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Dr Peter Marshall
Creator the Kirkin' Of The Tartan

The nation’s capital had never known a minster quite like the Rev. Dr. Peter Marshall (1902-1949). The Presbyterian minister arrived in Washington, D.C., in October 1937 amid the gathering storm of the Second World War. He preached his first sermon as the thirty-five-year-old pastor of the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on October 3, 1937, barely a decade after the Scottish native had immigrated to America, stepping out, he said, “under sealed orders.” Only God could know that digging ditches across New Jersey and a stint on the Birmingham News in Alabama would open the doors to Columbia Theological Seminary and two flourishing pastorates in Georgia before the charismatic Scotsman was called to Abraham Lincoln’s church, one of the most important in America.

Peter Marshall’s life demonstrated to young and old alike that Christianity can be fun. As word spread of this “thrilling evangelical preacher,” an overflowing sanctuary left hundreds waiting in long lines hoping to find a seat. His sermons, many written with anonymous research by his wife Catherine, revealed a rock-ribbed faith, clarity of conviction, and a poet’s pen. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Dr. Marshall preached to the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. At the last minute, he felt led to change his prepared sermon. Within the hour, the Class of 1942 learned of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. The sermon he preached was “Go Down, Death.” This was the first of Dr. Marshall's dramatic, powerful, and prophetic sermons during World War II that his son, Peter John, published after the September 11th attacks in The Wartime Sermons of Dr. Peter Marshall. Only a few of Dr. Marshall’s sermons were ever recorded, and they are now available via this website, resonating above time and circumstance to touch succeeding generations.

During the Blitz beginning in September 1940, the island nation of Peter Marshall’s birth stood alone against the Nazi juggernaut. In April 1941 as president of the St. Andrews Society, he offered New York Avenue as a venue to raise funds for British War Relief. The Kirkin’ of the Tartan, begun by Dr. Marshall seventy years ago, is still held annually at Washington National Cathedral.

In January 1947, Dr. Marshall was elected the fifty-seventh Chaplain of the United States Senate. His pithy prayers that opened the daily sessions of the Senate soon drew not only senatorial but media attention. He was called the “conscience of the Senate.” Two years later, Peter’s valiant heart gave out. He died on the morning of January 25, 1949, his prophetic voice stilled at the age of only 46. But not silenced. God was still in the business of “making all things work together for good.” And he did so through Peter’s wife, Catherine Marshall, who gathered some of his prayers for publication and chronicled his life in her best-selling biography A Man Called Peter.

Thanks to Peter Marshall Ministries for this article.

Were You There - by Peter Marshall

Marshall on His Personal Christian Heritage

A Man Called Peter

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