Why This Matters…
This poem by theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman captures the meaning of this project, and is the text for the closing song by Susquehanna Chorale on the original Joy to the Burg 2019 album. At Christmas, Christians reflect on the gift of Jesus bringing hope and proclaiming peace on earth. And this hope and peace is meant to be shared. Christian Churches United (CCU) seeks to bring churches, concerned neighbors, and the broader community together to be bearers of this hope and peace. By purchasing these albums, giving them as gift, or making a donation you are supporting the most vulnerable members of our community.
When Hurricane Agnes flooding devastated central Pennsylvania in 1972, churches rallied to do what we hope all churches do…love their neighbor. Several hundred churches joined together to quickly form a flood emergency fund. They ran this fund for years, supporting neighbors as they rebuilt their homes and lives. Through this collaboration, the vision for Christian Churches United was formed and formalized in the late 70’s: for churches to work together on an on-going basis to support their neighbors facing crises or challenges such as poverty, homelessness and incarceration. When Sheldon Jones approached us with the idea for Joy to the Burg, we were reminded of the grassroots efforts that birthed CCU.
Sheldon was fairly new to Harrisburg and concerned by seeing people sleeping on sidewalks downtown around his church, Market Square Presbyterian. Being a musician and music lover, he hatched an idea: what if local artists could put together a Christmas album to raise funds to help these folks get off the street. Sheldon ran it by several artists and also his pastor, who connected him with Christian Churches United (CCU). Sheldon, the artists, and CCU joined hands in early 2019 to begin working on what was soon called Joy to the Burg.
Funds raised by Joy to the Burg allowed us to open a new women’s winter shelter the week of Christmas in 2019 in Harrisburg, and connect those on the street with long-term housing. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts were more vital than ever. It has been both humbling and inspiring to see artists and their fans rally to the cause, especially during seasons that have been extremely difficult for local musicians with concerts canceled and performance venues shut down.
In the ensuing years, Joy To The Burg has helped CCU expand the women’s winter shelter with additional space and protocols necessary during a pandemic, as well as doing the same for the men’s winter shelter that CCU has run for many years. The albums have helped people on the street find tangible help to get into long-term housing, including CCU’s Susquehanna Harbor Safe Haven long-term residential program for men who were chronically homeless.
When you give the gift of Joy to the Burg, you not only support the local arts community and bless your loved ones with the gift of music, you provide hope and housing to our most vulnerable neighbors. Thank you for bringing Joy to the Burg in 2022 and beyond!
- Steve Schwartz, CCU Director of Development