The Rev. Linda Isadore McDaniel said she's come full circle with the United Methodist Church.
As a child in California, she would walk by herself or take the bus to various churches. The first of those, she said, was Holman UMC in Los Angeles, where her baby sitter at the time was a member.
Through the years, McDaniel's life took her to Alaska, Hawaii, Zimbabwe, Honduras and New York before she came to Chattanooga as the wife of the Rev. Paul McDaniel, longtime pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church.
Recently, she was hired as associate pastor of congregational care at Brainerd United Methodist Church.
"God just placed in me a kind of missionary spirit and a servant's heart from [the time when she was] very, very young," McDaniel, 59, said.
While she is a rarity locally as a black woman serving a historically white congregation, it is not the cross-racial position that drives her.
"The most important thing is obeying God's leadership," said McDaniel, who served her husband's church for the past seven years as minister of Christian education. "I am happy to be able to follow God's direction."
The Louisiana native graduated from the Church of God Theological Seminary in Cleve
land, Tenn., in 2005 and had sensed a calling to pastoral ministry during her time there that surprised her.
"I started out thinking I never wanted to be a pastor," McDaniel said.
"Over time, through the four-year program, I had done a complete circle. Rather than [be] a person who goes from church to church doing evangelistic work, not responsible on a day-to-day basis, I became interested in individuals and their spiritual formation."
At Brainerd UMC, she will be responsible not only for congregational care, she said, but also for the overall well-being of the congregation. She will preach six to eight times a year, she said, and be available to the Rev. Dennis Flaugher, senior pastor, for assistance he may need.
McDaniel said she had submitted her ministerial paperwork to and discussed potential positions last September with the Rev. Fred Dearing, the United Methodist Church's Chattanooga district superintendent, but she had no designs on any specific job.
The district superintendent told her that her trajectory toward a job might be abbreviated because of her ordination in the Baptist church, her seminary degree and her 34 years of varied ministry experience, she said.
In fact, it was abbreviated. In November, McDaniel was interviewed for the congregational-care position, and in February she was hired.
As she serves the Brainerd Road congregation, she will pursue ordination in the United Methodist Church and continue work on her doctorate in ministry from Drew Theological Seminary. She'll also continue, at least for a time, as dean of Second Missionary Baptist's school of evangelism, she said.
McDaniel's husband of nearly 14 years - pastor of the Third Street church for 45 years - has been fully supportive "since day one," she said.
"He said exactly what he said to all of his ministers," she said, "that there is a need for each of us to follow God's direction. He said any doors that God opens up for us, he would never stand in the way."