Reginald Daniels, 81, minister at Madison Ave. Presbyterian

December 14, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Reginald J. Daniels, whose quiet, straightforward style of ministering carried him through 40 years at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, died Dec. 7 of heart failure at Union Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Daniels, who was 81, joined Madison Avenue Presbyterian in 1944 and provided stability in a church and a West Baltimore community that were undergoing change.

"He was one of the last positive role models in the community. Reggie stayed and was a role model for many," said the Rev. Curtis A. Jones, who succeeded Mr. Daniels at the church. "He was lasting stability for the community."

A tall, solidly built man with an easy and gentle smile, Mr. Daniels was known for his accessibility to church members and to other residents of the community. He and his family lived in the church manse -- next to the church and a block from North and Madison avenues -- and often held church meetings in their living room.

Friends and church members recalled his style of ministering as reserved, not demonstrative. His services always began on time; the sermons were short and to the point.

"He always said that if you couldn't say what you had to say in 20 minutes, then you are being repetitious," said his daughter Judith M. Daniels of Baltimore. "He wasn't as much a preacher as he was a minister. He was a minister who appealed to the sense of reasoning."

A native of Orangeburg, S.C., Mr. Daniels received a bachelor's degree from South Carolina State College in 1937 and earned a degree in theology from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1948. He received a master's degree in divinity from Lincoln in 1974.

He was a public school teacher in Pennsylvania from 1937 to 1940 and performed missionary work in Pennsylvania and Ohio from 1940 until he went to Madison Avenue Presbyterian. He retired in 1984.

In retirement, he was interim pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church and later at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Daniels arrived at Madison Avenue Presbyterian during the era of struggle for civil rights. The area around the church then was home to mostly black middle-class families, but the community changed over the next four decades, and many of them moved away.

"He worked against racism and discrimination, only to be faced with black-on-black crime and discrimination," Mr. Jones said. "He had to reinforce many values within the church."

Although Mr. Daniels didn't regularly sing with the choir, he had a fine singing voice and each year during Christmas services sang with the choir, leaving the pulpit and standing among the bass voices in the church's Hallelujah Choir, said Juanita Addison, a church member for 27 years.

Mr. Daniels performed countless funerals and weddings, including some spur-of-the-moment nuptial ceremonies. "We were doing yard work once, and a couple came up and asked to be married," his daughter said. "We didn't know these people at all, but he opened the church and married them. My mother was the witness."

Mrs. Addison said one of Mr. Daniels' last acts as minister at Madison Avenue Presbyterian was to officiate at her daughter's wedding in June 1984. "That was very special for her," Mrs. Addison said.

A memorial service is planned for January.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Daniels is survived by his wife, the former Marguerite Younger, whom he married in 1943; a son, Reginald J. Daniels II of Columbia; another daughter, Freda A. Daniels of Hawaii; a brother, Lowman G. Daniels of Owings Mills; a sister, Cecelia D. Fleming of Orangeburg; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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