Rev. Canaday shared with us his story of recovery in alcoholism and finding deep connection with a higher power. This connection led Ryan to explore the power of support groups and specifically the role of spirituality in recovery. All this ultimately led to Ryan founding a church based on recovery.
We’re five years on from that conversation, but the church–called Free Spiritual Community–is still changing lives. They’ve grown from meeting in the Canaday’s backyard to moving into their own spaces.
The story of this community and Ryan’s ongoing story behind it are hopeful and inspiring. And totally relevant for today.
In this episode:
(00:07) Rev. Cannaday's recovery story inspires present-day listeners.
(06:01) Hitting rock bottom
(09:46) Holding onto God, struggling with addiction, finding freedom.
(16:28) Recovery community with music, stories, and discussions.
(22:37) The need to welcome all
(24:55) A life transformed
(27:55) Family involvement in recovery ministry
(30:42) Acceptance of people expressing their experiences.
(35:11) Connect with the Free Spiritual Community
(37:39) Connect with us
Connect and support the FREE Spiritual Community: freespiritualcommunity.com
- John Blake explores the world-changing power of relationships
- Pastors of TikTok
- Holistic evangelism and salvation
- Hope when life gets messy
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- Review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you download the episode. Great reviews help others find us.
- Email our hosts Ryan Dunn and Michelle Maldonado about future topics and feedback.
- Get Your Spirit in Shape and other United Methodist podcasts
Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing.
This episode posted on July 26, 2023
Ryan Dunn [00:00:02]:
Welcome to another episode of The Compass Podcast where we're finding spirituality
Ryan Dunn [00:00:07]:
in the everyday. We're jumping a few years back on this episode of Compass. Schedules are hard to coordinate during the summer months, and that makes tough to get new material to you from time to time, but it also presents an opportunity to dig through the vault of the Compass podcast and shines some new light on an early episode that still brings some inspiration and clarity to our present day. My name is Ryan Dunn, Pierce Drake was with me on this episode from the past. And together, Pierce and I talked with reverend Ryan Cannaday, and this was back in 2018. Reverend Cannaday shared with us his story of recovery and alcoholism and finding deep connection with a higher power. And then this connection led Ryan to explore the power of support groups and specifically the role of spirituality in recovery. All this ultimately led to Ryan founding a church based on recovery. Well, we're 5 years on from this initial conversation. And the church called Free spiritual community is still changing lives. They've grown from meeting in the Canada's backyard to moving into their own spaces and this story of this community, and Ryan's ongoing story behind it are still hopeful and inspiring and totally relevant for today. So let's relisten or listen for the first time to reverend Ryan Cannaday on the comp podcast.
Ryan Dunn [00:01:38]:
Pierce and I today are joined by Reverend Ryan Cannade who's out in Colorado, braving the weather out there. Ryan, besides the weather and it being, like, in the single digits, how are you? We're we're doing great out here, and thanks for having me as a guest on this podcast. I'm excited to be here. You bet. We brought you in because I believe that your story really connects with a lot of people who are especially feeling like they're well, they're in a bit of a hole. Like, they don't have a caring community around them. And so I was hoping through our conversation today, Ryan, we could really kind of unpack some of your personal history. And while the the life that you're living in into now, So to blast us back to the past, Ryan, what were you like in high school? Who did you hang out with?
Ryan Canaday [00:02:26]:
In high school, you know, that's actually a it's a big part of my story. I was -- Alright. -- I was considered the good kid in high school. I was I was active in in youth group. I was active at at a church. I was considered the good kid, hung out with the good and it was my brother who was three years older, he was considered he was the one into drugs and alcohol and addiction in in and out of the county jail. And for us, for our family, it was like, man, he's the one bringing shame into the family, and he's And if he could just get his act together, then we'd be so much better. And so I was the good kid and I was compared to my brother who was the one getting into trouble
Pierce Drake [00:03:09]:
quite often. In that, Ryan, was that like a is that a church environment? Like, did you grow up in church? Was that part of part of this this story?
