MAN CALLED PETER
Washington -Opportunity Unlimited
Jesus answered and said...without me
ye can do nothing....
...with God all things are possible.
John 14:23; 15:5
In the Washington Times for
October 4, 1937, there was a picture of a youthful minister in his
Geneva gown, standing behind a large brass eagle. The eagle's spread
wings formed the lectern at the New York Avenue Church. The caption
beneath the picture read:
"New Pastor in Presbyterian pulpit
-Preached First Sermon in Historic Edifice Yesterday."
This was a picture of Peter. The
Times' photographer had faithfully captured his youthfulness and his
more-than-slight bewilderment at the events that had catapulted him to
that spot behind the eagle. At the time the bird looked somewhat more
confident than the minister.
Peter's Washington ministry began on
the third of October 1937. In the morning, he preached
-to a large congregation, in the
"The Failures of Christ,"
He was installed as pastor of New York
Avenue on October 20,1937, with Dr. Albert Joseph McCartney, of the
Covenant-First Presbyterian Church, preaching the sermon. The Reverend
John A. Wood, my father, gave the charge to the minister.
Dr.Albert Evans, the Associate Pastor of New York Avenue, gave the
charge to the congregation.
A few weeks later, Dr .Oscar
Blackwelder, of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, who was then
president of the City Ministers 'Association, asked Peter to address the
"We met that day at the National
Cathedral," Dr .Blackwelder said later,
"and Peter talked about getting lost in
the church. Haunting memory!"
Dr Blackwelder found himself much
interested in trying to appraise this thirty-five-year-old man who had
been called to New York Avenue Church.
"He seemed to me to be a very sincere,
guileless, transparent, naive boy. His predecessor, Dr .Joseph Richard
Sizoo, appeared by comparison, a sophisticated divine. I knew that
morning that plenty of difficulties and heartaches were ahead for Peter,
but I also knew that he would win out in the end. he had what it took.
"Later, as I got to know Peter well, "
"I watched my initial prophecy, made
that morning come true.
As the years passed, he spoke often in
the church I serve. At a young people's banquet he talked on
'Dancing with Tears in Your Eyes.'
He preached his sermon 'Calling of the
Twelve' twice for us and he promised to do it again.
On a hot June Sunday night he delivered
that sermon to a congregation that overflowed into the parish hall.
He had become a fixture with us on
Tuesday in Holy Week.
Dr. Blackwelder told me later:
"At first he was a conservative
preacher, clinging rather too tenaciously and defensively to his
conservatism. I watch Peter grow during those difficult years
here, until he became one of the most thrilling evangelical preachers I
have ever heard."
Peter's reputation as a "thrilling
evangelical preacher" soon resulted in long lines of people waiting
outside New York Avenue Church on a Sunday morning. Often four abreast,
they were patient and cheerful about the wait. They hoped to be able to
get into the sanctuary and find a seat. loud-speakers had to be
installed in the Lincoln Chapel and the downstairs lecture room to
handle the overflow crowds. When these rooms were filled, there was
nothing left to do but turn would-be worshipers away.
There came a time when the New York
Ave-News, the young people's paper, reported:
"In recent weeks an average of 500
persons has been turned away from the overflowing sanctuary of New York
Avenue Church every Sunday morning."
Finally the church officers decided
that the only possible way to handle the situation was to hold two
identical services Sunday morning -one at nine, one at eleven.
These huge congregations were comprised
mainly of government workers, GI's, ordinary citizens, a constant stream
of out-of-town visitors, and a sprinkling of Washington's renowned.
In our congregation, it was not unusual for a famous judge to worship
beside a mail carrier or for a Senator to take the Sacrament of Holy
Communion in fellowship with a little government clerk. This was a
thrilling thing to watch. One felt that it was the very essence of
Peter had himself come up the hard way.
he never lost touch with the so-called common man. The democratic ideal
was in his blood. At first, therefore, he was so afraid of paying
any servile regard to the Capital's notables that he was blinded to
their real needs. he soon discovered that the rich and the famous have
heartaches just like other folks. They cannot escape sickness, pain, and
bereavement. They and their families need succor, consolation, and
counsel just as the rest of us do. It soon became apparent that serving
any of them, from president of the United States down, was just an
integral part of a ministry in the Capital city.
