HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The eyes of the world are keenly focused on St. Martin's Episcopal Church on the west side of Houston for two days as the religious center welcomes family, friends and the public to pay their final respects to former first lady Barbara Bush. Former President George H.W. Bush with his infectious smile and daughter Dorothy by his side, shook hands with mourners as they arrived to the church.
The announcement of Mrs. Bush's death on Tuesday by family spokesman Jim McGrath followed a statement just two days earlier that indicated she would focus on "comfort care" and discontinue any medical treatment.
The church, which opened in 1952, will serve as the site where the public can visit as Mrs. Bush lies in repose from 12 p.m. Friday until midnight.
Visitors are instructed to park at Second Baptist Church on 6400 Woodway Drive where they will be checked by security. METRO will provide shuttle buses to transport people to St. Martin's. The Second Baptist lot will open at 10 a.m. Friday with shuttle runs starting at 11:30 a.m. No one will be allowed to drive onto the St. Martin's campus nor walk onto the property and no large oversized purses, bags or backpacks will be permitted. Photography will be prohibited.
Many people who wanted to honor Mrs. Bush took part in the Barbara Bush Celebration Of Life outside Houston City Hall on Thursday evening.
The private funeral service will also take place at St. Martin's on Saturday at 11 a.m. with approximately 1,500 dignitaries invited and expected to attend. It is expected to last ninety minutes.
Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr., who serves as the rector at St. Martin's, will lead the funeral service on Saturday. Members of the Bush family have been members at the church for more than 50 years.
The rector tells FOX 26 News that he remembers Mrs. Bush best as a woman of extraordinary faith.
Rev. Levenson adds that the service has been carefully planned including elements such as the music, the lessons and the designated speakers. He explains that everything will be for the purpose of honoring Mrs. Bush's life and honoring God.
"Everybody knows that she would not want a fuss," describes Rev. Levenson. "Now, there is a fuss because we all love Barbara and this city loves Barbara, this nation and world loved Barbara, and so, of course, it's a particular kind of service, but it's an Episcopal celebration service. It's an Easter liturgy."
Invited guests to the funeral service on Saturday must also park their vehicles at the Second Baptist Church parking lot, undergo a security screening and ride a METRO shuttle bus to St. Martin's. The lot will open at 8 a.m. Saturday with shuttle service beginning at 8:30 a.m. No large oversized purses, bags or backpacks will be permitted. Once again, no one will be able to drive nor walk to St. Martin's. Photography will be prohibited for the service.
The Houston Police Department provided the following closures map to help visitors navigate to and from Second Baptist Church: