Every February, the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) holds its annual Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hosting thousands of college students from around the country. The weekend-long conference features four keynote speakers who discuss the Gospel narrative through Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Jubilee also provides students with dozens of workshops, corporate worship, community group discussions, a concert (new addition this year), exhibitors from various Christian organizations, and a full-fledged bookstore. It is at Jubilee that the CCO's mission, "Transforming college students to transform the world," is most prominently on display. The opportunity is made available for students to shape their worldviews in response to Jesus and carry the momentum into every aspect of their lives, especially their studies and careers.
This year, Geraud and Austin, along with Steve & Shiela Skibbie and Audrey Acre, brought sixteen students to Jubilee. This group represents a wide variety of backgrounds - some attend First Pres every Sunday, other have never been; some are between high school and college, some graduated, some in the middle, and others taking a break from college; some are quite mature in their faith and considering vocational ministry, others taking their first steps toward Jesus; some Geraud and Austin have established strong relationships with, others were invited by friends, or even by friends who were invited by friends.
In Andy Crouch's Creation talk, he discussed God's gifts of abundance and order which shield us from chaos on the one hand and a machinelink nature on the other. One student reflected, "I was able to see the big picture. In life we have abundance with work, stress, family contributions, etc., however we need to have order and maintain good time management and know how to deal with it because if not then we will then have chaos with everything going on around us and that can lead us in getting lost along the way." Jackie Hill-Perry spoke about the Fall, provoking some students to important questions about God's goodness amidst so much suffering. Another student, hearing Jackie's call to avoid Eve's mistake, said, "This reminded me that I allow these created things to steal joy away from me by being consumed into them." The Redemption session was presented by Dean Weaver, whose focus on different types of "seeing" in John 20 gave one student a new vision on her relationship with God and with herself. Of Dean's talk, she said, "With this experience I have opened up a bit more to knowing what steps I would be taking in order to do more than take a casual look at God." Capping off the weekend was David Kinnaman, who related his research on resilient discipleship to God's work of Restoration. One student was able to tie David's discussion of exile in with another book he'd been reading.
Between the plenary sessions, students had opportunities to attend up to three workshops covering a wide array of topics, including fashion, artificial intelligence, law enforcement, social justice, and many more. One student attended a workshop on evangelism presented by a fellow introvert. Seeing someone like him doing something he wanted to do was a highlight of his weekend. Summarizing the talk, he said, "Allowing God's love to pour through you into the people you're around, genuine concern for their wellbeing, and the well-meaning offer of prayer had worked wonders where thinly-veiled attempts at evangelising met resistance and failure." Another student, who attended workshops on vocational ministry and campus revival, left eager to apply what he learned. "I am excited to bring these lessons back to my campus and see what God wants to do next."
Also interspersed throughout the weekend were sessions of worship and a cross-cultural dinner and discussion. A particular worship song played transported a student back to her experience at Jubilee last year. Of this, she said, "Last year, when I recommitted my life, they played this song right after. Singing it this year made me realize how much my life has changed since Jubilee 2019. Last year, I felt very lost and unsure of what I was doing in school, extracurriculars, and more. While I am still learning and progressing, going into the conference this year I was so much more at peace with my life and my faith." The cross-cultural dinner, themed "Hair Love" after the title of a 2019 short film, gave students of color the space to profess self-love as God created them. The entire Fresno group attended, and one student reflected, "When we talked about it, it taught me a lot about loving myself and the hair God gave me. It made me realize I should not be ashamed of my hair, even when frizzy and curly, and that it does not need to be perfect in my own eyes because it's perfect in God's."
In the three years First Pres has sent a group to Jubilee, this year saw the greatest number of students. All sixteen left Pittsburgh with a great appreciation for the opportunity and hearts oriented toward the Lord. Here are just some of the many additional quotes from students:
"Hearing other stories really made me feel like I was not alone. Jubilee is a great chance to find out who you really are and surround yourself with like minded people."
"Jubilee gave me a better understanding of what it looks like for me to trust God in my unbelief."
"What struck me was the very intentional application of their tag line "Every Thing Matters" to, quite literally, every thing."
"I'm really thankful for this wonderful experience and hopefully be able to do it again next year."
We are extremely grateful for God's work in and through each of these students, and for the continued prayers and support of First Pres that made Jubile possible this year. We look forward to watching these students continue to grow in Christ and hope many will be able to attend Jubilee 2021!