Ryan McBride came to Sarasota 7 years ago. Now, as Pastor of 12 Springs Church, he is fostering community in a unique space for worship, creativity and even breakfast.
We sat down with him as he told us about his journey to foster faith, community and creativity here in the Rosemary District. We discuss the significance of creativity, his views on the growth of the District and how he is fostering community.
Q: How long have you been in Sarasota?
A: I moved from Chicago to Sarasota 7 years ago for a job. I was Associate Pastor for a congregation down in Gulf Gate for about 3.5 years or so. Then I took a job with the nonprofit organization which I still work with, Sarasota United for Responsibility and Equity (SURE), as Executive Director. We focus on the systemic problems in the county and try to discern and present solutions for the county sheriff or commissioner, whichever is more appropriate.
Q: What inspired you to open 12 Springs Church in the Rosemary District?
A: For about 10 years, I’ve wanted to plant a church. But I’ve been nervous about it. So the opportunity presented itself in January 2015, where we started holding meetings in my living room. And then in September 2015, we opened up at McCurdy’s Comedy Club on Sundays. We were only there for about 3-4 months, and then moved here to the Rosemary District, which felt like the better location.
Q: What makes the Rosemary District a better location for the church?
A: We wanted to be here in the Rosemary District from the beginning. We wanted to create a community where we could reach out to artists, do ministry with the homeless and really help them. Not just go down to the Salvation Army once a week, but actually work with people to help them find housing and jobs.
Q: Why did you choose this building as your hub?
A: It’s a really amazing story to how we even got here in the first place. We’re a very small congregation with a part-time staff, so we don’t have a lot of money. This place was a warehouse where this guy would make fiberglass countertops. When we saw it, we knew it was where we wanted to be. One of our core values is authenticity— we didn’t want to build this beautiful perfect congregation. We wanted it to be a space that reflected our community. There’s cracks in the walls, in the floors- it’s a work in progress, like all of us.
Q: How does creativity play a role within the congregation?
A: We’ll do live painting during worship service sometimes. We want to provide cheap or free spaces for artists to have studios, so we do these artist shows for very little or for free, really just to support that community. We have so many people who are a part of it, and we understand how hard it is just to get by. Also too we really believe God is a creative god, and has endowed us with that. So we felt that it was just natural as humans to express that. We wanted to create a place where expressing yourself was expected and a part of the community: we have a guy who leads service and only sings original songs, and plenty of artists who paint for service, like I mentioned before.
Q: What about your own creativity?
A: I’m not much of an artist, but I write poetry and songs myself. When I do sermons on Sunday, we get creative so it’s not just me lecturing for an hour. I feel that historically the church hasn’t done a good job of expressing that, so I think that being able to express yourself freely and creatively within 12 Springs Church will attract people.
Q: In what ways does 12 Springs bring the the community together?
A: We do community breakfast here about once a quarter, where we open the garage doors, cook eggs, bacon and pancakes. It’s a really nice, eclectic mix of people that show up. And I think people are getting used to that with us, because we want to reflect the community, and it’s eclectic. We love it, that’s what we want to keep as the neighborhood grows, that mix of community.
Q: What have you seen around the neighborhood that is a great example of community strength?
A: We all go to Mandeville almost every Sunday after service. We know the people that work there, some of the people we see there we know from the congregation. It’s definitely a place where we all feel comfortable and hang out.
Q: How do you see 12 Springs fitting into the community as it grows?
A: I hope to keep our flavor. It’d be really easy just to sanitize everything and become a typical, suburban-style congregation. But that’s not why we started. We want to continue to reflect the community and its roots, which to us is an eclectic, diverse place. With the growth of the economic diversity we want to maintain that as well. It’s challenging, but we see that as fundamental piece of who we are.
Q: What changes have you seen so far in the Rosemary District?
A: When we started a year and a half ago, we weren’t aware of the growth that was happening so fast. A lot of people have been moving in to the neighborhood, who are from out of town. A lot of cranes have popped up too, with lots of new buildings.
Q: What hopes do you have for the future of the Rosemary District?
A: I hope the Rosemary District can stay grounded with its authentic, eclectic urban feel. I think that might be a little tough with all the new buildings in the neighborhood. In 10 years, I think it could be a highlight of Sarasota. The feel you get of walking down Central is unique. You have this old historic church building across from the barber shop, lots of little boutique places a few blocks down. It’s a place you can go and see some real, raw parts of what it means to be urban. It’s a healthy reminder of what we all have to do as a community together. We hope to continue to be a part of the community as it grows and changes, and hold down that authentic, eclectic feel that it’s got right now.