Thursday, February 12, 2015

Harold Mayo Daniels April 10, 1927 - February 5, 2015

When I received word last week that Harold Daniels “passed from this life to the next on February 5,” I felt that jolt of the loss of a good friend and colleague. I was privileged to work with him on a variety of projects, large and small, over a stretch of 35-plus years. Even though I know at the start what I have to say here will be inadequate, I am moved to pay Harold a tribute, remembering and celebrating the abundant gifts God sent us through him.

Harold was ordained in the Church of the Nazarene in which he briefly served parishes. In 1958 he was received into the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and went on to be a pastor of churches in Montana and New Mexico. After completing advanced pastoral studies, in 1978 he became the director of the Joint Office of Worship of the northern (UPCUSA) and southern (PCUS) branches of the Presbyterian Church, and following the reunion in 1983, he continued to staff the Office of Worship.

In his work at the denominational level, however, Harold never lost his pastoral sense. He knew that the work he was doing would be serving the folks back home. He was not detached from the basis of the church. On the contrary, Harold seemed to be in touch with people everywhere in congregations large and small, constantly taking the pulse of worship. He knew what was needed, and that knowledge spurred him on in his work.

Harold was also a pastor to those he worked with. He was an outstanding listener. Those who worked on any project for which he had editorial or administrative responsibility received pastoral care: support, encouragement, and any assistance he could give. He always had time to hear about what was going on in other people’s lives that they needed to share. His sense of humor was usually there to pierce the gloom and brighten the scene.

This pastoral sense made it possible for Harold to be a good critic. I never had the sense that he was lording his writing skills over me when he picked at a prayer I wrote, although he could have and I’d never have argued with him. He was an excellent writer, often published.

Harold was a scholar, a persistent student who wanted to learn more. Harold often excitedly gushed about the most recent insight that had burst onto his horizon via some freshly published text. To Harold, there was never too much knowledge. Partly, I think, that was also because of his pastoral sense.

Harold had a real passion for worship, not just academically, but because worship is at the heart of the Christian life. Worship was in Harold’s heart. He was a devout person, not in any superficial pietistic sense, but in that his daily activities were always worshipful. Like a good pastor, he could verbalize a prayer in a group at any moment, and it would be as natural as breathing, because it was always there in his heart.

Harold was a true ecumenical spirit. When we were gathering information to create a Daily Prayer book, Harold suggested we gather up various resources from other traditions. They were not for us just to look at, but to use and see what we could learn. Harold’s ecumenical relationships went far beyond this, reaching globally to connect his work and all of us with the Church Catholic.

Harold also did a couple of tours of duty as a presbytery stated clerk. From that experience he brought sharp organizational skills and awareness of the Presbyterian way of getting things done. It’s not always easy to accomplish immense tasks in a large, complex organization. Harold knew how to do it, and do it all with grace.

Among Harold’s many accomplishments was his work as the project director and editor of the Book of Common Worship (BCW) (1993). This book has been called “the finest printed resource currently available in the English language.” Prior to its publication, however, he also had to shepherd a flock of “Supplemental Liturgical Resources,” which were first editions of the components of the BCW. To this lengthy process he brought wisdom and knowledge, enthusiasm and vision.

Harold left us with much to give thanks for. Yet we do acknowledge a great loss, and wish he were around to prompt us to richer worship. At the same time, I’m sure Harold is still with us every time we gather at the Lord’s Table, in every psalm and song we sing, in every prayer and praise we lift up to heaven.

May God’s Peace be with Harold’s family and all who love him.

1 comment:

  1. Don, thank you so much for your words. While I was privileged to know Harold Daniels only briefly, it was enough to know the truth of what you write. I know him best through the BCW, my constant companion, which accompanies my Bible, hymnals, and psalters. Those of us practitioners owe so much to you who inspire and write for us. I give thanks for Harold, and for you, Don.


Thanks for joining in the conversation!