WEARING 3 HATS
If Sally Wiens rushes around to keep up with three jobs, then speed is nothing new to the La Grande woman.
Wiens, lay minister at the North Powder and Haines Methodist churches, remembers the warm regard she had for her pastor while growing up at La Grande's Methodist Church on Fourth Street. Wiens, who was in her early years of grade school, showed her enthusiasm after the Rev. Henry Gernhardt finished preaching.
"Every Sunday after church I would run down the aisle and jump into the arms of Rev. Gernhardt," Wiens recalls.
Gernhardt, who served the La Grande church in the 1950s, did not seem to mind.
"I loved him," Wiens said of Gernhardt. "His little wife's name was Roxie. She taught us in Sunday school. They were so neat."
Wiens, who has led Sunday services in North Powder and Haines for eight years, said there was one thing she did not emulate in Pastor Gernhardt.
"He would thump the pulpit (with his hand)," she said. "I don't do that when I preach."
Wiens, the daughter of Gerda Brownton and the late Judge Wesley F. Brownton, also recalls being active with the Methodist Church in high school and college.
While at Eastern Oregon College, Wiens was involved with the Wesley Foundation, a Methodist group for college students.
"We met every week," Wiens said. "The ladies (of the church) made dinner for us."
Wiens said she got her first taste of speaking before a church congregation while at Eastern. After her junior year, she was involved in a summer conference at Mackinaw Island, Mich. When she returned to La Grande, she was asked to give a report to her church.
"It was the first time I got up in front of the congregation," she said.
She learned that public speaking was something she could enjoy. She spoke to the church on other occasions and was a radio advertising representative for KLBM, doing her own production work.
Wiens also found she could conduct funeral services and minister to grieving families.
In the early '80s, she was asked to conduct a service for a friend and colleague at KLBM, Karen Anderson, who died of cancer.
"I found that I could have a ministry to people when they were grieving," Wiens said.
But it wasn't until the fall of 1989 that she began to think about ministering regularly to a church congregation.
Wiens had attended a Methodist-sponsored seminar at Wallowa Lake.
"District Superintendent Dennis Mullins was standing in front of me in the food line, when he said to me, Oh, Sally, would you like to serve the North Powder and Haines Methodist churches?' "
Wiens was surprised. She pondered the idea for a few days and accepted the offer.
The lay minister said she had no formal training for the pastorate.
"I've never spent a day in seminary," Wiens said, but through the years she's taken a half-dozen weekend lay speaker training courses.
Her first stint at the North Powder and Haines churches ran from 1989 to 1991. When the minister who replaced her left the church in 1996, the job opened up to her again.
Wiens' first service on Sundays is at 9 a.m. at the North Powder church, where an average of 15 people attend.
She then travels eight miles to the Haines Methodist Church, where she conducts a service at 10:45 for a congregation of about 35 to 40.
She preaches the same sermon at both churches, but not from the Methodist Church's standard lectionary.
"It's one of the perks of being a lay minister," being able to develop her own sermon topic without using a lectionary, she said.
Favorite topics are forgiveness, prayer and grace, she said.
"What I try to do is pick a topic that is going to be pertinent to the people's lives," the lay minister said.
Her sermons, she said, are very personal, using illustrations from her own life as well as that of the congregation.
Her talk typically lasts for 15 minutes. She then invites the congregation to participate in the topic. Wiens said she has a quarter-time commitment to the churches in North Powder and Haines.
Wiens' remaining time is spent with her husband Michael in La Grande, her three dogs, Kate, Sunny and Rascal, and on her two other jobs.
In one of them, Wiens serves as chaplain for Daniels Chapel of the Valley, conducting funeral services for families who do not have a regular church or pastor.
"When a family comes in and wants to have a service, Carol (Knopp of the La Grande funeral home) will suggest me."
Through referrals at Daniels, Wiens has conducted 20 services since January.
Wiens is also wearing another hat this year as the new manager of the Union County Fair. She said she's had no problems balancing the responsibilities as lay minister, funeral chaplain and fair manager
Wiens said she spent long days at the fairgrounds during fair week, July 28 to Aug. 2, but also carved out some time with a family that had lost a loved one. She stepped away from the fairgrounds that Saturday afternoon to conduct the funeral.
The high-energy woman admits that one funeral service was enough for her during fair week.
"If I had a second funeral to do, it would have been tough," she said.
Story by Dave Stave