Another year has come and gone, and we’d like to take this time to reflect on some of the activities our organization has helped to put together over the last year, as well as point to some of the things coming down the pipe for next year. It has been quite an aberrant year, which has served to highlight all the ways in which our resourcefulness and indomitable spirit outshines our obstacles.
Before I go any further, I want to say how much of an honor it has been to serve as your presiding elder in 2020. As some of you know, this is my third and final year serving on the council, and I will be rolling off, along with Bruce “Dandy” Tidwell, to make room for other siblings to take up the mantle of service and leadership in our community. I have learned so much about this wonderful community and about myself, and I will always remain grateful to have had this opportunity. Thank you all.
I am excited to share with you that Neil Burns has taken the role of the new presiding elder in 2021. Joining the council this coming year will be Jeff “Timber” Beacham, David Berger, and Tony James. I have had quite a pleasure serving already with Neil, and I feel that he, our new council members, and the rest of our council members will do a terrific job leading this community into the future. Thank you all for taking care of yourselves, each other, and this place.
Presiding Elder, 2020
Well, this year started out on a good foot, didn’t it? So promising and full of possibility. But 2020 (a numerological “4” year) turned out to be far from stable. Before the world was turned upside-down, however, we had our Winter Meditation, where our minds were thinking about far different things.
“Seeing the Unseen: Bringing Our Gifts into the Light”
Vic Mansfield & Jeffrey Rich
This gathering was designed to help connect us to our ancestors: familial, queer, and spiritual. This involved invoking ancestral lineages, meditating, exploring family constellations, and conducting ritual. Through these practices, we got in touch with our true and deep selves in this incarnation to find the strength and abilities within us and bring them forth with the support of those who came before us. In this way, we prepared ourselves to meet the world with more tools than we knew we had.
Why we went to virtual gatherings
Two months after our winter gathering, the pandemic reached our shores. The country implemented gathering restrictions, schools were let out, and anyone who could was urged to telework. At that point, we were faced with a very difficult decision: do we go on with the Spring Retreat, or do we cancel it? In between a rock and a hard place, we created a third option: a virtual gathering. We had no idea what it was going to be like, but we knew how important it was to keep doing the work. We worked with our spring convener to put together our very first virtual gathering. Yes, it was a different kind of gathering, but connection happens on an internal level, not an external level. We chose to preserve what made GSV what it is: authentic relations, safe spaces to be ourselves, and a welcoming community that cares for one another.
“In the Wellspring of Queer Resilience: Listening to the Wisdom of our Ancestors”
Mark “Rainbow Sprinkles” Medlin
We are still indebted to Rainbow Sprinkles who showed us that yes, our gatherings could be translated into a virtual platform. This gathering was a logical next step from the winter. We took what we learned about ourselves and our place in the world and built upon it by extending our reach to others and being met halfway. This combined meditations, workshops, and opportunities for members of our community to connect with one another without expectation.
“Resilience through Recounting”
Jonny “Mothra” Gray
This gathering continued the progression toward deepening our connection to others by sharing our stories and listening to others’ stories. Hearing what others have gone through and sharing what we have gone through not only brings us closer together, but also strengthens us by building a communal knowledge of what is possible. We were graced with Padraig O’Tuama, poet and theologian from Northern Ireland, as our keynote speaker. We also developed asynchronous interactive content through the Mural website that individuals could connect over independently. Workshops included mindful doodling, meditations, yoga, enneagram discussions, a panel of storytellers, and more. It also maintained our traditional practices of small groups and the variety show.
After our fall conference, we really learned how much work it is to facilitate a virtual conference, and how the skillsets of a convener and the skillsets of a Zoom room facilitator are not the same skills. Our convener, Mothra, did a wonderful job taking the lessons we learned from the spring and incorporating them into the fall, and that resulted in all kinds of new lessons to learn from, as our knowledge built upon itself.
Technology Working Circle
We have since created a technology working circle to handle Zoom hosting, room preparations, breakout rooms, and other platform-based needs so that our future virtual conveners can focus on what they do best: convene. This working circle currently has five individuals who have volunteered their services to the greater cause.
Shauna Pleas Boutique
We had initially passed a budget to obtain needed racks to replace many of the racks which broke in the Shauna Pleas boutique during the fall conference in 2019. We had planned to get them to The Mountain in the spring and spend a few extra days putting things in order, but the pandemic put that on hiatus. Money has been set aside in the 2021 budget for that and will occur in time for the next in-person fall gathering.
