Blue Ocean Summit 2014

This past weekend (Thursday through Saturday), I spent time in Ann Arbor, MI at the Blue Ocean Summit with some new friends from the Greater Boston Vineyard and The Woo (in Worcester, MA). We carpooled from Worcester to Ann Arbor, which made for a fun road trip vibe.

GZUS(Funny story: While it was my turn to drive, we passed through Cleveland, Ohio and I found myself following a Jeep with the license plate: “GZUS”. Just as my co-pilates, David Camilo from The Woo, Sean Bowman from the Hopkinton Vineyard, and I started cracking jokes about “following Gzus”, a car passed us on the left with the license plate “STN 666”. Without missing a beat, David announced, “Satan is passing Gzus!” But as if that weren’t enough to send us into a laughing fit, a third car zoomed past the “Satan car” with the license plate: “GOD 113” …or some other combination of numbers. David and I both yelled out “God is passing Satan and Gzus!!!“)

Dave Schmelzer (former Senior Pastor of the Greater Boston Vineyard) lead the event and it was held in two locations: the Ann Arbor Vineyard, whose Senior Pastor is Ken Wilson, author of A Letter to My Congregation; and St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church, only a few minutes away. It was beautiful to see two churches of very different Christian traditions working together to facilitate this conference. And it was apparent that this conference was not the only way these two congregations cooperate in ministry.

Me and Phyllis TickleThe Summit also featured several great speakers, including Phyllis Tickle (who I managed to get a photo with). She was an incredible speaker. She spoke with passion, enthusiasm, intelligence, and was genuinely funny all without notes for over an hour… twice! That’s a feat of some difficulty for a person in their prime, yet Tickle is in her 80s. In fact, I heard more than once that she was “retiring” from speaking after this year, and that this was one of her last speaking engagements. I felt privileged to have heard her message in person and to have met her, even if only briefly.

She spoke about the pattern of the church’s evolution throughout the millennia. Every 500 years the church undergoes a reformation of sorts, or a renewal if you will. She charts this up to the present time and proposes that the renewal the church is undergoing today is the dawning of an “Age of Emergence”. This age includes an emphasis on the activity of the Holy Spirit, hence her interest in and relevance for Blue Ocean folks. If such things interest you, check out her books: The Great Emergence and The Age of the Spirit (

Bert Waggoner was also a featured speaker at the conference. He is the recently-retired, former Director of the Vineyard Churches in the USA—a post at which he served for 13 years (if I recall correctly). He spoke about his upbringing in Pentecostalism, the marginalization that such a faith tradition entailed, his identification with people on the margins as a result, and his eventual entrance into the “Third Wave” charismatic movement. One of the most profound insights he taught us was the activity of God’s Spirit to truly ‘see’ us (know who we are) and to give us ‘sight’ to truly see others (to know who they are). In combination with his testimony about marginality, it made for a powerful message.

There were several other great messages and powerful times of prayer. To take the necessary time to describe them all in detail would be a book project, not a blog post. So, for now, I’ll just say that I enjoyed my time at the Blue Ocean Summit immensely, and am very grateful for the many new friendships that it began.

For more about Blue Ocean Faith, be sure to read about them on their website.