“When I was growing up, the music that I liked, like Zeppelin, sure wasn’t played in church,” says Jeff Boriss, director of communications at the 2|42 Community Church.
Founded in Brighton in 2005, the church added an Ann Arbor branch last spring. (The name comes from the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 2 verse 42, which describes the founding of the Christian church). Meeting at the Four Points by Sheraton, it’s already pulling in about 300 folks weekly–thanks in part to a very contemporary church band. “Our idea is: let’s play music that people actually like, as long as it’s good music and it’s about good things,” says Boris. “We’ve done Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’–what could be more appropriate than that?–and the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ and the Beatles ‘With a Little Help from My Friends.’ And we especially like the Foo Fighters, songs like ‘All My Life,’ which is one of our videos, and ‘Come Alive,’ which we did last Easter.”
The music at the 2|42 is so popular that Boriss says some people come just to hear it. “It’s harder to say for sure in Ann Arbor because it’s a newer campus, but I know they do up in Brighton. Some of the members of the band and I have played bars in downtown Brighton and over at Zukey Lake Tavern in Pinckney, and after our set, people come up to us and ask about us, and we say who we are and that we play in church. And they say, ‘Oh come on!’ and we say, ‘Yes, and we’re the same in both places, and so is the music.’ And some of those people have started coming to church.”
Shaun Garth Walker has had the same experience. In addition to being the part-time bandleader at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor on Platt, he plays solo “four solid nights a week–the South Lyon Hotel Mondays and then [Thursdays and] weekends at Lu and Carl’s in Brighton. And there’s been some who come from the gigs to the church–and some who come from the church to the bar. I don’t dig the divide between the church and the bars. I’m just as holy in the bar as I am in church. Some people find it a strange combination, but I think it’s pretty cool.”
Walker’s predecessor, English blues aficionado Mike Brooks, brought the Vineyard band from well-meaning to inspired. But Brooks was full-time–and with the recession, the church had to lay him off last August. Walker, who’d been at Hope Community Church in Ypsilanti, came in and changed the musical direction. “Mike is more of a bluesy kind of dude, but much as I love the blues, I’ve got no skills for that,” he says. “Now it’s more generally pop-rock style, plus I have an affinity for the Ramones and Green Day, plus alt-country is in my DNA–Ryan Adams, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo. The weirder the better for me, but not so weird that people don’t enjoy it.”
Walker has no complaints about his split musical life–now. “It’s what’s allowed me to put diapers on my babies’ butts. But my kids are five and three, and the long-term goal is to work full-time at the church so I can be around at night when they get older.”
His goal for his church music: “I’m hoping for stuff that’s as real and raw as Sunday, for stuff that’s very real and honest and organic, and for keeping it fresh–because people are there pouring their hearts out to God on Sunday.”