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Christian college students to gather in Downtown Pittsburgh for Jubilee

| Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 12:02 a.m.

The annual gathering of Christian college students in Downtown Pittsburgh is twice as old as she is, but Allie Gray is getting a fresh perspective on Jubilee as her time as an undergraduate comes to an end.

“It's a blessing that I get to see all of this,” said Gray, 21, a senior at Point Park University who is from West Deer. “It's amazing that they truly care about college students. College is a place where you are encouraged to do crazy things and to find yourself, but those aren't always in the best or safest ways.”

Students from the region and across the country are expected to begin arriving on Friday for Jubilee 2014, the 42nd installment of the conference put on by the Coalition for Christian Outreach, a campus ministry that partners with churches and other groups to serve 107 campuses in seven states, including Pennsylvania.

“We try to help them make sense of their college years from a faith perspective,” said Vince Burens, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the East Liberty-based organization.

For the first five years, the event had a different name but has been called Jubilee for 37 years, Burens said. The 3,000 people expected for this weekend's event would be a record, he said. The conference runs through Sunday in the Westin Pittsburgh and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“We have people flying in from everywhere,” he said. “I think it's a very significant event for Pittsburgh.”

Craig Davis, president and CEO of Visit Pittsburgh, a Downtown-based nonprofit tourism agency, welcomed the conference “because it brings nearly 2,000 young people here.

“Pittsburgh is a great place for young people,” Davis said. “The delegates will have the opportunity to enjoy and experience our great city, and hopefully come back again with their friends and families.”

Ashley Minnich will arrive for her fifth Jubilee conference.

“I have been attending since my second year in college and am still going throughout my graduate school years as well,” said Minnich, 23, a Lancaster County native and student at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

Jubilee fosters a sense of community among others who share her faith, Minnich said.

“It is encouraging to talk to so many students who are in a similar situation as I am, with attending college and being a Christian,” she said. “It is difficult to stay strong in your faith sometimes while at school, but Jubilee helps me remember that no matter how difficult the situation, my faith and showing God's love to my campus is the most important priority.”

Session topics at the conference include Christianity on campus, in the workplace and in public life; student athlete integrity; faith and the law; and religion in science, technology, social sciences and the music industry.

Of the two dozen speakers and artists to attend are Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today; Steven Garber, principle of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture; and artist-advocate Scott Erikson.

Behind the scenes will be Gray, a CCO intern who is coordinating extra activities during down time such as a dance party, bingo, yoga and games. She begins working full-time for the coalition on graduating in May and is thankful for the influence the organization has had on her life.

“Their slogan is ‘Transforming college students to transform the world,' ” Gray said. “I feel as though I am a living example of them being able to transform someone to work to the best of their ability to glorify God in his kingdom.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

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