Ken Blondeaux, the man behind the podium who inspired a generation of churchgoers at Woodland Park Baptist Church, spent his last day in the office Friday, Sept. 9. And nobody is happy about it. “We didn’t want him to go,” says Woodland Park Baptist Church member Marjorie Eggimann. “He was somebody who you could depend on, even when you were sick. He took one young fellow to the hospital for surgery. He is a real wonderful person.”
Blondeaux’s legacy with the church as a leading parishioner began in February 2005 after a 10-year stint living and working in Salem as an associate youth pastor. When Blondeaux initially arrived in east Portland, the church only had a mere 40–50 members. During his tenure, Blondeaux tripled that number.
Blondeaux brought people in as an integral part of the mission of the church, which he said is to “equip people to live a purpose-driven life with Christ as the foundation for all.”
He works this philosophy by zeroing in on church members individually. Blondeaux has churchgoers interact with him, the community at large, and the God they seek counsel from. For Blondeaux, the church isn’t a thing of the past with practices that should be strictly employed—rather, the church is a fluid ecosystem meant to spark conversation, reflection, and change. And Blondeaux wasn’t just some guy taking away his parishioners’ Sunday newspaper hour; he was his audience’s Sunday newspaper. “I think what we learn is that we have to be careful with traditions because they become our focus,” explains Blondeaux. “My whole mantra is that I want us to focus on being the church, not coming to church.”
Indeed, Blondeaux refers to his church as “the people.” And perhaps ironically, to Blondeaux, there’s nothing more important than getting his people outside of the church.
During his time at Woodland Park, Blondeaux kickstarted energetic community gatherings such as Street Connection. For the past four-and-a-half years, Street Connection has allowed church members to assemble on Friday evenings and serve food to those in need. However, Street Connection also provided a social platform previously untapped by the community.
So why, for the love of Christ, is Blondeaux leaving his people?
“Eventually, God figures it out for you,” says Blondeaux. “A few months ago, we [Blondeaux and his wife, Doris] became aware of what opportunities might be out there. It’s bittersweet when you leave a church because you marry these people, you see infants born, you attend funerals; you love these people.”
In reality, Blondeaux will be returning to his roots. And no, I’m not talking about Catholicism, which he was raised with. He’ll be moving to sunny Tucson, Ariz., where he’ll be the pastor at First Southern Baptist Church. Blondeaux lived in Tucson from the age of three until 23 years ago. “It’s kind of a going-home story,” Blondeaux says.
But rest assured, Blondeaux will be sorely missed.
Woodland Park churchgoer Linda Nolin names Blondeaux and his services as the catalyst that led her to join a church to begin with. “Eleven-and-a-half years ago, my mother saw a light in the church and kept bugging me to go see what the place was about. I told her I didn’t want to go. But when we did and when we heard Ken, we were so amazed that we floated home,” says Nolin.
According to Nolin, Blondeaux didn’t discriminate in how or whom he aided within the church, either. “He never made you feel guilty or like you had to repent,” continues Nolin. “And he had a knack with working with all ages, from 90-something to four to five years old. He never put himself above us. You can really feel the care and the love in that church, and that’s why we kept on going back.”