Sarah Jebianby Sarah Jebian.

In July 2012, I was hospitalized with an 11-millimeter kidney stone that shut down my right kidney and made me very, very sick. My family was already struggling to manage my mother’s health issues and my falling ill was a real blow. We called on personal friends to help us care for our children and maybe provide some meals and housework but not one of them showed up. Do you know who did? You. The community of UUCF showed up again and again for weeks, helping us to keep our lives going. I didn’t even know some of the people who showed up. It blew my mind and it was the moment I fell in love with you. You saved me.

In February 2015, when I got the call that Pawel Jura had died, one of my first coherent thoughts was, “What will happen to our music program for the rest of the year?” I spoke with Liz Carlson that very night and we decided we would do whatever we could to keep things going. We didn’t know how or what that would look like – we just knew that we’d somehow make it happen. We asked Mary Gaskins to help and the three of us jumped in. It never occurred to me that I would spend the next year and a half of my life in music ministry – an amazing, stressful, joyful, growth-filled year and a half. It’s flown by, hasn’t it?

This wasn’t something I was looking for or ever thought I’d do but I am so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to serve UUCF. It’s helped me grow both personally and professionally. Personally, it’s opened my heart in a way I never expected. I learned that this job is about so much more than making sure there is music on Sunday mornings. It’s about caring for the heart and soul of this community through music. It’s about challenging people to dig deep and take risks. It’s about building community both from within and outside our doors. It’s about teaching and learning. Professionally, I’ve made some wonderful connections with colleagues from our area and beyond, and I’ve had the chance to stretch my musical skills and learn some new ones. My theme word for this year was brave. Just say yes and figure it out as you go along. Think outside the box. Be brave.

So what’s next?

For me … I’m thrilled to announce that I’m opening my own voice studio in September. I think of it as a continuation of my music ministry – to use my gifts to help others tap into theirs. I will also shift more of my focus to my performing career, which has necessarily taken a backseat to managing the music at UUCF. I’m excited to see what happens! You can learn more about my studio and keep up with my performances at sarahjebian.com.

For you … so many good things await! Laura Weiss, our new Director of Music & Arts, is fantastic. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her over the past several weeks and I can tell you without reservation that she’s going to be an amazing asset to our community. Laura is brilliant, talented, compassionate, and she understands that this isn’t just “a gig” – this is a ministry. She will take excellent care of you and of our beloved music program. Again, I’m so excited to see what happens!

There are two things I want you to know:

First, UUCF has the best staff I’ve ever worked with, anywhere, in any capacity. They are individually wonderful people and as a unit, they are superstars. You should know that they put an incredible amount of love and care into creating meaningful worship for you (and so much more!). They constantly ask themselves hard questions and really do their best to meet your needs as often and as consistently as possible. You can never please all of the people all of the time but, boy, do they try. I will miss going to staff meetings. (Who says that???!!!). But, really, I will.

Second, many people have thanked me for “saving” the music program this past year. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you. But I want you to know that really, it’s you who saved me. Again. As many of you know, I was very close with Mark Vogel. It was incredibly painful to say goodbye to him. When Pawel came on board, I tried so hard not to let him get too close – but his beautiful heart was too much for me and I let him in. Our friendship was just beginning to blossom and when he died, it brought me to my knees. It was too much loss for me to bear. I felt completely shattered. Working at UUCF, caring for you in this time of grief, loss and transition made it possible for me to go on. Whatever I gave to you, you gave back to me threefold. I love you and I hope you know that.

I want to thank all the singers and musicians at UUCF for your support, your patience, your generosity and your willingness to try new things. There wasn’t one moment this year when I didn’t feel held by you. You have my heart. I also want to thank the staff for welcoming me so warmly, encouraging me, smiling patiently as I learned, letting me organize to my heart’s content and allowing me to take risks. I’m in awe of you. And to you, my beloved community – thank you for being you. Looking out at your faces each week fills me with such joy. You are my home, my family, my friends and my safe haven. How can I ever thank you enough?

Onward …