Journey Story

Encouraging Gay Men In Their Quest For Authenticity

by Chris Caldwell

Why retreats for gay men?

My start comes from where I began. My partner and I both identify as gay men and are on a quest to live with authenticity in every area of our lives.

Society challenges us at every turn and yet our determination to press forward comes from many in the LGBT community.

Two gay men in particular have greatly influenced me on this journey. Bob and Rodney—both in the prime of their lives in their 70’s—are married and live in Honolulu, and were two of the early activists in the fight to legalize gay marriage in Hawaii.

Upon meeting them, we shared dinner together almost every month of the year for three years. The times spent with them were like mini-retreats—everything slowed down and my partner and I left their mountaintop home enlightened, rejuvenated, and of course a little less hungry.

After that, my partner and I started inviting new and old friends over for dinner. Oftentimes, the evening would start with a swim in the pool before we would prepare home cooked meals, many recipes coming from our families’ traditions or our travel experiences near and far—African-American, Middle Eastern and South Asian fare dominate the table. These dinners reminded us how connected we are to one another and how much we learn from each other’s experiences.

They were always filled with affirming words that gave us encouragement in our life’s endeavors. 

We were so encouraged by these interesting, fun, and loveable guys that we just knew we had to get them all together in one place. So we posed the question, “How do you get 10-20 guys together and recreate the experiences we had around our dinner table?” Our answer: Kindred Spirit Retreats, a weekend retreat, “to encourage gay men in their quest for authenticity.”

When I moved back to California from Hawaii, seeking new friendships, I used Facebook to reconnect with Camilo, a high school buddy. His profile indicated that he was an “out” gay man, so I took the opportunity after 20 years to come “out” to him. What an exciting way to start a new life on the mainland. Camilo became my first original kindred brother, encouraging me to move forward with Kindred Spirits.

Since then, Camilo, now married to Lou, are newlyweds who both are an encouragement to my partner and I. I was first introduced to his friends on the night Obama was elected our first African-American president, for which Camilo was an active campaigner. Camilo was also an activist during the California prop eight campaign and is now serving the LGBT community as an official marriage officiate

As Kindred Spirit Retreats began to find its footing, we expanded our outreach to social media.

From here, we met Calvin and Jeremy, an interracial couple married for 10 years with three adopted children hailing from Eastern and Southern U.S. Calvin and Jeremy are the founders of Peace Allies in California, an organization dedicated to bridging the gap between secular and spiritual ideologies.

Then there’s Bennie, also from the United States South, who is partnered with Conae. He is the founder of Positive Minded People, an all-inclusive meet up group with close to 2000 members in the greater Los Angeles area. His passion is helping LGBT teens that are homeless to find shelter and food.

Lastly, there’s the original vagaybond—Jim, my best friend and partner who has traveled to over 59 countries and writes about his experiences on his blog, VAGAYBOND. Since meeting Jim, my spark for traveling has been reignited, and I have traveled to over five countries in so many years, giving our partnership an international experience.

With over 15 years of working as an evangelical pastor, my passion is in creating meaningful retreats.

While serving in a mega-church as a closeted gay man, my ministry was one of mentoring and discipleship from which I planned and led retreats and conferences reaching and touching countless lives. In creating Kindred Spirit Retreats, I wanted to create a weekend retreat that gives gay men an opportunity to see a reflection of themselves that is authentic and encouraging.

Many of the topics we discuss at Kindred Spirit are inspired by our discussions around the dinner table—faith, spirituality, sexuality, diversity among the gay male culture, dating, gay marriage, and the pursuit of happiness, just to name a few.

Although these topics can be somewhat heavy, the aims of the retreats are to create an atmosphere of comfortable acceptance and self-discovery. The private setting allows the guys a safe place to explore their spirituality, individuality, diversity, and the freedom to share their experiences and points of view.

To register and learn more about Kindred Spirit Retreats, visit their website.

Photo provided by Chris Caldwell

Comments (2)

Jennifer Avery

I’m glad you have other gay
I’m glad you have other gay men to rely on. I always hope I’m the kind of straight person that makes others feel accepted.


Thank you Jennifer for your
Thank you Jennifer for your thoughtful words and loving heart.

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