The Gay Men’s Spiritual Retreat (GMSR) originated in 1991, when Dave Smith asked a friend if he would be interested in starting up a gay men’s retreat in the local mountains outside San Diego. Both men have had a long history of attending retreats and leading camping trips into the wilderness, guiding small groups of gay men on treks throughout the Southwest. Both men have long had a love affair with the outdoors, and wanted to share that with other gay men.
After recruiting several other gay men in early 1992, it was agreed at the outset that their retreat should:
- Promote the spiritual growth of gay men.
- Be founded on 12-step principles, but open to all gay men, as well as others.
- Be non-sectarian, non-religious, and non-judgemental.
- Like 12-step programs, avoid coercion in its programming.
- Operate at or below cost, in order to keep activities within everyone’s financial reach.
A new retreat was born, which sought and still seeks to enhance the spiritual lives of gay men by sponsoring events and activities that will help participants to examine and improve their spirituality in a manner that seems best to them.
In 1997, Dave met with two respected leaders of the lesbian community, Johnna Helm and Joan Songer, and initiated a joint retreat, named the Lambda Recovery Weekend, designed to serve equal numbers of men and women. That retreat has also prospered, and continues its independent existence today.
In addition to the annual retreats, GMSR umbrellas other non-profit organizations. The GMSR has been a thriving resource in the community because it is supported by the community. While they do receive and invite private donations, the bulk of their support comes from community fundraisers.