In fact, less than three months after
coming to Washington, Peter was asked by the Washington federation of
Churches to preach at the annual Christmas service to be attended by
president Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family.
[We will follow with some extracts
God Still Answers Prayer
"...then I will restore her...and make
the dale of Trouble a door of hope."
Hosea 2:15 [Moffatt's translation]
...Miss Fuller had been in Washington
for eight month's. She had been attending New Avenue Church regularly.
For years , this girl had been groping to find God. That part of the
story is best told in her own words:
Like nearly everyone in Washington, I
thought Dr. Marshall was one of the most challenging and inspiring
ministers I had ever heard preach. Sunday after Sunday, I would stand in
line outside the church hoping to get a seat, only to get just far
enough inside to stand throughout the service. Yet hearing him meant so
much to me, I wouldn't think of staying away just because I had to
For years I had been aware that
religion was a very real and wonderful thing to some people, but not to
me. I wanted it to be, but couldn't seem to get a grip on it.
Dr. Marshall was one of a few people I
knew who seemed close to God. he always talked about God as if God were
his closest friend, as if they had wonderful times together. The
sermons heard him preach only intensified my spiritual hunger. I
hung on his every word, as most of his listeners did, and prayed that
somehow, someway, I could get to know God like that too.
Another thing that bothered me very
much was that I wasn't sure I was in the right job. It was very
interesting job, with the Senate as my beat. For a girl reared on a
farm, there was a thrill attached to such a position, and the pay was
average, but I had two good jobs during the two years since I graduated
from Kansas State, but in them too, I felt something important was
missing. I felt that I belonged somewhere else, but I did not know where
it was. It was like being away from home and not knowing where home was.
[ In 2007 - A message to friends of over four
decades in the USA - Keep well! Bob and Phil and
company -- we hope to
see you in Emporia , Kansas - soon!]
On the first night that Alma Deane went
to choir rehearsal, over one hundred young people from many different
parts of the United States were present. During the announcement
intermission, Mr Beaschler, our director of music, told them about
having spent part of his vacation with us on Cap Cod.
"By the way," he added abruptly" do any
of you happen to know of a maid or housekeeper who would like a job for
The Marshall's will be back in town
next Wednesday, and I heard them say that if they hadn't found reliable
help by then, they would have to close the Manse and break up the family
for a while. If you have any constructive suggestions for them, you will
not only be doing the Marshall a favor, but the whole church
At that moment, God started answering
both Miss Fuller's prayers and ours.
"suddenly , I had the strangest
she said later,
"that Mr Beaschler was talking to me
and to no one else. In fact, I just knew he was talking to me! I
didn't know the Marshall's personally. I didn't even know that Mrs.
Marshall was ill, but everything Mr Beaschler said stood out in my mind
like boldface type or neon lights. I became very excited. Over and over,
I heard in my mind,
'A.D. why don't you go?"
The idea did not appeal to Alma Deane
al all. She did not like housework and did not know how to cook. "Hoe"
she argued with herself, "would I be of any use to the Marshall's? How
could I live on a housekeepers wages? How would I ever explain such a
strange rash move to friends and to my family, who were so proud of my
job on Capital Hill interviewing Senators and Cabinet officials?"
But the idea persisted. That night she
sat on the edge of her bed until two o'clock. She raised every possible
objection, of which there were many, and could think of not a single
good reason for wanting to become a housekeeper. Nevertheless, the idea
persisted. It drove her relentlessly. The next day, she looked up our
address in the phone book, caught a bus, and came out to Cathedral
Avenue. She walked up and down in front of the house, looking it over
carefully, just to assure herself that the whole thing was not a dream.
On Wednesday, the day of our deadline,
Miss Fuller came to see me. As she sat by my bed, I saw a girl dressed
in an unbecoming aqua-coloured suit. She had beautiful, but restless,
deep brown eyes, in which I saw in stability, even fear. A.D., as she
told me liked to be called, was a little ill at ease, but was very
frank. Quietly, she told me what had happened on Friday night at choir
"I am not qualified for the job," she
insisted. "I don't really want it, but I had to come and talk to you, so
I can begin sleeping again at night. Frankly, Mrs. Marshall, there's
something about this I don't understand at all. All I can say is, here I
am, and I don't know why I'm Here."
