U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall

U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall

Twentieth-Century Fox made a motion picture in 1955 titled “A Man Called Peter” about the life of U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall, born May 27, 1902.

At the age of 25, Peter Marshall emigrated from Scotland, arriving at New York’s Ellis Island in 1927. Members of his Sunday School class paid his way to seminary in Atlanta, where he graduated in 1931. Rev. Peter Marshall pastored a small church in Covington, Georgia, then preached at Atlanta’s Westminster Presbyterian Church. There he met Catherine Wood, a student at Agnes Scott College, and they married.

Catherine Marshall’s book on Peter’s life, “A Man Called Peter,” was turned into the movie. Her novel, “Christy,” was made into a CBS television series.

In 1937, at the age of 35, Peter Marshall became pastor of Washington, D.C.’s prestigious New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, whose ministers spoke to presidents, Cabinet members, and Supreme Court justices. Rev. Peter Marshall became a U.S. citizen in 1938. He was asked to preach the Christmas Sermon to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family.

After World War II ended and as the Korean War began, the U.S. Senate appointed Peter Marshall to be their Chaplain on Jan. 4, 1947. Peter Marshall prayed: “O Lord our God, even at this moment as we come blundering into Thy presence in prayer, we are haunted by memories of duties unperformed, promptings disobeyed, and beckonings ignored. Opportunities to be kind knocked on the door of our hearts and went weeping away.”

On May 22, 1947, during the 80th Congress, U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall offered the prayer: “God of our fathers, give unto us, thy servants, a true appreciation of our heritage, of great men and great deeds in the past, but let us not be intimidated by feelings of our own inadequacies for this troubled hour. Remind us that the God they worshiped, and by whose help they laid the foundations of our Nation, is still able to help us uphold what they bequeathed and give it meaning.”

On July 3, 1947, the day before Independence Day, U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall prayed: “God of our Fathers, whose Almighty hand hath made and preserved our Nation, grant that our people may understand what it is they celebrate tomorrow. May they remember how bitterly our freedom was won, the down payment that was made for it, the installments that have been made since this Republic was born, and the price that must be paid for our liberty. …”

Peter Marshall continued: “May freedom be seen not as the right to do as we please but as the opportunity to please to do what is right. May it be ever understood that our liberty is under God and can be found nowhere else. May our faith be something that is not merely stamped upon our coins, but expressed in our lives. Let us, as a nation, be not afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way, as the only nation on earth that came into being ‘for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. …'”

Peter Marshall concluded: “We know that we shall be true to the Pilgrim dream when we are true to the God they worshiped. To the extent that America honors Thee, wilt Thou bless America, and keep her true as Thou hast kept her free, and make her good as Thou hast made her rich. Amen.”

Peter Marshall stated: “The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women, and men, too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct.”

Peter Marshall died of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of 46. Just six months before he died, June 11, 1948, U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall opened Congress with the prayer: “Help us, our Father, to show other nations an America to imitate … the America that loves fair play, honest dealing, straight talk, real freedom and faith in God.”

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At the laying of the cornerstone of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, April 3, 1951, President Harry S. Truman stated: “New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has played an important part in the history of Washington. For almost 150 years a Presbyterian congregation has worshiped on or near this spot. During all that period, this church has preached the Christian message to this busy Capital City.”

At the cornerstone laying ceremony, Rev. Peter Marshall’s young son, Peter John Marshall, gave President Truman a New Testament, to which the president responded: “Well, thank you very much for this Testament. I appreciate very much having it. And all I can say to you is, I hope you will grow up to be as good a man as your father.”

The son, Peter John Marshall, grew up to become a best-selling author, who, together with co-author David Manuel, wrote popular books chronicling God’s Providential Hand in the expansion of liberty in America’s early history, such as: “The Light and the Glory”; “From Sea to Shining Sea”; and “Sounding Forth The Trumpet.”

On Jan. 13, 1947, U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall stated: “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. I am rather tired of hearing about our rights. … The time is come to hear about responsibilities. … America’s future depends upon her accepting and demonstrating God’s government.”

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