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Students connect with spirituality at conference

By Sten Spinella
On January 23, 2014

Members of the Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) have returned to UConn after attending "The Epicenter Experience" conference from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20 in Albany, N.Y.
Cru is an international organization with a stated purpose to evangelize through "Helping to fulfill the Great Commission in the power of the Holy Spirit... building them in their faith and sending them to win and build others; and helping the Body of Christ do evangelism and discipleship".
While it is admittedly difficult for the Body of Christ to "do" evangelism and discipleship, Cru has been successful in creating a wide web of practicing Evangelist "athletes" in over 30 countries. One of their many "ministries" can be found at UConn.
For Cru to be recognized as a legitimate university or college group and to develop a "campus ministry," they need to meet certain criteria, like all independent clubs do. Cru's red tape is only of a different shade. Take, for example, the student government of Montclair-State University, who denied Cru's attempt at recognition because of "concerns about the group's leadership, their views on homosexuality and the negative connotations of the word 'Crusade.'" It is also important that Cru accepts being an interdenominational group as long as they're on a college campus (as they do at UConn), though this caveat is paradoxical when considering Cru's mission.
The Epicenter Experience conference sought to "gather" college students "around Jesus in transformational community," and to put God at the "epicenter" of their lives. There were speakers and music and activities, as well as opportunities to network: picture it as a business retreat for young Christians.
Sixth semester English and biology major Chelsea McGarry saw the conference as an ideal forum to get in touch with her spirituality.
"The Epicenter Conference was a great time to focus on my relationship with God before the business of the new semester," McGarry said. "One of my favorite speakers was Doug Pollock, who talked about the value of listening to others and asking good questions."
The UConn chapter of Cru, which consists of nearly 50 members, and meets in the Wilbur Cross North Reading room Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., relished their experience at the Epicenter Conference. Kaley Kruger, an 8th-semester special education major, was grateful for the chance to meet other like-minded people from colleges in the northeast.
"The conference involved speakers and seminars and offered a lot of opportunities for college students to reach outside themselves and show God's love to their peers or people in need in their communities all around the world," Kruger said.
Kruger also expounded upon Cru's mission at UConn.
"Cru is an organization that seeks to help Christians on campus grow in their faith, and to step outside of our group to get to know, love and serve the rest of our campus," Kruger said.
UConn Cru's three main values are "giving, growing, and going." This is the basis for their plan of evangelization. They seek to "give" members of the UConn community the chance to hear the gospel; they want to help UConn students and faculty that are already Christians to "grow" in their faith; and they aim to "go" out in the world, or prepare missionaries to "go" out in the world, and spread God's word.
While there is no animosity between the LGBT community and Cru at UConn, there has been national controversy regarding certain chapters of Cru and their stance on homosexuality. There was an evangelism conference organized by Cru in Nigeria that escalated to angry gay-bashing, and certain former members of Cru that were not against homosexuality have been renounced as heretics by their fellow members.
Naturally, Cru is a controversial concept for a college campus. Members of Cru at UConn are assuredly a part of the group for the right reasons, and they will be working to strengthen their faith and their UConn club again during spring break, when they attend another conference similar to the Epicenter Experience.

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