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Festival of Hope bringing Mon-Yough churches together

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 10:24 a.m.

Mon-Yough area churches and religious organizations are among those taking part in next weekend's Franklin Graham Three Rivers Festival of Hope at Consol Energy Center.

“We've been praying and planning about this for several months, and the momentum is building,” said Donald O. Black, CEO of Wall-based Cornerstone TeleVision and WPCB-40.

“The festival offers a tremendous opportunity to share the love of God through Jesus Christ in a way that all ages can understand,” said Black, whose broadcast ministry is a sponsor for the Aug. 15-17 event.

The festival begins on the first two nights at 7 and 4 p.m. on Aug. 17.

On Friday, Kari Jobe, The City Harmonic, Tenth Avenue North, Dennis Agajanian and Tommy Coomes Band will provide the music.

Lecrae, Lacey, We as Human, Tedashii, Graham Saber, Dennis Agajanian and Tommy Coomes Band are scheduled on Aug. 16.

Michael W. Smith, Charlie Daniels Band, Aaron Shust, Dennis Agajanian and Tommy Coomes Band are scheduled for the closing event on Aug. 17.

Franklin Graham will give a message at each gathering and conduct an altar call.

Many remember the 1993 Billy Graham crusade at Three Rivers Stadium. Cornerstone's Black had a conversion experience years before watching Franklin Graham's father.

“When I was 8 years old, I said the sinner's prayer with Billy Graham on television and came to love God,” Black said. “Millions of individuals across this nation can say they discovered the Lord in the same way — so we know this Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham will make a huge difference.”

Cornerstone and WPCB plan coverage of all three days of the festival, recording brief segments to offer on the station's “RealLife” program.

“I really see or expect to see quite a few people coming to Christ,” said the Rev. Earlene Coleman, pastor of McKeesport's Bethlehem Baptist Church. “I really expect to see a spiritual change within our Mon Valley.”

Coleman was involved early, attending the first breakfast for area pastors by festival organizers.

“I have two or three of my members that are part of it,” Coleman said. “They've been attending the meetings and one has been doing some evangelism.”

“There are 500 plus churches involved, 48 denominations,” said Rose Somma-Tennent, one-time WPCB producer who works on the communications team for the festival. “It has been so exciting to see how many people can work together.”

From this area, churches from Ardara Presbyterian in North Huntingdon Township to Oasis Ministries in West Mifflin are represented.

“All of the ministerial team is involved,” said Oasis elder Terina Hicks of Swissvale, who is part of the festival communications team, as well. “We will all be counselors.” That includes Bishop Ray and Pastor Kim Lankford, whose church occupies the former Knights of Columbus hall in West Mifflin.

Catholic participation has been notable alongside that of Protestant churches. Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh diocese is scheduled to give a welcome on the third night of the festival.

“We have more collaboration and people working together among the Catholics and Protestants than the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has experienced in other places across the country,” said Cindy Scott, another volunteer working with communications for the festival.

The Pittsburgh diocese plans a welcome center for Catholics next door to Consol Energy Center at Epiphany Church. The Diocese of Greensburg said it will have “faith formation” efforts.

No tickets are required and seating is first come, first served each night.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.