A new church in Ann Arbor with a new approach to “doing church”
What: Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor’s opening church service
When: 11 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015
Where: The Social Hall of St. Clare’s Episcopal Church
Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor (BOFA2) will hold its first “open to the public” service at 11 a.m. on February 8, 2015 in the Social Hall of St. Clare’s Episcopal in Ann Arbor, Mich. The church has been meeting with founding members and friends for several weeks in preparation for this Sunday’s first official service.
The church is grounded in the Christian tradition but has an approach to worship and involvement that is unique in several ways that the pastoral team hopes will provide a welcome home to those who have felt distanced or rejected by some aspects of religious institutions. BOFA2 is part of a growing affiliation of churches known as Blue Ocean Faith. The following are a few of the things that make BOFA2 a unique faith community:
The church is co-pastored by Emily Swan and Ken Wilson who will share equally in all pastoral roles, from preaching to pastoral care. Most
churches follow a hierarchical leadership structure; co-pastoring among equals is relatively rare as a model, and it’s even less common for a woman to be given equal responsibility and authority as a male counterpart — especially when they aren’t husband and wife. (Ken is married to Julia Huttar Bailey and Emily is engaged to be married to Rachel Murr this summer.)
A shared location
BOFA2 is honored to have been welcomed by St. Clare’s Episcopal Church where it will hold weekly services in St. Clare’s Social Hall, despite having no organizational ties (beyond friendship) to St. Clare’s or the Episcopal Church. This adds another faith community to the already unique interfaith relationship between St. Clare’s and Temple Beth Emeth; the two congregations have shared a building since 1970.
A shared tradition
Although BOFA2 emerges from the Evangelical tradition, the church incorporates elements from all quadrants of the Christian tradition — liturgical, Pentecostal, Evangelical and social justice. Sunday services draw from elements of each. Emily explains that, “Whatever faith tradition you come from, there will likely be something familiar and something new. And if you don’t come from a faith tradition, our church will be a great place to get an introduction to a lot of practices of Christian faith.”
A shared mission
Co-pastors Ken Wilson and Emily Swan describe BOFA2 as being a “Jesus, Spirit, Scripture, science, all-people friendly church.”
Previously, Ken and Emily served as pastors at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor (Ken was the founding pastor) until the Vineyard denomination adopted policies that forbade full welcome and inclusion of same-sex couples. Rather than enforce these policies, Ken and Emily, with the blessing of the Ann Arbor Vineyard church board, planted BOFA2.
Ken describes the church’s vision of becoming a place of welcome for those without a faith community, “There’s a lot of great churches in Ann Arbor and our surrounding communities. Our vision for ministry isn’t to syphon people away from those congregations. We want to be a place of welcome for those who feel a desire to connect to God but have felt distanced from ‘church’ for whatever reason. We don’t think anyone’s views on science, politics, spirituality or some hot-button social issue should be a barrier to them connecting to God and others.”
Emily explains that both pastors have personal experience that motivates their vision, “Both Ken and I left faith for a time as young adults, largely because of unnecessary obstacles placed by our past traditions. I’m so glad I was able to find a community that welcomed me back. We want to be that kind of community for people who are seeking it.”