At that point , I became as excited as
A.D. had been on Friday night. "I think I can supply the missing pieces
to the puzzle," I volunteered. Then I told her about our knotty problem,
the way we had prayed about it at a distance of five hundred miles, and
that today was the date we had set for a decision on it.
The girl sitting by my bed looked
astonished. It had not occurred to her that the insistent mental
prodding she had felt was God's way of speaking to her. Since the
whole thing involved revolutionary changes for the both of us, we agreed
to pray about it for two weeks, while I visited in Seaview. If , at the
end of that time, both of us still felt that this was God's doing, A.D.
would give her job on Capital Hill and come and live with us. She left
as in a daze.
Subsequently, in a talk about the
matter with her boss, she was told that to become a housekeeper would be
to commit professional suicide. Nevertheless, at the end of two weeks,
the answer, the answer was clear to both of us. A.D. was convinced
that, though to resign her job seemed a completely unreasonable move, it
was nonetheless God's plan. For six years, she pleaded for his help. She
has asked and sought and knocked.
This was His answer. She could not
refuse to obey.
With as great a courage as I have ever
witnessed, feeling like a parachutist taking a first leap, she resigned
her position. She moved her possessions to the Manse on a Saturday
night. As she set her things down in the room assigned to her, she had
sudden proof that she had done the right thing.
"I suddenly knew for the first time in
my life," A.D. said afterwards, "what it meant to be in the right place
at the right time. It was something like the way the horizon rights
itself and stands still when you are coming out of a dizzy spell, and
everything suddenly settles into place. All restlessness and uncertainty
left me, forever. The peace of God has never left me since that time. I
know now that obedience to whatever GOD asks of us brings peace and a
sense of rightness with the world. There is no substitute for it. THAT
NIGHT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A WHOLE NEW LIFE FOR ME."
A.D. thought she would probably stay a
few months. She stayed four years. She became not only a housekeeper but
a cherished friend whose steady loving companionship alleviated my
loneliness and hastened my recovery. Before our eyes, all the
potentialities of beauty and character which had been lying dormant in
her came to fruition. She became a poised and delightful person. Even
her looks changed; she developed a flair for dressing fashionably. She
acquired an artistry for house making, as well as rare qualities of
We, for our part, got a more wonderful
answer to our prayer than we could ever had imagined. A.D.'s four years
with us were a period of spiritual adventuring and growth for Per and
me, too. He and A.D. and I had became a kind of team, each of us
contributing much-needed help to one another. Even A.D.'s experience on
Capital Hill was of inestimable value to Peter when he assumed the
Senate chaplaincy. Links were forged between the three of us that will
last through all eternity.
Moreover, A.D. by no means committed
professional suicide. In 1948, without even seeking it, she stepped
into a fine position in the National Red Cross, at more than twice the
salary of her old job on the Hill. That position seemed made for her. It
used every bit of experience she had ever had. Furthermore, after the
interim with us, she was a lot further up the professional ladder that
she could have climbed had she spent the four years in journalism.
Peter and I never stopped thanking God
for sending A.D. to us. This answer to prayer was but an additional
under-girding to Peter's already rock-ribbed faith. Often he referred to
the incident from the pulpit.
One of the excuses we offer for our
lack of faith is the old cliché,
"God helps those who help themselves."
Rather, God helps those who trust HIM
to solve their problems.
My own experience substantiates the
evidence of Scripture that our actions in any given situation are more
important to God than our thoughts or intellectual belief.
Jesus was not being facetious when HE
said that even FAITH of the mustard-seed variety can win great things
The greatest answers to prayer in our
family have come at times when our faith was small as almost to expect
Until we took hands off and really
turned the problem over to God, HE could not help US.
Do we trust God enough to put the
ultimates of life - the things affecting health,
life, and death
basic economic needs -
into HIS hands?
If we do, that -in God's eyes - is
faith, and HE will always honor it
Why not try it for yourself?
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