by Martha Nieman, Board Member Representing EC Quakers
What a concert! Truly an evening to remember! On November 6 at Grace Lutheran Church, Carrie Newcomer, folk singer-songwriter, enthralled JONAH supporters and her fans with her songs of Spirit, faith, justice, equity, resilience and unity. Her music touched our hearts, uplifted our souls, and united us in resolve to continue JONAH’s work for social justice.
This concert was 2 years in the planning. A group of committed people, most JONAH members, from Eau Claire Friends Meeting, First Presbyterian, Grace Lutheran, and Unitarian Universalists, drawn by their love of Carrie’s music, banded together to find a way to bring her to Eau Claire to share her message. In recent years, Carrie has emerged as a prominent voice for progressive spirituality, social and environmental justice. It did not take the group long to recognize that Carrie’s background made her particularly suited to lend her voice in support of JONAH’s work. Hence, it was decided to make this a benefit concert for JONAH. JONAH organizer, Lynn Buske, joined the group in the planning process.
Originally set to take place in 2020, the concert, like many other events, was postponed to 2021. Throughout that time the group worked diligently to hammer out the details to make the concert safe and successful. The path was not always clear and certain. This effort was made in faith that a way would open. The Spirit was moving and all that was needed fell into place. Contributions from Eau Claire Friends Meeting, Northern Spirit Radio, Suzette Peltier and Jon Thorpe, Myron Buccholz, Dawn Briskey and Laura Goetz, Martha and Tim Nieman, and Peg and Paul Savides provided the seed money for major concert expenses. The wonderful response of attendees exceeded the goal for ticket sales, totaling 200 persons! Carrie fans came from as far away as Joliet, Illinois and Grand Rapids, Michigan! Concertgoers practically wiped out the CDs, T-shirts, and books Carrie had for sale (leaving little for her Minneapolis concert the following night!) 15% of the proceeds of the merchandise sales went to JONAH. Thanks to the yeoman efforts of Paul Savides, David Huber, and Tim Nieman, a piano matching Gary Walters’ specification was delivered to Grace Lutheran. Thank you to Randy Adams and John LeBrun for running sound. Volunteers came out en masse to assist with COVID vaccination checks, ticket-taking, handing out JONAH Task Force information, ushering, and managing the merchandise table. Truly a community effort! Proceeds, after expenses, going to JONAH’s work came in at $5,600!
The universal sentiment at the end of the concert and in the weeks since was and has been one of exhilaration, wonderment, inspiration, and shared purpose. The energy was one of unity and possibility. The concert achieved all that we hoped it would and beyond. Carrie’s music touched our hearts and souls in ways that words cannot. It brought us together as a community to connect around our shared values, to meet on common ground, and to inspire us to action as we live out these values. Filled with this energy, we go forth to continue JONAH’s mission and work!