GSV/GSU archives update
As many of you know, we have been collecting oral histories from our members and storing them at Georgia State University Library’s Special Collections and Archives Department. There are now more available in the database for viewing and reading at research.library.gsu.edu/gayspiritvisions. Consider reaching out to our archives working circle if you would like to share your story with the greater public.
We’d like to share with you what funds were raised and what they went toward to show our gratitude for your generosity.
This year, we had three individuals who requested scholarships, and we were able to grant all three requests: two full scholarships and one partial scholarship. Over the course of the year, a total of $735 was donated specifically to the scholarship fund, and $883.22 was donated to Gay Spirit Vision’s general operations fund. Thank you all so much for your continued support as we continue to support one another over the years.
In addition to the donations given to this organization, you all raised $4,136.64 in donations for The Mountain during our virtual gatherings alone to assist them in their time of need. Many of you also provided further donations to them outside of gatherings and during their fund matching donation drive, and they would like to express their continued gratitude and thanks for your generosity. In thanks for our efforts, The Mountain waived all the fees for handling registration during our virtual fall conference, which came to a total of $221.52.
Feed the kitty!
If you would like to contribute to GSV, but find yourself with more money than spare time, donations can be made on the GSV website or by mailing a check to GSV, PO Box 339, Decatur GA 30031. GSV is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions to GSV are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Facing Forward – words from the new presiding elder
Welcome, gents! I’m looking forward to the magnificence we will manifest together! And thank you, Jason, for your gracious service on the council and as presiding elder for 2020. Jason did a magnificent job leading our council and organization through the many challenges of 2020 with great power and grace. For this I am truly grateful.
It is an honor to have been asked to wear the mantle of presiding elder in 2021 of this organization so dear to me. I have attended most of the GSV gatherings over the past 10 years since I first arrived at a local GSV potluck and heart circle. I have served on the Altared Spaces Working Circle for most of the past 10 years as well. By participating in a working circle, I was able to deepen the connections I had made by attending GSV gatherings. Besides that, it has been a lot of fun, work, and personal growth to be part of bringing the gatherings into being.
As presiding elder, I would like to keep our organization as transparent as possible, and I would like to include you all as much as possible because we are all important to this organization, and we all have an equal voice in where we take it. We all hold part of this organization in our hearts, and we all deserve to be held by it in return. Without you, we don’t have this community.
So, thank you for being a member of our amazing community. We hope you like where we’re going.
2021 Presiding Elder
Gay Spirit Visions
GSV is very much a living community, and we are ever looking forward to our next opportunity to gather. We have the Winter Meditation coming up in a few weeks and two other gatherings currently in the planning process.
Schedule of Gatherings in 2021
Winter Meditation: January 15-17
Spring Retreat: May 7-9
Fall Conference: September 24-27
As you may already know from the announcement made at the beginning of December, the theme for the 2021 Winter Meditation is “Reflecting on Resilience.” We will explore how we access and sustain personal resilience. Two meditation sessions will help us gain insight into how we have navigated adversity in 2020 and how we can use that to sustain us into 2021. We will contemplate how we come to a place of gratitude in the face of fear and sorrow and then glean what we have learned about ourselves and our relationships to the world around us. Additionally, we will strengthen our ancestral connections and bring forward our unique universe of mystery which lies within. There is bound to be a lot to learn about ourselves and our place in our world. I can hardly imagine what is to follow such an enticing winter in the spring and fall! Know that we on the council, the working circles, and our future conveners are all working diligently to put together the best gatherings we can for you. The 2021 Spring Retreat is currently being developed with its convener.
Introduction to new council members in their own words
Jeff Beacham, aka Timber:
I live in Charlotte, NC and my first conference was in the fall of 2014. I started volunteering for the organization in January 2015 by joining the Welcome and Hospitality Working Circle and then a couple of years later joined the Altared Spaces Working Circle. I began working as the co-liaison of the Financial Assistance Working Circle in January 2020. I have also assisted at two fall conferences as a small group leader. I am looking forward to continuing the transparent work started by previous members of the council, as well as helping the organization further document its policies and procedures for the next generation of leadership.