Ryan Canaday [00:03:19]:
Yeah. You know, I so I grew up in mid Missouri. I grew up in the in the evangelical culture. So different nondenominational
Ryan Dunn [00:03:27]:
Ryan Canaday [00:03:30]:
And yeah. And and I was very active in in in the church setting in mid Missouri as a teenager. When I you know, it's seventeen years old, I decided, you know, youth group had such a profound impact in my life because it was a place where I was accepted. It was a place where I felt a sense of belonging. We moved to a new town when I was in 8th grade. We moved from the Saint Louis area into a small town, Mid Missouri, and I I didn't fit in. It took me a long time to find a footing there. And so youth group became a place where I found a sense of belonging and and welcoming. And so when I was seven teen years old, I wanted to do that for other people. I thought, man, this is what the church can be about. I wanna I wanna help others do this. So I decided to go to a small bible school and then study to be a pastor and
Ryan Dunn [00:04:21]:
and then history really started there. Yeah. Well, what was culture like at the small bible school?
Ryan Canaday [00:04:26]:
Man, I I was constantly not fitting in there. I I I tend to have a bit of that probably like many of your listeners, a bit of that rebel side in you that just wants to go against the flow. So I was asking Too many questions. I had too many concerns, too many doubts. And, actually, it was you know, I was only there for a semester. Semester in a couple of weeks and it was my 1st semester there. My mom called me on a Saturday morning. It was February 17th, actually, yesterday, March 18 years. Yesterday being February 17th for us now. She called me on that Saturday morning, and she said, Ryan, you need to come home. your brother, Brandon, was just killed in a car accident. Mhmm. And so it completely turned my life upside down, made me question God. I I actually hated this God. I hated God. I I was angry. God, I felt so deeply betrayed by a God that I put I trust in and in high school, man, I got up every morning with my mom and we would pray for my brother and we were so certain that God was going to redeem him and and bring goodness. And he did. He got clean and sober for for a couple years, and then he relapsed. And in that relapse, he got behind the wheel of a car and died on that night.
Pierce Drake [00:05:49]:
So you talk about now you're a pastor. Yeah. You started this new incredible recovery service at your church. And tell us how that kinda started, how how this all played into it. Yeah. So,
Ryan Canaday [00:06:01]:
you know, it was it was 6 years ago, 6 years ago last month, I woke up, and I was filled with shame and guilt and regret, and I was completely and utterly defeated. My wife, Tammy, came down the stairs, and I was passed out on the couch drunk and passed out like I had on so many other nights before. And on this on this morning about 6 o'clock in the morning, she was holding the empty liquor bottle that I thought I had hit well enough, she had tears coming down her face and she said, what are we gonna do? For me, it was this really powerful and poignant moment in my life because it was like for the first time I could see I was actually hurting the people that I loved most. it was powerful because on that day, God gave me of a gift of desperation. I was just so desperate And it was a painful moment because I I couldn't stop drinking. Yeah. And and I wanted to stop drinking. I couldn't stop and I I tried so many times. I I would try to just say, well, I won't drink on the weekends. And and as a pastor, you know, not to drink on a Saturday night, that's usually a good idea. You gotta preach on Sunday mornings. So I won't drink on the weekends or I'll give up hard liquor and I'll just drink beer or wine, and and that would last for a couple be weeks. And I'd be right back to where I started and you know, relationships in my life were broken the Christmas before I got sober. So I got sober January 7th. That was when Tammy came down the stairs.
Ryan Dunn [00:07:32]:
January 7 2013,
Ryan Canaday [00:07:35]:
and that Christmas before. So just a few days before, we were at my sister's house. And I had been drinking like I like I would and proceeded to get drunk like I like I did. And things went south like they so often would and And my sister, as we were leaving, she said, hey, listen. I I don't want you to come around anymore. Wow. And I thought, seriously, do do you know who I am? she says, yeah. Yeah. I don't want my kids to be around this anymore. And in my mind, I couldn't see it, guys. I was so blind to it because you know, this addiction, the root of my problem is self centeredness and and ego and and fear and and I couldn't see it and I was thinking to myself, do you know who I am? I mean, just just 2 days ago, I was preaching in front of 3000 people for 5 worship services on Christmas Eve. And do you know who I am? And and it was like, yeah. I I don't want you around anymore. And the bottom line is I I didn't like myself. I didn't know how to navigate the world. I experienced pain and disappointment of my my parents' divorce when I was five years old, and it was a really ugly divorce for many years. And and with my brother's death, it was it just put me in that state of disappointment, deep disappointment with God. And and at these wounds, they left me feeling empty, and I am convinced we will all do something with that emptiness. And for me what worked was I could pour some liquid down my throat and all of a sudden I could I could just numb out and I could numb out to the feelings and the pain and I liked the feeling of not feeling.
