lord blessed Laura and Russ with three wonderful children who became part of the traveling Levenson caravan.


They thought their moving days were over, until the Lord made clear to the Levenson’s that they should
respond to an invitation to come to St. Martin’s in Houston in the fall of 2007. Like each of the former
opportunities to serve, Russ and Laura came to quickly love the faithful, optimistic, organic and visionary
members of St. Martin’s. photo of interior of St. Martin’s Full…!


The parish is steeped in a firm commitment to the Biblical, traditionally evangelical and orthodox
expression of the Christian faith, lived out not only in word, but in deed – expressed most vividly in the
parish’s deep commitment to meeting the needs of the needy and underserved of Houston through
ministry to those of God’s children facing the scourges of hunger, poverty, homelessness and addiction.
Since the beginning of Russ’ tenure, the baptized membership of the parish has grown by 20%, the

annual budget has doubled, enabling the parish to expand its ministries of worship, discipleship,
ministry and outreach. In addition, in 2012 the parish completed a $25 million expansion to build new
spaces for youth ministries and a new Hope and Healing Center.


In 2022, St. Martin’s completed a $65 million dollar building project updating many of the longtime
facilities on campus, but also adding new gardens and spaces for worship, Christian Education,
meditation, administration and outreach. Photo of Garden Outside of Christ Chapel and interior of
Parish Life Center – full! Since 2007, St. Martin’s has continued its unwavering commitment to
outreach. Russ and the leadership team of St. Martin’s have strived to live out the Gospel imperatives
to love and serve God’s children by committing on average 25% of the annual budget to ministries
outside the doors of St. Martin’s, even during the challenging years of the 2008 financial downturn and
in the wake of the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Since 2007, St. Martin’s has given
over $40 million to dozens of ministries beyond its doors, Photo of Russ at Church Under the Bridge. in
Houston, greater Harris County, in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and outreach
initiatives in poverty stricken areas of the US, Haiti, Central America and Africa. 

Links to Russ’ sermons at St. Martin’s can be found on the St. Martin’s Website.
Russ has been blessed to have several close and meaningful mentors. Aside from Laura and his father,
Russell, Sr., Russ is grateful for the counsel and guidance he has received from the late John Claypool;
the late former Bishop of Alabama Bill Stough; the late theologian, scholar, Anglican priest and
evangelist, the Reverend Dr. John R.W. Stott; Pastor Max Lucado and the 103 rd Archbishop of
Canterbury, and Lord George Carey, who preached at Levenson’s institution at St. Martin’s, “Russell is an
outstanding man whom I admire very much… a great preacher who gives sparkling sermons…”

In 2011, Beeson Divinity School named Russ its “Alumnus of the Year.” In 2019, his alma mater
Birmingham-Southern College recognized Russ as a “Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.” In 2012,
Virginia Theological Seminary awarded Russ with its “Dean’s Cross,” which celebrates Christian service
of those who live out the values of the baptismal covenant by making a difference in society. Other
Dean’s Cross recipients include, First Lady Barbara Bush, author Susan Howatch, and the former
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.


Russ has always enjoyed writing, beginning with short stories during his grade school years, but once
he graduated from College and began pursuing ordination, his work turned more toward Christian
theology, faith and practice. To-date, he has written over seventy-give articles for magazines and
academic journals including The Anglican Digest, The Living Church, Decision and The Sewanee
Theological Review. He has written four seasonal devotionals. Originally published by Insight Press, the
books were edited and republished by Church Publishing in 2020 – Preparing Room (Advent); A Path to
Wholeness (Lent); Bits of Heaven (Summer) and Finding Shelter (Autumn). In 2020, Russ was asked to contribute to Pearls of Wisdom, by Barbara Bush, published shortly after her death by Twelve Books. Photo of Barbara’s Book.

 

One of his greatest honors, was being invited in 2019 to write the forward to the revised edition of John
Claypool’s best-selling book on grief, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, published by Morehouse. In 2015, by invitation of Her Majesty, the Late Queen Elizabeth, II, Russ was admitted to the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and in the fall of 2021, also by Invitation of the late Queen, Russ was elevated to the Office of Sub-Prelate for the Order in the United States Priory.


Russ’ ministry is like most of those who serve as priest and pastors – he preaches, teaches, officiates at
baptisms, weddings and funerals. Photo of Russ preaching at St. Martin’s. On a few occasions, he has
been called to serve in ways and at moments he would have never imagined when he was first ordained.
He is grateful, and humbled to have developed an important friendship with the last man on the moon,
Captain Gene Cernan, in Captain Cernan’s later years. Though Captain Cernan was a lifelong Roman
Catholic, he asked Russ to officiate at, and preach at, his funeral service, which took place at St. Martin’s
in January of 2017. 


In the spring of 2018, he officiated at the memorial service for First Lady Barbara Bush, and later that
year, he co-officiated and preached at the State Funeral for President George H.W. Bush and his final
memorial service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. Photo of President’s and First Ladies in Bagby Parish
Hall before Barbara Bush’s funeral, list their names and the moment “XXXX paused for a moment for
this iconic photo moments before the beginning of Barbara Bush’s funeral service.” And photo of Russ
preaching from the Pulpit at National Cathedral with President’s visible on the front row. President and
First Lady Barbara Bush were lifelong members of St. Martin’s. Witness to Dignity: The Life and Faith of
George H.W. and Barbara Bush (2022), published by Hachette/Center Street is Russ’ testimonial about
his observations he made of character, dignity, integrity and authentic Christian living during his
friendship with the Bush’s from 2007 until the time of their death’s in 2018. 

Russ enjoys spending time with his wife Laura. They enjoy each and every moment they spend with their children and grandchildren. They enjoy traveling, and when time and budget allow, especially internationally. When he is not spending time with his loved ones – he enjoys reading everything
from theology to mystery (James Lee Burke and James Patterson are among his favorites!). He also
hand-makes soaps and candles, using juices from the citrus trees in his yard; and he dons gloves to
mince hot peppers he has grown in his own garden to make hot sauce and sprinkling spice!


If he could write his own epitaph, it might read, “He lived until he died… and then… by the grace of
God… he keeps on living!”


Russ invites you to share news of his books with others, with the hope they will be inspired and renewed by stories and words of faith, meaning, purpose and truth.

Preaching for Congregational Vitality
 

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