February 26, 2015

By Fred Koenig

Lori Downing didn’t find Centennial United Methodist Church. The church found her. 
    
“Judge Jon Gray called me and invited my mother and myself to come and sing,” she said. 
    
That invite opened a door for Downing. She grew up in First Presbyterian Church in Lee’s Summit and still loves that church, but Centennial UMC offered her something she had longed for and been missing – gospel music. 
    
Joining the gospel choir was what got Downing into Centennial UMC, but she was just getting started. She initially was involved with a radio broadcast ministry. She is a member of the Pastor-Parish Relations committee, and is chair of the Caregiving Committee, which helps the pastor with visitations and offering communion to shut-ins. When she and others at the church considered how they didn’t fit into the Young Adult Ministry (YAMs) or the Golden Age Ministry (GAMs), they started the Just-right Age Ministry (JAMs) for people ages 40 – 64. 
    
“It’s brought us together for fellowship, to bond with each other, and to learn about one another,” Downing said. “Now it’s nice that when we all pray for someone’s family member, we know more about that person.” 
    
The past four years she has been focused on Team Inspired, which launched a 5K run. A friend had died from triple-negative breast cancer, a form of cancer more common in African American and Latina young women. The church connected with Surviving the Odds, an organization that helps support people with the disease. On the second Saturday of each October, they have a run to raise awareness and money. They have had as many as 150 people participate. 
    
“God is moving in amazing ways,” she said. “Our goal is to keep growing, and make this the largest event like this in Kansas City that is being sponsored by an African American church.”