Pierce Drake [00:09:11]:
So you said 18 years I think you said this 18 years ago, your brother passed away. Yeah. I'm so sorry. And that that's when you began to question God, get mad at God, etcetera. Then now we're talking 6 years ago, you're you're struggling with alcohol, but for well, it sounds like you were and you were pastoring at the same time. Yeah. Yeah. So how did you how did what what kinda went from the Amatic guide in my early freshman year in college -- Mhmm. -- to to becoming a pastor. Yeah. Well, you know, I still have
Ryan Canaday [00:09:46]:
I still have those categories of of holding on to God, but not knowing how to do it. So you know, on the outside, I would have told you God is good, and and and God had a plan for this. And this was God's will. And on the inside, was bitter and angry and disappointed and all the feelings I described. But I'm also convinced God never God never lets go. Yeah. God was still there. And in fact, it's brokenness and in that despair is where I experience God. And so I don't think it's a one time thing You know, I I so often wish when I talk to people, man, I wish my my story was, you know, I got into booze and I became an addict when And then I got into ministry, but the truth is and seminary seminary taught me how to how to really crank up my drinking. I mean, and I found my ego told me I can be drunk and still do well in seminary. And so that that's what I did. Was that, like, the pressure of it that just kinda amped up that that drinking? Maybe. But I I liked the feeling of of being I liked the feeling of not feeling. Yeah. And I had pain in my life that I didn't deal with, and I like the feeling of of of not feeling. Mhmm. So I I you know, I don't know. I'm still that that call in the ministry is something I think I I I experienced still. It's it's not a one time thing. It's an ongoing thing. You know? And and And it had to for me, I had to experience those moments where I was crushed, where I was defeated, where I came to the end of my own sources. So, you know, on that morning, when Tammy said, what are we gonna do? I said, man, I know exactly what I'm gonna do, and I I went and called our our counselor. We had a marriage counselor, the counselor that we had done some work with, and I said, I'll call I'll call Sue, and I called Sue, and I I tried to set up an appointment with her. And I said, Sue, I I need to meet with you. I think I have a problem with drinking. I can't stop drinking. And she says, Ryan, I would love to meet with you, but first, you need to be involved in some sort of support group. Mhmm. And I was so angry. Right? And I said, support group, like, what? And she said, Well, have you ever heard of alcoholics anonymous? And I got so mad. I hung up the phone, and I went down to Tammy, and I said, Sue won't even see me. That's how bad this is. And she said, well, what'd she say? And I said, she won't see me until I go see it until I get involved in a support group. And she said, seriously. I said, yeah. Seriously. She said, Ryan, I'm gonna call her. And she said, what'd she really say? And I said, she won't see me until I get Mahogany's support group. So she said, well, you're gonna go, aren't you? Then so that started my journey working a 12 step program and dealing with the dark parts of my story and and this miracle happened somewhere along the way that God removed completely removed the obsession of the drink. And and for me, that was a miracle because I thought it could never happen. And I started making amends with people that I had heard. that my actions hurt, and I started reaching out to others to help them in their journey. And and now this incredible thing happened where I get to live a life where I'm free. and I'm spiritually connected. And it's all because I encountered a god who did for me what I could not do for myself, and I still encountered that god on a daily basis. And I don't have to run from fear. I don't have to run from relationships, and my kids don't have to see pops passed out on the couch. And, you know, when Tammy goes into labor any moment now, I get her driver to the hospital. She doesn't have to worry about if I'm gonna be sober enough and And all that's ministry for me. Right? So when we started this new thing that we call free, that my story is so much a part of that. So it was just this year. I woke up. It was right. We were going the bed. It was April 3rd, my birthday. And before I went to sleep, I just said to Tammy, I said, you know, we're not getting any older we're not getting any younger. We're not getting old, but we're not getting any younger. what would it be like to start a place for addicts and for people who love addicts and just for all sorts of people who are looking for different kind of church experience, where we can talk about these issues, where we get it wrong, where we fail, and where God meets us and where god where we encounter that god who does for us, what we cannot do for ourselves, what would it be like to start that place and And I wish I could tell you all it was a profound conversation. It really wasn't. We went right to bed after that. But it stayed on my heart the very next day. I I reached out to the bishop on Facebook. And I just said, hey, Bishop Karen. Is anything bubbling up in the conference about issues of addiction and recovery? And and I said, I would love to 30 minutes of your time, thinking that would be sometime in the next several months. Right. And she said she wrote back within 5 minutes And she said, oh my goodness. Can we meet tomorrow? Wow. And so, yeah, it was like one of those moments, like, oh my goodness. I I don't have I don't have a vision for this. I just have