Conference says goodbye to Sally Blanchard


After nine years serving in various positions to support the mission and ministry of The Oregon-Idaho Conference, Thursday will be Sally Blanchard’s last day working for an organization she said she has always strived to support with enthusiasm and grace.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting some dedicated and inspiring laity and clergy,” Blanchard said. “It’s been a joy to work with those who really care about what goes on in The United Methodist Church.”

The primary role of Conference staff is to support local ministries. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted those ministries and the types of support needed for them to thrive, according to Oregon-Idaho Conference Director of Connectional Ministries Laurie Day. Because of the changing context of ministry settings and the transition to more virtual gatherings, the difficult decision was made to eliminate the Annual Conference sessions manager and mission and ministries project support pieces of the Conference Project/Office manager position that Blanchard holds.

“Sally has been a faithful staff member supporting the work of the Conference for many years. In any situation she always asked the question, ‘What do local church people need?’ to direct the work toward individuals and what would be helpful to them,” Day said. “Sally has gifts for hospitality and creating welcoming environments when groups gather. I am grateful for her commitment to The United Methodist Church and especially the Oregon-Idaho Conference.”

Blanchard came to work for the Conference in October of 2012, having served as the church administrator for her local church, Lake Oswego United Methodist Church. Her children were grown, and she was looking for more full-time work. The Oregon-Idaho Conference was looking for someone to work as a communications associate and treasurer’s assistant.

Greg Nelson, retired communications director for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, supervised part of Blanchard’s early work and said she was always quietly working behind the scenes to keep the machinery of ministry working.

“Supporting committees, creating a hospitable and safe workspace, and dealing with the complex logistics of the Annual Conference Session are just some of the ways she’s had an impact,” Nelson said. Always driven by a sense of mission, she was fully committed to the people and churches she worked with.”

Blanchard credits that “sense of mission” and hospitable attitude to having come from the local church to the Conference center.

“Our job is to resource people in the local church because they are the ones making the disciples,” Blanchard said. “Jesus taught us to be hospitable and that people would know us by our love.”

As a communications associate, Blanchard had the chance to tell the stories of local churches and she always found inspiration in the creative ways churches both big and small carry out ministries.

Some of her most challenging – yet most rewarding – work was serving as the Annual Conference sessions manager. From figuring out the logistics of hotels, conference rooms, transportation, meals and more, Blanchard viewed it as a big puzzle she had to put together.

But when the event started, and everyone was gathered, she would take a step back and soak it all in.

“It was very rewarding to see all the teamwork come together for a welcoming event,” she said. “And there were always inspiring moments from laity and leadership.”

In 2017, her position evolved more to working as a special projects manager under the direction of the now-retired Rev. Lowell Greathouse, coordinator of mission and ministry for The Oregon-Idaho Conference. She enjoyed working with district administrative assistants and the Conference Secretary “sometimes on the fly” to think up creative solutions to mission and ministry needs. She enjoyed her time work with the global missions team for the Conference as well as serving as the Conference's UMCOR Connecting Neighbors coordinator.

“We had a true sense of teamwork and we felt we were making a difference in people’s lives,” she said.

Greathouse described Blanchard as a “Jill-of-all-trades” in her roles.

“During her nine years of service to the annual conference, Sally’s presence, positive energy and high standards of excellence always helped make our sessions run smoothly year-to-year,” he said. “Her attention to detail and can-do spirit have served us well as a church and her skills will be missed.”

Anyone wishing to connect with Sally Blanchard after her position ends can contact communications@umoi.org and messages and well-wishes will be forwarded to her.