After pastoring for 30 years in Iowa, Pastor Charlie Downing has found a home at Harkey’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Coal City.
“When I was 12, I was influenced deeply by a pastor in my conformation training,” he said. “I thought about going into the ministry. Then, when I was 25, I felt the call and answered.”
Downing said he moved his wife, Karlee, and their children from Iowa, where he was born and raised, to attend the seminary in Washington, D.C. While attending the seminary, he pastured at two churches on the eastern shore of Maryland.
“After I finished the seminary, I went back to Iowa, where I served 30 years with the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church,” he said.
Downing said after 30 years, he retired and moved to Florida for two winters.
“My wife was recovering from breast cancer, and that was one reason I took early retirement,” he said. “She just celebrated five years in remission.”
Downing said he and Karlee have been married for 45 years, and he has been in the ministry for 37 of those years, both full and part time.
“The second winter in Florida, Iowa called and asked me to be an interim pastor at two churches back in Iowa,” he said. “They weren’t sure how long they would need me to fill in. That lasted two months. Then they had me help out another church, where I served for four months as an interim pastor.”
Downing said the third time, he spent a whole year as a part-time pastor.
“For the most part, I’ve served large churches, with 750-plus members,” he said. “I’ve always had a staff to work with, and Karlee was on the staff doing Christian Education with children and youth at several of the churches. She has always been there to help me.”
Downing said the third interim appointment was at his mother’s home church.
“Although she and my dad had passed away, the congregation remembered me,” he said. “I never had thought I would serve there.”
Although still retired, Downing said he was called again for a fourth time.
“This time I was a full-time pastor for one year,” he said. “I probably could have stayed longer, but one of my sons, daughters-in-law, and grandsons live in Odenville. Karlee had been visiting them and in the spring of 2012 she said, ‘I’m moving to Alabama to be close to the family. What are you going to do?’”
Downing said he called the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, explained the situation, and asked if there was a place he could serve within driving distance of Odenville.
“The pastor here was leaving, so this was open,” he said. “It has worked out well so far and we are very happy here.”
Downing said it is a part-time appointment at a small, loving church.
“I think God had a hand in it all,” he said. “I used to have a mentor who would say, ‘Jehovah Jara,’ which in his words means ‘God provides.’ And He has all these years. We found a place to rent in Ragland about eight-and-a-half miles from the church and plan to stay here quite a while.”
The Downings said they enjoy spending time with their four children and seven grandchildren — especially the grandchildren.
“To get to where we are — it has been a God-led adventure,” he said. “I really feel blessed because I know when I look back on my ministry that I’ve been in the right place at the right time where God led me so I could make a difference. Karlee and I always try to leave a place better than when we found it — and we are still on the adventure.”