Instilling Hope and Expanding Possibilities for Those in Search of Their Calling - Princeton Theological Seminary

A voter registration campaign on the south side of Chicago was the catalyst for Rev. Touré Marshall’s ThM ’05, MDiv ’04, ministry. At the age of 8, he witnessed the impact the church could have on the community by joining his father’s efforts to elect the city’s next mayor. But the actions of one man, who was at first adamant about not voting and doubting its benefits, stood out to Marshall. The man’s combativeness gave rise to defeat juxtaposed with their efforts. The next day, however, the man returned to register to vote and enlisted his friends to do the same.

After Harold Washington was elected mayor, he delivered on his campaign’s promises to Chicagoans. This firsthand experience shaped Marshall’s impressions of the church — it seemed to be the center of bringing the community together and bringing a sense of hope, he recalls. “That never left me — the church’s value to a community when it moves out and the potential of the church.”

This revelation led Marshall down a path paved with a variety of opportunities to minister in different capacities. The Johnson C. Smith University graduate’s first call was that of a community organizer in Charlotte, which he says was a moment of stepping out in faith, creating something new, collaborating with congregations, businesses, and government officials, and maximizing the potential of local churches to create a community that was equitable and just. He pastored in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In Winston-Salem, he continued his community-focused ministry as a senior pastor, forming a collaboration with his congregation, the local school system, a historically black college, and a large non-profit to develop a model mentoring and social entrepreneurial program for young adults and youth in the city. He was also an adjunct facilitator and instructor at Wake Forest University Divinity School while serving in Winston-Salem. It was his wife’s ministry that led to his return to the northeast. Last July, Marshall joined the Office of Field Education and Vocational Placement as its assistant director.

While it may appear that he’s worn many hats on his journey, Marshall’s perspective differs.

“It may seem like a lot of different tasks, but it’s the same task, and it’s the same function in different environments or places, which is developing people, developing people who are committed to developing communities, and ultimately, through the life of the church,” he says. “I’ve always been connected to the church in some form or fashion, whether through the seminary, organizing local congregations, or actually pastoring a congregation.”

Marshall’s role at Princeton Theological Seminary presents an opportunity for him to utilize his professional experiences with the academy, which is also an essential aspect of his ministry.

He notes the words of the late Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon — “you must do the work your soul must have.” Marshall says the Seminary is a place to help students continue discerning and searching for their work. For him, field education is critical to developing leaders who believe in the church’s potential and power.

“My hope is that students will come away deepening their understanding of who they are and gaining clarity about their call,” he adds. “For them to maintain fierce hope and imagination in what is possible, what God can do through them in the places that God will take them to lead and to serve these communities.”

Since joining Princeton Seminary last summer, the married father of two has been focused on learning aspects of his new role. With this in mind, Marshall’s goal is effectiveness.

“I want to be sensitive, be skilled, listen to students, and properly place them to maximize their experience here at the Seminary and their experience with education,” he says. “That’s my goal, to get better at that, to learn the administrative ins and outs of it in a way that ultimately continues to maximize students’ experiences so that they’re able to leave and lead with confidence and with a certain level of proficiency once they graduate.”