After months of planning and preparation, Pittsburgh will host Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, and a variety of Christian speakers and musicians this weekend during the Three Rivers Festival of Hope.
Cynthia Scott, Chair of the Leadership Team for the festival, says Pittsburgh has not seen a religious gathering of this magnitude since Billy Graham visited in 1993.
Scott anticipates crowds to fill the Consol Energy Center Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She said that while Franklin Graham is not as well-known as his father, attendance will still be high.
“There’s no question that Billy Graham attracted incredibly large crowds,” Scott said. “And the crowds that Franklin has attracted, and that everybody really, not just Franklin—I don’t know of anybody else, period, who attracted the kind of crowds Billy Graham has attracted.”
According to Scott, Friday’s festival events are intended for a general audience, while Saturday will be geared towards youth, and Sunday is the Family Service.
“But you know, everybody of every age is welcome on every night,” Scott said. “So there’s going be something for everyone this weekend.”
On Friday, doors at Consol will open at 5:30pm. Musician Kari Jobe and Christian band Tenth Ave North will be among the various performers providing entertainment and ministry during the evening. On Saturday, the event headliner Lecrae will perform.
“He is a Christian rapper that a lot of people are just crazy about; they love him,” Scott said. “So we’ve had a great response, we’ve had a great response on everybody, but particularly on him.”
In addition to talks and prayers from Franklin Graham, representatives of many Christian denominations will take part.
“We have Bishop Zubik, who is the Catholic bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese, doing the opening prayer on Sunday,” Scott said. “So we’re excited about that. We have a Presbyterian pastor doing a prayer, we’ve got a Baptist, we’ve got one from a non-denominational church. So we really are spanning the Christian community here with this.”
More than two years ago, a group of Christian churches from the Pittsburgh area invited Franklin Graham and his team from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to help organize this event. A local committee was formed to raise funds, garner support, and run the logistics. Roughly 60% of funding for the festival is coming from the Billy Graham, while the remaining 40% comes from local churches and individual contributions.
More information about performers and times can be found on the Festival of Hope website.