Judgments Divide

August 24, 2016



“Someday after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Pierre Teilhard de Chartin

de Chartin and Margaret Wheatley in her statement: “It’s not differences that divide us. Its our judgements about each other that do. Curiosity and good listening bring us back together,” sum up for me the heart of the theology of Jesus.

Twenty two years ago the first of September we came to San Francisco looking for a job, we  found nothing, and when we  returned to Minneapolis there was a phone call offering us  a counseling job.  Thus we  began making our way back across the country. Our  life has always been ministry, but at the time, there were no churches accept one that had churches open to queer ministers, and we  had always wanted to do street ministry, and for us  that is being a pastor, pure and simple. And so we began buying people pizza and talking to them, formed the non-profit, and became ordained in the Evangelical Anglican Church in America.  The work we do is that of being a pastor without walls or building. Temenos was never meant to be a “traditional” Catholic Worker of people living in community, but a pastoral ministry, living within the traditions of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.

It has been a glorious twenty two years, really glorious. Today as we listened to one young guy, we thought, it never really changes, our problems remain the same. What has changed is our  theological point of view.

Pierre Teilhard de Chartin  talks about the cosmic Christ, which is Christ who is the God of many faces, and moves throughout the universe. Christ who burns with the fire of love, burning away all of our judgments, and bringing us into oneness. Our judgements divide and destroy us.

For example we celebrate the Eucharist in the Park every Thursday, and personally we do not invite “housed” people, because it is not your typical  prayer book Eucharist. It is open to all, and these guys are simply themselves, and we  have had “housed’ people bring so much judgement on them and us, that we  do not want to be burned. For example there is a woman, who lives in a camper, and has for years, and she brings the Eucharist bread that she makes–but it is made out of marijuana. It is a beautiful offering, but to many people it is offensive, but for her it is the most glorious of offerings, and Christ is truly present.  There are no “rules” for who can or can  not take the Eucharist-it is God’s table be you atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish–God comes in many faces, and invites all to the Table.

People criticize us for not giving our opinion  people on how they shall  live their lives–and for us it is not our place. Like St. Francis says, “Preach the Gospel using as few as words as possible.”  People make their choices, we walk with them, and talk with them about those choices, but it is still their choice. By not judging we can learn a lot about life, we can understand the pain and hurt of people. People live in ways other than our “middle class’ born and bred ways.

“Curiosity and good listening” bring us back together, and the fire of love burns off all of our differences, our creeds, and brings us into the Cosmic Christ. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D..S.T. D.Min. Candidate


Crossing the Threshold of Faith

August 21, 2016


“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12: 13

Saturday I attended a workshop on police brutality, in which we saw four documentaries dealing with the subject. What was noteworthy was that the police who were the most brutal were minorities.  What came out of this experience was an awareness that the problem stems back for centuries and is found in white oppression.  The “blue line” is essentially a maintaining of the white status quo of power.

I remember a white college student who struggled with being white because he saw the oppression of his brothers and sisters of another color. He suffered depression and worked to eliminate it, but always he carried guilt;  I have struggled with guilt over the  privilege that my white skin brings to me as well. I look at myself, and I see the privileges I have, simply because of the color of my skin, and it scares me for I have always accepted those privileges.  I have been an oppressor through the acceptance of that status quo. We can even this out by becoming aware and actively working in our own lives to make changes.

The majority of the people who receive the death sentence are minorities, and the poorest of the poor.  As we face the election the latest poll shows those who support the death sentence are ahead in the polls. Eliminating the death sentence would even out justice for all.

Let us cross the threshold of faith follow the words of Scripture to:

“… lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12: 13

Come Join us On Wednesday, August 24 to Give Witness to Life, and to Equality:

Earl Warren Office Building

350 McAllister Street

San Francisco, CA

Noon-1:00 p.m.

Posters and Flyers Provided.

For More Information:

Fr. River Damien Sims



Franciscans Against the Death Penalty



Fr. River Damien Sims

Death Penalty Ad

The Face of Mercy

August 18, 2016

THE FACE OF MERCY–Matthew 20:1-16–Black Elk

Today in the Examiner Michael Barba in his articled “San Quentin Inmates Await Their Fate” describes inmates who have been on death row a long time, all waiting to die, all living in limbo.  The picture of mental illness and deterioration is not pretty at all.

The parable today of the estate manager who pays everyone the same regardless of when they started to work reminds us that God is the judge, he is the one who determines when we live or die. God’s rewards are always equal. God in Christ always shows the face of mercy.