things. I have notes and I show up. Do you have any mystery laying together? So many lives are gonna be impacted. but it was incredible because she said, do it. And I was like, well, do what? And she said, just do the thing that's on your heart. And so Ryan, you know some of this story. You know, we just started meeting in our backyard. We we put a leadership team together in the 1st couple weeks, and We just started meeting in our backyard and we opened it up for a place where what we call we can break the siren of addiction because, see, we live in a suburb, South Denver. And the problem is we don't ever have to connect. We can we can cover up the sickness with power and privilege and money, and and I can push a button in my car to open my garage. And then before I ever get out of my car, I can push that button and close the garage, and I never connect with anyone. But we know the problem of addiction. I don't know if y'all have been following the news, but man, Colorado's in all sorts of trouble. Yeah. And in the suburbs, we just have this, like, suburban sickness that we can cover up and wear a mask. And so at free. We want to break the silence of addiction and create space for healing and and recovery and spiritual connection. So that's how we started. Just right in our backyard. Got people in the backyard. Thank god it never. In the in the 8 weeks, we did it for the summer, last summer, It never rained. It could be windy and right when we would start, no wind would calm. It was like, oh my goodness. God is in this thing.
Ryan Dunn [00:16:04]:
but it was pretty cool. What does your community time look like at free? Is it somewhat reminiscent of, like, an AA meeting where where people are kinda sharing their stories with each other? Or what kind of structure do you have in your it feels funny to say, like, what kind of structure do you have in your quote free time? But in your time in meeting in free community. I love that. Yeah. No. That's a great question. In fact, we get that question a lot.
Ryan Canaday [00:16:28]:
So we do have our own space now. We actually moved into some space. It was this beautiful gift that was given to us, and so You know, we meet on Saturday nights at 7 o'clock, and we start with you you know what I tell people is it's gonna have a mix of church and a mix of a 12 step meeting. Okay. But the beauty is it's not it's not gonna be all alcoholics or or or all drug addicts. It's gonna be people who are new in recovering, people who aren't sober. So at our if you wanna call it a church or spiritual community is what we call it, You're gonna see people maybe a little boost up. You're gonna see people nodding off. We have a huge heroin epidemic here. You're gonna see people nodding off. You're gonna see people side smoking and, you know, if you're bothered by that, this isn't the place for you. But when I look out at that, I see the Kingdom of God. Yeah. And a place where people can come. We have people all time to say, man, I feel welcome here, and I've never done the church thing. Mhmm. So it's not a group of of just Jesus followers. We're getting all all sorts of spiritual but not religious people looking for a spiritual journey, but we we usually start with some songs Right now, we're rocking some YouTube, some live music, and we have everything from M and M to Macklemore till to Hillsong and worship music and It's kind of whatever song we think speaks to that week. We'll play some music. I always give. In a church world, we call them sermons. but I I wouldn't typically call them a sermon in that community. It's a short, usually 10 to 15 minute reflection. I always reflect on the scriptures, Mhmm. We intentionally pick scriptures that are give us the God of grace and love and freedom, and we call it free because all the things in life that set us free. Things like grace and love and and compassion and forgiveness, these are the things that are so freely given by God. And for our community of free, they need to hear that. I need to hear that. That's a message that never gets old, and that's one that's hard to believe because we've told ourselves ourselves for so long that these things we have to earn it. There's something we have to do to get it and and the message we we hear in the scriptures and and from from Jesus is no. No. No. No. It's it's all given freely. It's already been given to you. You don't have to do anything to earn it. So I I reflect on the scriptures and we always have storyteller. We have someone each week share their story around addiction and recovery. We always do celebrations because our community, we have so much pain and and loss and heartache. We think it's important to not ignore those things, but we do start with celebrations. So severity anniversaries. Babies being born, new jobs, transitions, and there's there's these beautiful celebrations that happen each week. We always pray together. It it's a we always have we throw it out to the community to ask questions to give their input, to give suggestions, and we have the most real and honest discussions that I always crave to happen in a church because I think church should be the place where we do that, where we can talk about God and our experience and our experience strength and hope with with recovery. Where do you guys meet right now? So here here's I'll keep the 2 minute acts to work really short. But when we were meeting in our backyard, it started to grow. We we started with just a few of us, and then it was 20, then it was 30, then forty, fifty people. So my neighbors were starting to say things. We were loud. It was crowded. There was no parking, and it was happening every Saturday night for 6 weeks. Right?
