Dear FCC friends,
As many of you know, I have decided to remain in the Seattle area post-pandemic, so sadly this is my last month as First Congregational Church’s music director. After ten years, it is hard to say goodbye. Working with the musicians, staff and congregation has truly been one of the great joys of my life. I will treasure the relationships that we’ve forged in these years. Some of my closest friendships have been made here, and I know they will last for years to come. It has been an honor and privilege to share so many important events in your lives – holidays, births, deaths, the beginnings and endings of relationships, and the many changes that life can bring. In the past, I have witnessed a lot of the negatives associated with religion (using scripture and faith as political and social weapons) which can cause one to become cynical. These years with you all, however, have shown me the best of what a faith community can be, the love and support and sense of community when it’s done right. I will carry that with me.
This church is beyond blessed with the most dedicated, talented staff; I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues (both past and present). Thank you Jonathan and staff for the fun, collaboration, and support over the years. Particular thanks to Jennifer Sellers, who brings such infectious joy to all of her music making, and to Debi Noel (and Kerri Sage) whose creativity is still being enjoyed here even after her retirement. I am constantly amazed by the many talented musicians in our congregation: House Banders, bell ringers, uke players, instrumental and vocal soloists…what a joy it has been to work with these artists every week.
And then, there are my choirs. In a time when many congregations’ choral programs are shrinking, I am so proud of the work and dedication of the many choral singers that have participated under my direction. From those who participated in Third Sunday and Festival Choirs (sometimes over 50 singers; we are outgrowing the choir loft!), to Ensemble, and especially our core Chancel Choir…I couldn’t be prouder of our work together. We’ve successfully tackled big works with orchestra (Vivaldi’s Gloria, Pergolesi’s Magnificat), Taizé, gospel, and everything from Renaissance to contemporary styles, and most recently our hard work on “virtual” anthems! Perhaps even more important than the music has been the incredible sense of community and support we have created for one another and the congregation; you have been my family in Eugene when I have needed you most, and I will be forever grateful.
If I have been halfway successful in my Eugene musical endeavors, it is because of the artistry, friendship, and extraordinary gifts of Barbara Baird and Vicki Brabham. They have been mentors, creative partners, dear friends, and I will miss working side by side with them every week more than you know. I am particularly grateful to Barb and Vic for the ‘heavy lifting’ they have done to keep our music ministry thriving during the pandemic. (John Stephens, you too!)
I don’t have firm plans as to what is next for me, but a lesson I learned from the past year is how important it is to me to be near my family. My mom, aunt/uncle/ cousins, and now my sister and nephew are all nearby, as are many friends and loved ones. Keep me in your prayers as I navigate this exciting (and slightly scary) new adventure. If I could, I would pack up the entire congregation (and Women’s Choral Society) and take you all with me to my new home in Gig Harbor.
We have some celebrating to do! Stay tuned for details…we are starting to plan an outdoor ‘going away’ party, on Sunday, June 27. I also look forward to sharing ‘my story’ with Don Gall’s Sunday morning class on June 20 at 9:00 a.m.
With deep love and appreciation…Greg Sojka