Let us vote Yes on 62 in November–let us be merciful, as Christ is merciful.


NOON-1:00 P.M.



Franciscans Against the Death Penalty

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Fr. River Damien Sims, SFW, D.S.T., D.Min. Candidate,




Be the Change You Can Be

August 16, 2016



“Truly, matters in the world are in a bad state; but if you and I begin in earnest to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made.”

– St. Peter of Alcantara

(And as Gandhi put it, “be the change you want to see.” What might you do today to move in that direction?)

Last night I was talking to  a third year law student friend of mine whom I have observed  grow and develop for ten years.   I met him on Haight Street one Christmas Day passing out gifts to the street kids. He comes from a wealthy family and has had his own struggles with fitting in. He found me “weird” because I struck up a conversation with him and took him out to eat, and we have been friends since that first day–two weird guys.  John was an “atheist”, and through the years we have had many discussions. Last night he told me that he had become  a believer because life did not make sense without belief and because he discovered that true believers were the ones who did not believe in the death penalty. Very observant.

In the first centuries believers in Jesus were pro-life in every way. They experienced execution.They saw its horror first hand. It was only when Christianity was legalized under Constantine that the church began to change. The farther away the Church moved from the center of the teachings of Christ the more pro-death it became.

I recommend one book for your reading:

The Early Church on Killing

Edited by Ronald J. Sider

Read it, pray about it, and than act!

And as Gandhi put it, “be the change you want to see.” What might you do today to move in that direction? Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Fr. River Sims, D.S. T., D.Min.

The Host

August 15, 2016


LUKE 1:39-56

Mary was a fourteen or fifteen year old girl, she could have seen herself as a victim, but instead trusted in God and transformed history in her person.

This is being written and shared because of some recent events that have brought me back into my PTSD mode and meeting a minister of a denomination that removed him because of his sexuality, and he has lost his family, his way of life.  It brings back memories, and a reminder that the world we live in is not San Francisco–where despite all of her problems she is still the best and most open place to live.

The Host, that little wafer, in Greek means victim–Christ is the victim who enters our body in Communion and comforts as the One in triumph, as the Victor.

People often asked me, “Why do you do what you do?”  And I give an answer, but the reality is that because of my own experience God called me to this ministry–a call that if I did not answer would leave my life without meaning.   I was a victim for most of my  life of homophobia. I can  not go back to high school reunions because of the hell I experience in being “different”, the thoughts of suicide, of depression, something which I could not express because to express my true feelings in that area of the country and at that time would have been certain rejection; the depression and thoughts of suicide I experienced in my fifteen years of ministry, for the same reason in the church. The six months of Gay reparative therapy given to me by my denomination–all a result of being a victim; I still have trouble sitting in the sanctuary of any church because of flashbacks, it was in my coming out that  God transformed my life.

It was in my four years on the street as a prostitute where I allowed my body to be  used, and I experienced abuse, and saw violence daily that I was transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into a new creature.

While a victim, I still made those choices, and I am fully responsible for my actions, it was only in slow process of coming out that transformation took place. Being a victim does not make one not responsible or is an excuse for harm done.  Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, he has  freed us from out guilt, but not our responsibility. When I hear confessions I tell the person that forgiveness is never truly complete until we accept responsibility for our actions.  We grow from our scars. I came back to ministry, to the priesthood only because of this call of God that would not let me go, a call to minister outside the gates. Ministry is not  a job, or a romantic dream for me, but it is that to which I have to do to find completeness in life.  It is never easy.

The scars do not go away, PTSD is a real part of  my life, but in the transformation of my life I find fulfillment in walking with the those who are experiencing what I have and do. It is in the healing of working with them that I find the resurrection.

People tell me all the time “you are different,” and it hurts, until I realize that I have always been different–I simply was in the closet, and it is fun, damn fun being “different”, and I urge people to come out of their various closets and acknowledge their differences because it is fun and changes the way one looks at life. One becomes “real” in coming out of the closet.

The Christ that I experience is the one who has been in the valley with me and led me to the banquet, and one aspect of that banquet is to give myself away.   In the words of Margery Williams from The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Wasn’t I real before? asked the little Rabbit. You were Real to the Boy” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be real to everyone.”

That is the call of Christ to all of us–to give ourselves away–to be real to everyone!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www, temenos.org


Fr. River Damien Sims, D.S.T., D.Min. candidate

Fire of Life

August 14, 2016

FIRE OF LIFE–Luke 12:49-53 “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing”.