Ryan Dunn [00:20:11]:
So we started to roast the sickest party. It's like, we're always keeping us up to
Ryan Canaday [00:20:17]:
-- Amazing grace on the bag platform. It was all Oh, in the bagpipe. That's something right there. That's beautiful. So we started looking at that right down the street, there's this grease monkey. It was And I think it was, like, 2000 square feet, and it was just concrete floor, double day garage, and I just thought that was, like, the bread and butter, and that's what I wanted. It was so organic and and unchurchy. I just thought this would be perfect. We looked at it for 2 months. we were in discussions when we went to sign the lease. The guy said, sorry. Someone else beat you to it. The irony is it's still sitting empty. So we threw out a video on social that night. My wife and I, and we said how dumb that we are, and and something's gonna come along. We'll just be patient. that very evening, someone called us and said, hey. I didn't know you were looking for a spot. I I have a space. Come check it out. And we went but went on the drive over there. I was like, man, nothing's ever gonna be as good as the grease monkey. That was, like, that was it, man. And we walk into the space. It is totally finished, like, told brand new paint almost double the space. Wow. And we got for the the landlord was digging our vision what we were doing in the community. So we got a super super great deal on it way better than the grease monkey, which was smaller wouldn't work for what we're doing, actually. So it was this gift that was given to us. But it's it's storefront. In fact, I think it was a former Aveda Salon. Mhmm. It was some sort of salon. So it's all lit up. It's it's it's it's a beautiful place. It's 3000 square feet. It works great for what we're doing. And we'll probably outgrow it at some point, but right now, it works really well. You know, our listeners
Pierce Drake [00:21:58]:
are a wide spectrum of people checking out faith, checking out Jesus, dipping their toe in spirituality. And then we have people that are very deeply connected to church life. And so for the people that are connected to church or or are attending a community of faith and they see this as a need in their own community but they're in a context where that's really not happening well. Mhmm. Yeah. What are some what are some ways that you could lead them to begin having a conversation with the leadership, maybe their own leadership, maybe their pastor's listening goes, man, that I I really resonate with this. to start something like this. One of the reasons we started this was
Ryan Canaday [00:22:37]:
over the last 12 months, I've done 6 funerals of people who died of addiction right in our own community. So right connected to my own church community, all under the age of forty, Wow. And so I just started seeing this need and then people would come to these funerals, these these friends of of friends of friends and They wouldn't even know how to walk into a church and walk into a sanctuary, and it it wasn't because they were trying to be disrespectful. It was just they thought they wouldn't be welcomed because they smell like smoke. They they may not have dressed the part, whatever the reason is, and so it was a need we started seeing, and the disease of addiction now affects more Americans in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Colorado, our our drug overdoses are up in every single county way above the national average. Opioids will kill 52,000 Americans this year and up to a half 1000000 in the next decade. So when when we're seeing the statistics in Colorado, it's like, oh, these are the needs right in our community. So I think pastors and church leaders, we need to get honest and say, where are people dying Where where is their suffering? And maybe it's not addiction. Though I'm certain there is addiction in your community -- Oh, yeah. -- wherever you live, But where are the needs? And then how can we go meet those needs and not try to make it just start a new church all the time, but start new communities where people who aren't gonna feel welcome at church might feel welcome -- Mhmm. -- coming and hearing about the good news of God's love for people I mean, that's a message that never gets old. And no one has most people I encounter don't balk at that message. Right? That's a that's a message they they dig. And and so we gotta figure out how to create spaces and places where that message can be heard and lived into. So, Ryan, You started with this name of free as a representation
Ryan Dunn [00:24:34]:
of God's love, and then it comes freely to us. When did that message come to you? Like, I'm sure that as as you were confronted by your wife and and starting your own recovery road that you were dealing with all kinds of of shame and guilt. When did this
Ryan Canaday [00:24:55]:
