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The Rev. Dr. Edythe Cherry Marshall

Had pastored Hope Presbyterian Church in Arbutus for 38 years

By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

4:10 PM EST, January 17, 2012

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The Rev. Dr. Edythe Cherry Marshall, the first female pastor to be installed in the Presbytery of Baltimore who had recently retired as minister of Hope Presbyterian Church in Arbutus, died Friday at the University of Maryland Medical Center from complications of a fall.

The Catonsville resident was 66.

Dr. Marshall retired Jan. 8 after having pastored Hope Presbyterian Church for 38 years.

"Everybody is speechless. The blessing in all of this is that we had a wonderful celebration — 269 attended the dinner and church was full that morning — the good part was that we were able to tell her how much we loved her," said E. Farrell Maddox, the church's organist and choir director.

"She was happy the whole time and clapped her hands," he said.

In honor of her years of devotion to Hope Presbyterian, church members assembled a 16-page book of photographs, memories, tributes and statistics.

During her tenure at the church, Dr. Marshall married 221 couples, presided over 133 baptisms, and officiated at 177 church member's funerals.

"She loved her people and her church and was always there for them. She was just an excellent pastor," said the Rev. John H. Kazanjian, current pastor of Kenwood Presbyterian Church in Overlea who will assume the pastorship of Hope Presbyterian Church on Feb. 1.

"Because she was one of the first women in the Presbyterian Church to have her own church, this made her a pioneer," he said.

The former Edythe Cherry Watson — she never used her first name — was the daughter of a vice president of Philadelphia Electric Co. and a homemaker. She was born in Philadelphia and raised in Germantown, Pa.

After graduating in 1963 from Germantown Friends School, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1967 in religion from what is now Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.

In high school, Dr. Marshall made the decision to devote her life to some form of Christian work.

"I knew I wanted to serve God, but I just didn't know how," she told The Evening Sun in a 1975 interview.

Dr. Marshall majored in the New Testament while a student at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., from which she graduated in 1970. She earned a doctorate of ministry in 1982 from McCormick Theological College in Chicago.

She became the first female Presbyterian minister in the Baltimore Presbytery when she began her pastoral career in 1970 as assistant minister at Hagerstown Presbyterian Church.

Three years later, she married the Rev. Ira Wilson Marshall III, a Presbyterian minister who was pastor of Hughes Memorial Presbyterian Church in Edgemere.

In 1973, the Dr. Marshall was appointed interim minister at Hope Presbyterian Church.

Two years later, she made history again, when she became the first woman to be installed in the Baltimore Presbytery as pastor of a church, Hope Presbyterian.

The Presbyterian Church first authorized female ministers in 1958. At the time of Dr. Marshall's appointment at Hope, there were only 200 women nationwide authorized to be pastors, but relatively few had churches of their own.

"Of course, the congregation was a little skeptical when I first came, but after they see you in action, they become your greatest advocate," she said in The Evening Sun interview at the time.

The Rev. Dr. Peter K. Nord, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Baltimore, was interviewed by Dr. Marshall for the job on 2003.

"Cherry loved the people she served and in response they loved her. It was unconditional in both directions," said Dr. Nord.

He said she was the master of the 10-minute sermon, which was all that was needed to understand the love of God.

"She liked to tell stories and share experiences rather than religious treatises and that way she connected with the people in the pews," he said.

Dr. Marshall enjoyed family dinners, reading, and vacationing at Lake George, N.Y., and Ocean City, N.J.

"Her hobby was her church," said a son, Peter Marshall of Lutherville. "She always had her briefcase along wherever she went that was filled with work."

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at her church, Shelbourne and Ten Oaks roads.

In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by another son, Will Marshall of Canton; a brother, Peter Watson of Philadelphia; and three grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com