Blue Ocean is a new congregation that's forming on the Westside.

We’re a growing gathering of like-minded friends planning for a formal launch. We’re part of an innovative network of churches called Blue Ocean Faith, with flagship churches in New York, Cambridge, Ann Arbor, and Iowa City, along many.

Blue Ocean began in Cambridge, Massachusetts as Dave and Grace Schmelzer—who’ll be the pastors of this new congregation on the Westside—started a congregation in 1998, now called Reservoir Church, which became one of the largest in Greater Boston. Reservoir was known as one of the most vibrant churches in the area—with rich worship and experience of God’s Spirit and a noteworthy community outreach that worked with a large portion of the city’s school-aged children. But it was also known for connecting in a remarkable way with people who’d previously been nonchurchgoing. This surprising juxtaposition got Dave speaking invitations to Harvard, MIT, Tufts, and other nearby universities, but also around the country and in Europe. He was covered by press as secular as The Boston Globe and The Stanford Magazine and as religious as The 700 Club.

This unique spin on church—as being powerful and robust while also thriving in secular cities—drew enough interest that Dave began hosting annual summits around these ideas, and ultimately a new network of churches took shape.

In 2013, after a year-long transition process, Dave and Grace and their five children moved to Santa Monica to explore what faith like this might look like on L.A.’s Westside.


Dave grew up an atheist in San Diego. As a student at Stanford University, he had an encounter with God that, after two years of exploring religions, he came to understand as being an encounter with Jesus. Afterwards he helped found a ministry to kids in a nearby high-crime neighborhood before spending a decade as a working playwright in San Francisco, where he met Grace in a local church. After being married for two years, Dave and Grace were invited by friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts to consider moving there to help start a new church. (By this time, Dave had also picked up a Masters in Theology from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena.) The church boomed, a surprising outcome in a city with a 2% churchgoing rate (compared to about 35% nationally). This led to conversations with many church leaders in the U.S. and Europe, and ultimately to the formation of a new network of likeminded churches called Blue Ocean Faith. Dave is the author of the popular Seek course for people exploring faith, which is taught in churches around the country. And he’s the author of Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist (Tyndale 2008) and of a forthcoming book on the distinctives of Blue Ocean Faith. He’s one of the hosts of the Blue Ocean World podcast (available on iTunes), and he’s helped create Horatio (, a meaning-of- life online magazine. He and Grace have five children and live in Santa Monica.

Grace grew up in Houston, Texas and, unlike Dave, had a robust faith in God from a young age. After graduating college from Stanford University, she joined a team doing Christian ministry work in the low-income Tenderloin District of San Francisco among Southeast Asian refugee families. Later, after she and Dave met and married, she continued working cross-culturally, teaching English as a Second Language to young adults. When she and Dave moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Grace helped start the church, ultimately joining Dave on staff part-time as co-senior pastor. In that role, she helped provide overall leadership and gave particular focus to developing women leaders and providing vision for the church’s international initiatives—including launching a team that moved to the Middle East together in 2008. Grace loves other languages and cultures and has especially enjoyed her many cross-cultural friendships. In 2012, she began wondering if God was opening up a new adventure for their family that would offer the chance for some of the things they were learning in Cambridge to help a wider swath of people. In 2013, after a year’s transition process for their church, she and Dave and their children moved to Santa Monica as the Blue Ocean Faith network was born.

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