message become real to you? How did it become real to you? Yeah. That's that's a great question. You know, I grew up in a in a tradition that said, you need to have a a date and time of knowing your salvation. Mhmm. And so, you know, for so long, I could say, well, it was when I four years old. I walked up the island church, and I I tugged on the preacher's coat, and I told him I wanted to be spayed because he just preached a message about hell literally share the hell out of this. I wanna be saved now. And what I've learned in in recovery, so I'm talking in last 6 years is I've had to give up on all that. I've had to give up on this date and time and specifics because it's simply not the way God has revealed God's self in my life. It has been it's been like this. There's moments where I wake up and think, oh my goodness. my life is so different and people are noticing it and I get to I get to live this life now. I actually get to spend time with my kids and And man that's a moment of grace that like I said earlier, I get to drive my wife to the hospital. Yeah. That is a that's small thing, but my life, that's a huge thing because her greatest fear when she was pregnant with our second daughter, Shiloh, was that Ryan would be too drunk to get me to the hospital if I go into labor and we're gonna have to call a friend and drunk Ryan's gonna be in the back seat. Thanks made a god, I got sober when she was 9 months pregnant with Shiloh. But you know, she doesn't have that fear today. That's a moment of grace. That's a moment of life is different. I can I don't have to control everything, man. I used to just be this control freak. And if you didn't see God my way, well, I'd get after you in a If you didn't see life my way, I would just pound you into the ground to where you'd get tired of talking to me. And then I would think I was right because my ego told me I needed to be right. it's not the way life is anymore. I can't tell you exactly when it changed. All I know is over time when I started working the twelve steps and looking into my story and getting honest with myself -- Mhmm. -- with with others and with God. My life started to change, and I started moving towards gratitude rather than anger. I could see God rather than than hate God. I could see I could see grace and forgiveness, and it wasn't all built around Ryan's shame. And so god was pulling me up from all that shame and guilt and regret and saying, dude, you got a new it's right here. The life I have created for you to live is right in front of you, and you get to actually live it. And to me man, that that is a gift that never ever get gets old and I hope it stays that way. I hope it's I hope it's a gift that never gets old to me. how has your family,
Pierce Drake [00:27:37]:
like, embraced this this ministry as a whole scene church in this way? versus, you know, a lot of a lot of us that grew up in that church that you described where -- Yeah. -- you know, you hide everything. your kids are growing up in this atmosphere where where grace abounds
Ryan Canaday [00:27:55]:
and -- Yeah. -- and and the beauty of that. Yeah. That's a great question because we do this together as a family. So my kids have been especially my oldest daughter who's 8. She's just grown up around recovery and talk about addiction and recovery. In fact, just last night, we were watching she and I were watching Crotty kid. And and you might remember the scene Mister Miyagi gets drunk. and he's drinking, I don't know what is some sort of hard liquor and she says, poppy, is that what you were like when you were drunk? And I was like, yeah, maybe it was maybe even a little worse than that. And so she just so used to you know, they're they're used to we don't do a lot of secrets in our family. They know Pops is is a recovering alcoholic. And from what they know, they're they're grateful Pops is silver. And Tammy, I could not do this thing without Tammy. We do this together. So all our fires are business cards. We we are in this thing together. Our website, it's it's It's Reverend, Ryan, and Tammy Canaday because she has just as big of a role as I have. It could not happen without her being my sidekick. She's actually a big part of our ministry is coffee. Because if you know anything about rooms of recovery, coffee and coffee is just a huge deal. Yeah. So we are now starting to we roast all our own coffee. We're partnered with a coffee farm in Honduras. and they're actually friends of ours. So we know how how their employees are treated, and and we know it's fair wages that they're getting paid, and So we get green beans from them, and and we have other beans coming in too. But we do all our own roasting. We sell coffee. It's one of the ways we keep our ministry going is through coffee sales, but And we always provide coffee on every every Saturday night. We gather coffee's a plays a big role for us. But yeah. And Tammy does all our roast all are being by. She's she's the professional. She has 12 years experience in the corporate world with coffee. So -- Oh, wow. -- it's right up her alley, and But I'm so grateful that as a family, we do this together, and it's not just Ryan doing his own thing. The kids always come with us. It's become their space too, and I actually love that. I hope it's something we're passing down to show them that that a church it should be the place where we wrestle with God. We we don't we we admit when we screwed up. We admit that we don't have all the answers. That's right. And so you're hearing real talk every single week of people who are really screwed up and people who don't have their stuff together And it's kind of the way we like it. We wanna keep it that way. Wow.
