Volunteer Spotlight: Debra Burrell
In September and October 2017, our Volunteer Spotlight shines on Debra Burrell.
Debra brings many gifts to UUCB, including her artistry in creating stunning flower arrangements and her many musical talents; she sings with the choir and, on special occasions, treats the congregation to ethereal melodies played on her favorite instrument, the bowed psaltery. But her contributions to UUCB don’t stop with aesthetics; she has also been a key working member of numerous committees over the years—and this year she took on the considerable task of creating our new church website, which went live in July.
Debra first joined the church in the 1980s, but she wasn’t very active back then, and she resigned several years later, citing lack of time and thinking she just didn’t need it. But she did. She joined again in 2002 and this time immersed herself in the life of the church—and that has made all the difference, she believes. Right away, she joined the Construction Committee for our new building and became active on the grounds subcommittee as we planned our move from the old building on Cahaba Road to our current location.
Then she chaired the flower committee for a few years; during that time, her committee raised a few thousand dollars with an ambitious program of arranging flowers for weddings, memorial services, and sponsored Sunday arrangements. In 2005, she joined the choir and has been happily singing ever since. She has also served on the Worship Partners committee and overhauled its handbook.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2010, Debra dropped all of those activities except choir. She says that the support she received during her illness—cards, meals, visits, and hugs—helped her make it through a difficult year. After she recovered, she took it easy for a few years, wary of doing too much and burning out. But in recent years, she’s gradually taken on increasing responsibilities.
Debra now serves on the Worship Associates Committee, the Tech Committee, and the Music Committee. She leads MUUsicShare, and just this month she took on the role of chair of the Music Committee. She also recently became involved in the Refugee Interest Group, providing transportation for the refugee family from Colombia.
About six months ago, Debra volunteered to overhaul our website and manage the content. She says that many aspects of web development had changed since 2010, and she had no experience with the tools for our then-current or new website. She credits the expert help of Corey Shum and the Tech Committee with enabling her to debut the new and improved site.
Debra is retired from a series of careers, including software development, teaching, and writing. She says that her work in the church has helped her explore skills she didn’t use in her professional life. For example, she learned to arrange flowers by joining the Flower Committee and developed a great appreciation for the role of flowers in the worship service; her philosophy on that subject is summed up in her recent UU World essay. She learned to sing by joining the choir, her favorite volunteer commitment—and that led her to take piano lessons after a decades-long hiatus, and ultimately to explore other instruments, especially the bowed psaltery.
Debra has spoken from the pulpit and says that preparing those talks helped her crystalize and articulate her thoughts about the mystery that is life, and our place and purpose in the universe. She says she enjoys the work she does here and is honored to bask in the warm glow of the volunteer spotlight, noting that she especially appreciates the parking spot—but more than anything, she appreciates the role this church has had in shaping who she is.
Debra, this gratitude is entirely mutual—we all appreciate the role you play in shaping who we are as a church and the many ways in which you enhance and enrich the life of our congregation!