By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published July 18, 2016
CUMMING—EPIC, an evening for youth of live music, drama and dancing as well as adoration and confession, returns Sunday, Aug. 28, to the Warehouse in Cumming.
Developed by the youth ministry team and clergy of St. Brendan the Navigator Church, EPIC is for high school students. The teens socialize at the venue’s coffeehouse and vie for door prizes before the house band, Made New, takes the stage.
After the inaugural evening in the spring of 2015, teens enjoyed six EPIC programs during the 2015-2016 school year. Graduating eighth-grade students were invited to sample the last program of the school year May 1.
The young people congregated near the stage with glowing cell phones raised high as they danced to the music. The crowd quieted and took their seats as an acting troupe of their peers performed a skit. Many found time to spend in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in an adjoining chapel. Priests were available for the sacrament of reconciliation.
David Boudreaux, a rising sophomore at West Forsyth High School and St. Brendan parishioner, is one of the volunteer actors who present dramas with a positive message.
“I’ve got lots of friends here. I always try and get new friends to come,” said Boudreaux.
Lizzie Laegen, a South Forsyth High School student, joins Boudreaux on stage regularly.
“I like the atmosphere that everybody worships together,” she said.
“You don’t even need to be Catholic to come,” emphasized Karston Hopson of Alpharetta’s Rivers Academy.
The teen actors meet twice at the church prior to EPIC to rehearse the dramas, which have covered how love overcomes all, how to stay faithful, courage, friendship and other topics.
Most other Sunday evenings, St. Brendan’s high school students take part in LightHouse at the parish, which follows Mass. LightHouse includes dinner, a themed presentation, and activities, followed by small group discussions. The teens like that EPIC is different conceptually.
Marie Cassandra, who will be a junior at West Forsyth High, is a regular attendee.
“I really like the music. We’re not doing all Christian songs,” she said. “It gives a really good kick start to my week. It makes the week just better.”
Priest reprises his rap
The name EPIC ties into the literary meaning of the word—a poetic composition that shares the tale of a hero.
EPIC evenings run from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. at the Warehouse, located at 5095 Post Road. The facility provides opportunities for youth ranging from worship services to recreation and missions. An entry fee of $5 is suggested for EPIC nights.
“It’s not a mandatory $5. We want them all to experience Christ,” said Amanda Brice, high school youth minister for St. Brendan.
Brice has announced four EPIC nights to be held during the coming school year: Aug. 28 and Nov. 6, 2016, and Feb. 5 and April 30, 2017. The evenings are open to high school students from other parishes.
Made New is frequently joined by Legionary of Christ Father Jason Brooks, a parochial vicar at St. Brendan. On May 1 he presented an encore performance of his rendition of “Stressed Out,” a rap by Twenty One Pilots.
“Hopefully tonight we’ll generate some enthusiasm for next year,” said Father Brooks before the performance.
His initial performance was one of the most popular YouTube videos on the parish Facebook page with more than 900 views.
Scott and Cindy LeFevre founded the Warehouse and direct its programs for youth. Father Brooks said the initial owner of the land had prayed that his property would be used one day to help bring the young people of Forsyth County to Christ.
The evenings appeal to many because they offer a bit of everything.
“Everyone enjoys their faith and experiences Christ in a different way,” said Brice. “It’s not just for the Catholics going through our program. We base every EPIC on a universal value.”
Drama leads to Christ
Next year the youth group will have an in-depth review of each EPIC night to tie it into faith formation.
On May 1, actors presented a chain of dramatic events. A married couple has a heated argument, which affects their stressed teen’s ability to score well on a test. The teen rudely rejects a date for prom, which results in hurt feelings and making bad choices at a party. A young man prays, and the tide reverses and healing begins.
Following each dramatic presentation, a speaker re-caps the production and provides testimony. Then everyone spends time in prayer together before worship music begins.
Olivia Fleck summarized the play depicting multiple events and how actions affect others.
“It kept getting worse and worse and worse. He went to Christ and that’s when the whole thing changed,” Fleck told the audience.
Fleck shared that in good times or bad, she knows that God is always thinking of her.
Legionary of Christ Father Matthew VanSmoorenburg, pastor of St. Brendan, said the church has adult faith formation groups that try to do the same thing as EPIC at the parish level.
Women’s evenings are called LIFT! for “Living in Faith Together,” and the men’s nights are titled DIG or “Get Grounded.” Adults gather for relaxed evenings and good meals. The sessions provide time to share faith and build friendships.
The true epic is the story of Jesus, and it is “the story that changes your life,” said Father VanSmoorenburg.
“We want to get a hold of the narrative in the culture,” he said.
To learn more about EPIC, visit www.stbrendansatl.com and click on the Faith Formation tab and then on the high school youth ministry page.