Her name is Martha Stearns Marshall and you’ve probably never heard about her. She served as a Baptist pastor during the eighteen-century. That’s right – the 18th century! Along with her husband, David, Martha ministered to the Mohawk tribe. At the start of the French and Indian War, the Marshalls left New England and settled in Virginia. They were influenced by the Philadelphia Baptist Association and it was during this period that both of them were baptized into the Regular Baptist tradition.
Eventually, the Marshalls settled in Sandy Creek, North Carolina where they founded the first Baptist church in the state, along with Martha’s brother, Shubal Stearns. But Martha and her husband didn’t stop there, establishing more churches, many more churches, in North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.
Since 2007, Baptist Women in Ministry has invited Baptist churches to participate in the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching by having a woman preach during the month of February. This annual event has been a profoundly significant source of joy and discovery for many women and many churches. Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, echoing the words of the prophet Joel, “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy….” (Acts 2:17). This is an opportunity for us to publicly voice our support of women in ministry, to be counted with other Baptist churches in celebrating the calling and gifts of women, and to remind ourselves that God continues working in exciting ways.
This Sunday, February 28th, our own Carmel Hall (Minister to Children & Families) will help lead us in worship by proclaiming Good News. Martha Stearns Marshall month reminds us of the biblical tradition where women announce the good news of the Resurrection, risk their lives for God’s people, and serve together in announcing the Good news of Jesus Christ. As Paul expresses in Romans 10, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim the Good News!”