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Obituary: The Very Revd Peter Marshall

by
09 October 2020

Canon Michael Glanville-Smith writes:

THE Very Revd Peter Jerome Marshall, Dean of Worcester from 1997 to 2006, was born in Buenos Aires in 1940, the second son of Bishop Guy and Mrs Dorothy Marshall. He was educated in schools in Argentina, England, and Canada before taking a degree in Science at McGill University, Montreal, and studying theology at Westcott House, Cambridge.

The energy, self-discipline, and vision in Peter’s ministry were nurtured in his family, in which, his brother, Michael, recalls, “the ethos of mission and service was central to all our lives.” Through his father’s dedication to seafarers’ welfare, and later service as Bishop in Venezuela, and of Trinidad & Tobago, Peter experienced ministry in different cultures and languages.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1964, Peter served two curacies in the diocese of Chelmsford before becoming Vicar of St Peter’s, Walthamstow. Here, in addition to his parochial ministry, he was elected Chair of the Havering and Barking Health Trust and a leader of Redbridge Samaritans.

When Peter was appointed a Residentiary Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral and Director of Training in 1981, he explored a fresh approach in ministerial training. Working with Canon Wesley Carr and drawing on the insights of the Tavistock Institute, he aimed to foster awareness of the ways in which individuals might, unconsciously, seek to meet their personal needs inside the safety and status of institutions, not least in the Church.

Peter became a Residentiary Canon of Ripon Cathedral and Diocesan Director of Training in 1985. The Very Revd Christopher Campling, the then Dean of Ripon, recalls him as “a colleague with strong views, a brilliant intellect, impatient of lazy thinking, calm and compassionate in times of crisis, generous and supportive in times of festivity, a faithful and loyal friend”.

Canon Richard Cooper describes Peter in his training work as “unflappable in the face of arrogance, patient in argument, and never personal in his criticism. His forensic approach to our assumptions opened up a wider horizon and a deeper understanding of what we were trying to say or preach.”

The Ven. Penny Driver says: “Peter was committed to the whole person, who taught me that there was no such thing as either pure motive or an accident, and that our unconscious life had a far greater effect on our behaviour than I ever thought.”

Peter wanted colleagues, clerical and lay, to appreciate their uniqueness through truthful self-inquiry and working for justice in the community in the light of the gospel. “Hearing him address synod in political, theological, and spiritual debates was an experience not to be missed,” Archdeacon Driver adds.

Peter’s installation as Dean of Worcester in February 1997 was a joyful celebration, and his memorable sermon was a call to mission and fulfilment: “You did not choose me but I choose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name” (John 15.16).

Peter completed a major restoration project begun by his predecessor, and launched the Music and Light Appeal. He appointed lay assistants; introduced girls to the cathedral choir; and, not without criticism, established a single Sunday eucharist at 10.30 a.m. to include children and families. Members of the Cathedral Council recall that Peter expected the Chapter to participate collegially in daily worship as the praying heart of the cathedral. The Ven. Frank Bentley writes of how deeply Peter’s pastoral gifts were valued in the cathedral community and beyond,

Bishop Peter Selby remembers Peter’s contribution to diocesan meetings, frequently approaching issues from unexpected angles and stimulating deeper understanding. Peter and his wife, Nancy, were immensely hospitable, the deanery the scene of many enjoyable gatherings; their love and joy in one another evident for all to see.

Having retired to Canada, Peter and Nancy spent happy years together before Peter developed Alzheimer’s disease. He died peacefully on 20 June, in Peterborough, Ontario. A much-loved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, and priest, Peter left many deeply grateful for his ministry and friendship.

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