On May 6th, just a little before 10:30 p.m., Doug Martelon, a beloved saint, husband, father, friend, and long time staff member at The Summit Church, went on to be with Jesus, dying of Covid complications he’d been suffering from for over a month.
If perhaps you didn’t know Doug, you have felt his impact in every service you’ve ever been a part of at The Summit Church. Literally. Starting in 1994 as a volunteer, Doug has been in charge of production for every event we’ve had, from our first large combined Easter service at the Downtown Marriott in 2004, to the outdoor services at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in 2011 and 2013, to overseeing the setup at every campus we’ve launched, temporary or permanent.
In Exodus 31, Moses talks about two men, Bezalel and Oholiab, who were “filled with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs… and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” These men fashioned the beauty of the temple and Moses recognized that they were every bit as filled with the Spirit as the priests who proclaimed the Word and led in the sacrifices.
Doug Martelon was our Bezalel. I am not exaggerating when I say there is no part of our production, sight or sound, that he has not touched. Doug worked as a full time Duke theatre manager for 25 years, and set up the light and sound at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He was one of Durham’s most talented production specialists, but he wanted his gifts to be used to help spread the gospel. So in 2008 he came on staff at The Summit Church, for a fraction of what he made at Duke.
Doug was the first one on campus for every service and the last one to leave any special event. He was usually there hours before I got there. In the days when the first volunteers showed up at 6 a.m. at Riverside High School to set up for our three morning services, he’d already be there in the theater, ready with the game plan. He routinely worked until the wee hours of the morning. On more than one occasion—repeatedly, in fact—we had to ask him to take a few steps back so as not to work himself to exhaustion. But he couldn’t. He loved it. He wanted those who showed up to hear the Word and experience the worship to experience it at the highest quality level possible. Jesus and the souls of people were worth it.
I remember standing with him as our 2011 outdoor baptism service at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park began. Doug had worked all night getting the place set up. The wind that morning whipped at a ferocious speed and we feared that it was going to hinder our ability to do the service. Doug kept saying that we were fine. As the worship began, and more than 7,000 people began to lift their voices in praise, I stood beside Doug as tears rolled down his cheeks. His dream had been to see the gospel proclaimed boldly and openly in Durham, and standing here, in the heart of Durham, it was happening. We baptized more than 300 people that morning, but perhaps the moment that stands out most in my mind was that 60 seconds there with a man whose faith and sacrifice had made it happen. I knew I was standing with a hero of the faith.
Doug may have been the most servant-hearted person on our team. Not in a quiet, wallflower kind of way. No, he was large-and-in-charge in any room, and you better not get caught messing up what he and his team were trying to do. But he was willing to work invisibly, fervently, and quite often thanklessly so that the gospel could be better known in the Triangle. And if he found out a staff member had a need at their house--whether it was getting a TV to connect to the internet or getting guidance on a household project--he showed up after work to make it happen. Even if you tried to tell him you just wanted his advice and were willing to hire someone. He just loved his church family and wanted to show it.
And he didn’t just love his church family. His wife Trena and his son Nicholas were the lights of his life. They served right alongside him in nearly every area of his ministry. We pray for them and mourn with them as they face the days ahead.
The greatness of the church is not found in the quality of the talent displayed on the stage. It is in the servant-heartedness of people like Doug. Bold. Sacrificial. Humble. Faithful.
Words cannot describe how much Doug will be missed. In every way. We are who we are because of him. And what we can look forward to in the future is the result of his years of faith and faithfulness.
I can only imagine now the kind of worship he is experiencing in the presence of Jesus, and I know those tears of joy I saw at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park now flow even more freely. We love you Doug, and we miss you. See you soon.
Pastor J.D. Greear