DOWNS MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Our church was established in 1890, under the name of Golden Gate Methodist Episcopal Church through the direction of Dr. E. R. Dill. It was located at 57th and Gaskill Streets and pastored by Reverend Frank K. Baker.
In 1916, the church moved to the west side of San Pablo Ave. and 56th Street. In 1924, the presents site was purchased under the pastorate of Reverend William Clark. The original building was built in 1925. The social hall was added in 1940.
In 1946 Golden Gate Methodist Episcopal Church closed. During this time there was the Great Migration of Black's from the South to the East Coast, the Midwest and the West Coast. In 1948 there was a growing population of Black's, many of whom were members of Taylor, in the North Oakland and Berkeley areas. Reverend Warren, pastor of Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, petitioned Bishop James Baker to reopen Golden Sate Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Warren further petitioned that the church be renamed Downs Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of the Reverend Karl Downs, the President of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.
Reverend John Doggett was appointed to Downs Memorial Episcopal Church in 1942-1949. He was a civil rights activist and very involved in the community.
Reverend Roy C. Nichols was appointed to Downs from 1949 to 1964. In 1965, plans were drawn for a new sanctuary. After many hours of labor and prayer by the small congregation under the guidance of two pillars, Irvine W. Fuller and B. L. Vaughn, the sanctuary was dedicated for worship in February 1956, In 1964, we purchased the property at 60th and Idaho Streets for a parking lot. Subsequently, the residence at 6020 Idaho Street was purchased and utilized as our Church School. Reverend William B. Smith was appointed to as Associate Pastor.
Reverend Amos Cambric Jr. was appointed to Downs from 1964 to 1967. The Ministry of Music was so important to the life of the church. Under his leadership the Gospel Choir, (directed by Zephyr Ward) was organized. Lyric Soprano Marion Downs (Widow of Rev. Karl Downs) appeared twice in concert at Downs UMC. Duke Ellington with his full orchestra appeared at the Kaiser Convention Center on Sacred Concert along with the Downs Choir. Rev. Cambric emphasized ministries to youth and introduced youth workshops and away camps.
Reverend Charles H. Belcher was appointed from 1967 to 1971. After the Jurisdictional Conference in Hawaii, the concept of Liquidation Expansion and Development (LED) was conceived and executed by Reverend Belcher and Lay Leader Arthur Goodrich. At the 1968 General Conference; in Dallas, Texas, Downs Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church was renamed Downs Memorial United Methodist Church to conform to the uniting of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1971, Phase One, "Liquidation" and the burning of the mortgage was celebrated.
Reverend Charles H. Lee. Sr. was appointed to Downs from 1971 until 1987. During November 9-11, 1980, the congregation celebrated the completion of Phase Two and Three of the Expansion and Development program. Significant during this period was the ordination of our own Reverend Dorothy Williams as The First Black Women Pastor in the California Nevada Annual Conference in May 1982. Rev. Williams was appointed to Downs UMC from 1982-1985 as the first woman associate of Downs. On April 16, 1987, Sam Perry provided leadership for the cornerstone laying ceremony with an impressive ritual conducted by the Prince Hall, Acacia Lodge # 7, F & AM. Rev. Hamilton Boswell, the District Superintendent and other dignitaries were in attendance.
Reverend Douglass E. Fitch, Sr. was appointed to Downs from 1987-1999. The church experienced tremendous growth during this time. Alma Berry accepted a call into ministry and was ordained a Deacon in 1992. She was appointed as pastor of Ridge Point United Methodist Church in San Francisco. On April 16, 1989, the church celebrated burning both their first and second mortgage's.
Reverend Kelvin Sauls was appointed to Downs from 1999 to 2006. The Church experienced dynamic ministry and more growth. The Downs Community Development Corporation was established as the non-profit arm of the church. Reverend Dorothy Baker was consecrated a Diaconal Minister in 1999 and ordained a Deacon in 2001. Reverend Baker was appointed and served as Associate Pastor until 2007.
Reverend Lorraine McNeal was appointed to Downs 2006. She is the first woman to become Senior Pastor of Downs. This was a time of great change and transition. The church has consistently worked on changing its culture. Downs continues to work in collaboration with sister Methodist Churches in the areas of leadership development and spiritual formation such as: Day Break Prayer; Combined Lenten and Advent Worship Services; and Community Outreach. She continues to be instrumental in the Lay Preaches Academy. Pastor Lorraine's driving passion is healing and developing deeper spirited people who can witness to the faithfulness of god.
REVEREND LORRAINE MCNEAL
Lorraine McNeal is the eldest of two children born to Frank and Alverna McNeal. Lorraine’s brother Keith died in 2006. Lorraine was born in Hempstead, Texas and spent her formative years in the Bay Area.
She was educated in Oakland public schools and graduated from Castlemont High School. Lorraine continued her education at the University of California, Berkeley and the California State University, San Francisco.
Lorraine has worked as a driver for AC Transit, as a Child Protection Social Worker for the State of Alaska, and as a Children’s Placement Worker for Alameda County. She graduated from the Pacific School of Religion and has served the following churches: Round Valley, UMC in Covelo, California; Boulder Creek U.M.C. in Boulder Creek, California; St. Paul’s U.M.C. in San Jose, California; Taylor Memorial U.M.C. in Oakland California; Minister of Discipleship at Los Altos U.M.C. and is currently serving as pastor of Downs Memorial U.M.C. in Oakland, California.
Lorraine makes time to enjoy Ikebana (Japanese) flower arranging, knitting, reading, walking, swimming, and learning massage.
"But forget all that-- it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you nor see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." ~[Isaiah 43:18-19]