Ryan Dunn [00:30:26]:
So you mentioned
Ryan Dunn [00:30:27]:
as part of your community gatherings, that y'all sometimes drop, like, some M and M. Is that a community thing? Is everybody there, like,
Ryan Dunn [00:30:36]:
in unison dropping down some lyrics?
Ryan Dunn [00:30:39]:
Was it more of a contemplative activity?
Ryan Canaday [00:30:42]:
No. It it's it's that's a great question because, see, I'm the way I look at music is Most people don't gather together and sing. Most people don't sing. We sing in the shower and we sing in the car when we're driving, and no one else is around. And when the car pulls up next to us, we kinda tone it down. Then when the light turns green, we'll we'll start ramping it back up. But I've always found it and I'm a church guy. Right? I I get I'm a pastor. I've I've grown up in the church. I have always found it awkward to sing in a church. It's it's always felt a bit awkward to me. but I love music. I love lyrics move me to to new dimensions, new levels. They they bring out something in me. So No. We have we don't do a lot of singing together. We did over Christmas. We did some Christmas carols, but so it's more a time of reflection, time of contemplation, It's more we pick songs that have to do with our themes. I I'm not saying I'd be opposed to ever you know, having musicians and and bands and that sort of thing. But it's just not where we are right now, and it seems to work. if we bring so if we play M and M, we're gonna make sure it ties into the theme. And on YouTube, you can pick because my boy M and M, he does like to coffee f bomb. I've heard that. And I realized we have some we have some children in our community, might it my own children being being some of them and So you can now on YouTube, you can pick clean versions, and they're gonna bleep out f bombs and but also in our community, you're the truth is you're gonna hear some f bombs being dropped, and and I don't I don't to micromanage people when they talk about God. So if that's part of their experience, that's that's kind of free game and we try not to overly
Ryan Dunn [00:32:19]:
control that. You're kind of a a I get a vibe of being a little bit anti establishment. I think some of that comes out in the way that that you ink up your body. You're a a tattoo individual.
Ryan Canaday [00:32:32]:
Are are the are the tattoos? Are they, like, reminiscent
Ryan Dunn [00:32:37]:
of of a life before, or is it, like, an ongoing thing?
