Coburg Village Remembers Pastor Arthur Downing
In December 2020, Coburg Village lost a treasured member of our community, Pastor Arthur Downing. Pastor Downing served as part-time pastor at Coburg Village from 2000 until 2020. In September 2020, Pastor Downing and his beloved wife, Lisa, moved to Coburg. Lisa still lives here today.
On Saturday, November 13th, Coburg Village held a memorial service celebrating Pastor Downing’s life. The service was officiated by Reverend Patrick M. Singh. Pastor Singh previously served as vicar at Trinity Lutheran Church in Schenectady under the mentorship of the Reverend Arthur Downing. During the service, a plaque was unveiled that will hang outside of the chapel in remembrance of Pastor Downing and his service.
Coburg Village Executive Director, Antoinette Wallace, remembers Pastor Downing as always being there to pray with her and provide strength and spiritual comfort in times of personal struggle or adversity. “He was there for anyone who needed him. He was filled with compassion and grace and served as an incredible source of comfort to our residents, their families, and our staff,” recalls Antoinette.
Pastor Downing left an indelible mark on our community. Coburg Village resident and board member, Grace Hokanson reflects, “Pastor Downing had an aura about him; the compassion and caring that he felt for people came through without words. He took the time to really get to know you and make a personal connection.” Grace, a Roman Catholic, recalls moving to Coburg Village in November 2018. When icy weather made it treacherous to venture out to Catholic mass, a friend invited her to attend Pastor Downing’s service at Coburg. Grace joined her and never left.
Pastor Downing treated all people with respect and compassion regardless of their religious affiliation. Lynne Matern, a resident, shared the story of a former co-worker whose parents lived at Coburg Village. They were Jewish, but always felt welcome to regularly attend Pastor Downing’s bible study group. On a side note, Pastor Downing officiated the 1984 marriage of Lynne and George Matern at Trinity Lutheran Church in Schenectady.
When Tracey Kubis, Coburg’s activities director, first met Pastor Downing, he inquired about her religious affiliation and when she replied that she did not have one. His response etched in her memory, “Kindness is the greatest religion one could ever have.”
Ann Christoffel, another member of our staff, worked near Pastor Downing and describes him as kind, caring, and always available for residents. Ann’s father-in-law who lived at Coburg Village shared a special bond with Pastor Downing. When her father-in-law had knee replacement surgery, Pastor Downing visited the hospital every day. When her father-in-law passed away, Pastor Downing came to Coburg on his day off to spend the entire day sitting with the family. Ann reflects, “he wasn’t obtrusive, his very presence provided a sense of comfort. It really meant a lot.”
Coburg Village resident Birgit Lohne expressed a similar sentiment regarding Pastor Downing’s kind and caring presence when her husband, Len, was gravely ill.
Upon hearing of Pastor Downing’s passing, Coburg Village board member, David Hahn, wrote that he was loved by everyone at Coburg and that was the highest compliment you can have as a pastor. Coburg Village Board chair and TLCN board member, Art Upright, described Pastor Downing as a model servant of Christ and described how much he loved seeing him interact with Coburg village residents.
Pastor Downing was born and raised Brooklyn. He earned an A.A. from Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y., in 1962, a B.A. from Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. in 1964, and a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. in 1968.
Throughout his life, Pastor Downing upheld a deep dedication to civil rights, support of human services, and unity-building. While in seminary, he traveled to Montgomery, Ala., with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and participated in black voter registration efforts. After his vicarage at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Providence, R.I., he was ordained and installed at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Putnam Valley, N.Y., in 1968. From 1971 to 1977, he served as senior pastor to the diverse congregation of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn. There, he conducted services in German, English, and Spanish, was principal of St. Mark's Elementary School, and collaborated with area clergy in urban ministry and social justice efforts.
As pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Schenectady from 1977 to 2012, he oversaw the establishment of Lutheran Braille Workshop #149; conservation work to the physical plant in response to the energy crisis of the late 1970s; a $250,000 rebuilding and renovation project following a fire in 1986; and instituted a planning process and an endowment fund. In addition, he established, with Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's Atlantic District Mission Developer Pastor Jimmy Lalljie, an outreach ministry among the Guyanese population in the city, welcoming many new members to the congregation. Under his leadership, Trinity was a site for community gathering, including election polling, Central State Street Neighborhood Association, Narcotics Anonymous, and a variety of youth ministries, including Brothers Working Within the Community, Reach Out Center Program, and the City Mission's Light in the City. His participation in regional church and community work included coordinator of the Central State Street Ecumenical Cluster; Schenectady Inner City Ministry; Board of Directors of the Furman Street Learning Center; pastoral counselor for the Albany Zone of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League; Directing Committee for Lutheran Campus Ministries at SUNY-Albany; and Camp SonRise Board of Directors in Pottersville, N.Y. Within the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, he served as circuit counsellor, pastoral advisor for the Board of Lay Ministry (Board for Diaconal Ministry), the Diaconate Regional Advisory Board, and Mission Services Board. He was also a mentor for the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology and Vicarage supervisor for Concordia Seminary.