David Berger: My first GSV gathering was in 1992 when I was living in Kentucky. I’ve only missed 3 or 4 fall conferences since then, plus attended several spring and winter gatherings. I’ve been a small group leader perhaps a dozen times and coordinated the selection of small group leaders and contributed in small ways in some GSV rituals. I’ve played and/or sung in most of the Talent/Variety Shows and accompanied singers as well as accompanied the “Parade of Beauties.” Lastly, I’ve led a couple of “sing-along/cabaret” events at past GSV gatherings. I hope to be of service in any way I can to the council and for GSV.
Tony James: I live in Lithia Springs, a suburb of Atlanta, GA. My first GSV gathering was the 1996 Fall Conference. I joined the Planning Committee (later known as The Council) in 1999 and enjoyed it so much that I’ve been a member off and on for 13 years. Some of the council roles I held were Elder of Communications, Elder of Finance, and Elder of Records. I currently serve on the Welcome & Hospitality and Communications working circles and administer GSV’s email services, cloud storage, and office productivity apps. It’s an honor and privilege to return to the council this year. I look forward to working with my fellow council members to support GSV and its mission.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted much of our daily life due to the isolation resulting from sheltering-in-place. Responding to this the council is compiling a list of resources which will provide ways of connecting with other men who love men. Our intention is to provide some resources to deal with the isolation in ways that we hope you will find helpful until we gather in person once again.
Currently the 2021 winter and spring events will be virtual for safety reasons. We are working with The Mountain and their new leadership to plan for the 2021 Fall Conference to be in person! This is where we are now, and we will keep you updated as decisions are made. We all want to gather in person as soon as it is safe to do so.
You are GSV
The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf, and so it is with Gay Spirit Visions. All that we do is the result of the magic of community and teamwork. As we move forward, consider ways you’d like to take your relationship with GSV a step further. Maybe that means coming back after a long hiatus. Maybe it means attending all three gatherings this year. Maybe you just want to share a few ideas or feelings with us. Or maybe you feel it’s time to lend your hand to one of our invaluable working circles, to lead a workshop at one of our gatherings, or to spearhead the community as a future convener or council member! Trust us, there is a place for you here. Meet us wherever you are. We’d love to have you.
Let’s keep this an open dialogue. You are warmly invited to communicate with the council, to send us feedback, to ask us for what you need from GSV, to tell us of your sweet dreams of community and how our gatherings might make those dreams come true. Council@gayspiritvisions.org is the perfect way to reach out to us to make this organization what we want it to be. You have a voice. You have desires. We are listening. Our number one goal as a council is to keep these gatherings going, but we can’t do it without you. We’re a living organization. Every year several council members roll off so that new ones can roll on. You all have the right to be heard, to be heeded, to be held.
Working Circles: Come play with us!
The primary purpose of The Council of Trusted Elders of Gay Spirit Visions is to ensure that GSV produces the gatherings that are the core and the crossroads of this community. Without the support and hard work of our dedicated working circles, the GSV council would be powerless to put on the amazing events that, as of this year, we will have been doing for 30 years.
Volunteering with GSV working circles is a fantastic way to build community, to meet new friends, to help create GSV magic, and to ensure the continuation of our magnificent, open-hearted tribe. The liaisons are the coordinators of their respective working circles, and we encourage you to reach out to them if you feel called to dive into GSV for more than the occasional gathering. Being on a GSV working circle is one of the best ways to keep that GSV magic going all year long!
Working circle names with their liaisons and email addresses with which to reach them:
Altered Spaces: Randy Taylor ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications: Ralph Fruchtman ~ email@example.com
Archives, Culture & Tradition: Bruce “Dandylion” Tidwell ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Entertainment: Robert “Trio” Devereaux ~ email@example.com
Silent Auction: Wade Jones ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial Assistance: Jeff “Timber” Beacham ~ email@example.com
Gender Freedom & Expression: Tony Bayles ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Rituals & Fire: Kraig “Nightshade” Blackwelder ~ email@example.com
Sacred Touch: Mahan Kalpa Khalsa ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Groups: Bill Harris ~ email@example.com
Welcome & Hospitality: Tony James ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Technology: Brian Schroeder ~ email@example.com
Come join us. We’d love to have you.
Gourmet hugs to you from The Council of Trusted Elders of Gay Spirit Visions.