Ryan Canaday [00:32:43]:
What's a what are you communicating in those tattoos? Yeah. No. It's ongoing. I've been getting tattooed. I'm thirty six years old. I've been getting tattoo since I think it was 3 days after my 18th birthday. I still love them. People told me early on. My mother being one of them. Hi, mom. I hope you're listening. She said, boy, you're gonna regret that. That's on there forever. That's permanent. I don't have one tattoo that I regret. And by the way, she's got 2 tattoos now. Yes. I just outed you. You know, my first tattoo was I have the Jesus fish on my back -- No. -- which is kinda like, why did I get that one? But, also, it's It's an ancient Christian symbol that is act it's a beautiful symbol. So even with that one, I I don't regret it. I'm glad it's there. But, yeah, my all my tattoos tell a story. You know, I have my my love arm, my my my family tree, and then my other arm is is the my arm of struggle, and it's got a it's got great significance to me. And on my knuckles, on my love arm, I have tattooed love on my knuckles, and on my struggle arm, My knuckle's safe free because I'm reminded I'm free and my struggles. They are what allowed me to see that I was free. And so I don't I don't regret the struggles. I don't close the door in my past. They have made me who I am today. They have showed me god in the most real ways. God has appeared to me in the most life giving ways. So so I don't regret it. There's
Pierce Drake [00:34:09]:
It's my story. You know? I love it. So, Ryan, you you've got a story that not only personally connects with a lot of people connects with me. Not only your story connects with people, but you're creating a community that connects with people, understanding so much of us grew up in this context of Jesus wasn't approachable with our mess, and the church specifically really wasn't. Right? -- Yep. -- approachable with our mess. And and as we look at the gospel more closely, we see that, no, it's actually Jesus is inviting us and inviting our mess and and and wanting to to walk with us and all of that. And so I think this is one of our interviews that people are gonna wanna really connect with you even after this. And -- Yeah. -- and so and so how can they do that? What's what's a I mean, social media obviously is the way to do that. Where can they find you out there? Yeah. You can find us on a you can connect with me personally on on Facebook or Instagram just under my name, Ryan Canaday, and then We also have a Facebook page for
Ryan Canaday [00:35:11]:
call free. You can connect with us there. You can always shoot us an email at [email protected]. see the wagon. That's a great one now. That's a great one. And here's why we if I can just take 30 seconds to tell the story, we we the wagon a wagon as a central image in our community. And why that is, man, a couple years ago, I was at the rescue mission in LA which is I I believe it's the largest rescue mission in in the states. But anyway, he was the director was giving us a tour And we went upstairs, and and there's this hallway with their pictures of of their history. And in the middle of this hallway, there's this large picture of a wagon. And I said, dude, what? What's the story behind the wagon? And he said, dude, you don't know the story behind the wagon? And I said, oh, man. Sounds incredible. Tell me. And he said, that's how we got started was the wagon. And I think it was 1857. I'll have to sometime in the late 1800, but that's when the rescue mission got started. And literally, they had this wagon, and it would go to some of the roughest places in LA where all the bars were, all the mischief was happening. And that this wagon would go and and they would hand out bibles and food and hope and and then they would say to people, anyone who wants to come back to a place of safety and recovery you can get on the wagon, and we'll take you there. And so what happens when you get a bunch of drunk people on wagon? Well, some people fall off, and it's it's warm falling off the wagon. Wow. Which was just totally mind blowing when connected that. It's like, dude, is that where falling off the wagon comes? I said, yeah. Wow. So anyway, when this when when people would fall off the wagon, this wagon would stop and people would get off this wagon and help that brother or sister who just fell off, and they'd get them back on the wagon. And so when we started free. It was our very 1st week. We put a wagon in the middle of our yard, and I said to people, let's create a community where where the wagon where we don't kick our wounded. We always be a place of grace and acceptance and forgiveness. And when people fall off, we stop and help them get back on. That's why we're the the wagon is still a central image in our community, and our our email is [email protected]. So you can remember to be the wagon That's what that's what the church had its best. The church is wagging. Right? Yeah. Yes. Congrats on getting that email address in,
Pierce Drake [00:37:26]:
like, 28 -- Yeah. We were so happy Right? Like -- Right? It's not be the wagon underscore o one. Yeah.
Ryan Canaday [00:37:34]:
Be the wagon.
Pierce Drake [00:37:36]:
I love that. Yeah.
Ryan Dunn [00:37:39]:
Yeah. Thanks for taking this journey back in time with us. The free spiritual community is growing, and they're asking for help in getting some appropriate space. So if you'd like to support what they're doing, then check out free spiritualcommunity.com. And you can learn more there and also donate to their cost there. If you wanna check out more on Compass, well, some good follow-up episodes include episode 108 with John Blake about world change relationships, here's another really inspiring personal story. And also, episode 98 with pastors of TikTok, that'd be good too as it discusses the innovative ways the church reaches people with messages of grace. Good stuff all around, really. While you're listening, leave a rating and or review that be so much appreciated. The Compass podcast is brought to you by United Methodist Communications, and Michelle Maldonado and I Rhindon will be back with a brand spanking new episode in 2 weeks. So we'll chat out to you then. the meantime, peace.