Pastors' Memoirs

Bill D. McDaniel, 1938-1994

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"I never considered doing anything else with my life" was Bill McDaniel's response to having been asked why he became a United Methodist minister. Born in Hurt, Virginia, on the outskirts of Altavista, on September 27, 1938, he was one of five children and was educated in area schools. He attended Bluefield College and, in 1964, completed his training at American University's Wesleyan Theological Seminary in the newly evolved specialty, Youth and Christian Education Ministries.

While serving his initial appointment in Lynchburg, he married Frances Monteith, a Richmond, Va., native and an accomplished musician. Ordained an elder in the Virginia conference in 1966, he transferred to the Eastern Pennsylvania conference where he served until 1970. Returning to Richmond on honorable location from that conference, he continued working with youth as an English and reading teacher in Richmond's inner-city public schools. During this period he assisted at Corinth United Methodist Church and, in 1988, accepted the pastorship of St. James United Methodist Church in addition to his full-time teaching position. In both pulpit and classroom he gave generously of himself and his talents, as evidenced by the fact that students would come often to his home on weekends just to talk and be with his family.

An accomplished leader, Bill helped St James' small congregation restore its self-esteem and direction by accepting and achieving seemingly impossible goals: membership increased, inactive members returned, higher financial commitments were set and exceeded, and youth activities were reinstated after years of inactivity. Bill set an analytical course to make St. James grow. His positive impact brought a special reverence, beauty and dignity to the worship service and his constant emphasis on "making St. James a beacon on a Hill" to reach out to the surrounding community spreading the Good News of Christ survives his passing. He served this charge until his death on November 28, 1994, one day after delivering his last meditative sermon titled "O God, When Are You Coming?"

Predeceased by his wife, and survived by his son, Berkley Monteith McDaniel, Bill's loss creates a void impossible to fill. A warm, caring friend and shepherd, his spirit continues to live in the memories of those whose lives he touched.

The Easter prior to his death, Bill shared the following anonymously written poem and the deep meaning that it held for him the St. James' congregation. Its hope stands as legacy to the faith that he believed, taught, lived and shared with our God.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am a diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush;
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.

- Clint Jones



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