Yesterday we attended the  farewell party for our friend Bishop Karen Oliveto, the new United Methodist Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Conference. She is the first out Lesbian Bishop in the United Methodist Church that is being torn about over the ordination of queers. The person who introduced her commented, that the “days ahead will not be easy because the fires are already burning.”

I was once told that my ministry would be like staring down at many trains coming at me at one time. In other words our ministry would be one of being a fire because our call is to stand as a tree bending in the storm.  That is Karen’s ministry. Many will like her, many will not, most want care,  but she will stand alone. So it is with me I stand alone for the most part.

For us our  theology is summed up in the words of Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, your mind, and your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, ” and Romans 5:1-11.  At the heart of our theology is that in  being justified by faith we are children of God, and we do not judge but we love our fellow creatures.  Regardless of race, creed, religious affiliation, sexual orientation we are all children of God. When we treat people with love, we serve God, whatever face God takes for us.


Life is unsettled, we are always going to struggle, and in that struggle we find life, and in finding life we move into the reign of God. We are pilgrims on the way. But in that unsettleness and struggle we can do so in love.

Someone said last night that “people talk about you a lot, actually they gossip,” and my response was: “Talk is like thunder, loud and formless.” it is the actions that matter, and so it is in the actions of loving our neighbor that we find God.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Fr. River Sims, D.S.T., D.Min. candidate

Continuously Come to Me

August 13, 2016


EZEK. 18:1-10; 13B, 30-32,  Matt. 19: 13-15

Fr. Greg Boyle at his ministry Homeboy’s tells young men and women who have trouble living with their past  to see that God already accepts them as God’s own, even when they can not forgive themselves.

Last night forty five year old “G” came to my door drunk wanting a pair of socks, his code word for that he wanted to talk.  He was crying about being a failure, on the street since he was 16, and always drinking, using drugs. He said, “I am no good for nobody.” He talked of his relationship to God, and of being “saved”, and I pointed out to him that sometimes all we can do is take the good we do in the moment, as a sign, and that God’s grace is so awesome that we are forgiven.  Forgiveness comes with the price of Christ’s blood, not with what we do.None of us  have to earn his or way into God’s love, that is the gift.  We do what we can in response.

In the end  what matters is God’s grace, we have been bought with the price of Christ’s blood, we have been redeemed, freely, and generously. In coming to understand that we will give our lives away for Christ.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Fr. River Damien Sims, D.S.T., D.Min. candidate


We All Belong

August 11, 2016

Today through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, it is easy to make judgments and express our opinions without thinking of the other person.  We do not have to look them in their face and see the pain our comments cause. Social media presents each us as we are–and that means we are all different. The question this raises is to whom do we belong?

Br. James Koester presents a message to us about belonging in this comment:

“I don’t know about you, but this is a question I reflect on a great deal in one way or another: to whom do I belong? Where do I belong? What does it mean to belong? Whose am I? This, in a sense,, was the question posed to Jesus and His answer, though ambiguous was clear.  We may have responsibilities to Caesar, but we belong to God.”

We belong to God and to  each other. As we face the question of the vote on the death penalty that is the question that we raise–to whom do we belong?  And the message we find in Jesus is the Cross–where he made all things new, where the law is summed up in him, “You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength and your neighbor as yourself?”

We all belong together!






Finding Happiness In Making Others Happy

August 10, 2016


St. Mary MacKillop gives a good philosophy of life in her statement when someone asked her what made her happy:  “Find happiness in making others happy.”

St. Mary gives a good summary of the solution to our social problems–and for what will make us happy–we can find happiness, satisfaction in helping others be happy.  By centering ourselves on the person in front of us without regard to expectations and giving of what we have so that they might be taken care of we can let go of our own fears, and on discontentment, and know that there is enough for all.

When we seek the happiness of another we do not see mental illness, race, creed, social standing, sexual orientation or any of the “isms” we see the beauty of the other person.

Jesus calls us to go after the one who is lost, to become children, wide eyed,without looking at the status quo or our fears of people. He calls us to become like children “ignored” not using our titles, status, for praise and self gratification.

We find happiness when we stop seeing people as numbers, as those who have to fit in to a certain category for help, but as human beings on a journey, struggling where they are, and that is where we meet them.

People often asked me: “What make you happy?”  What makes me happy is the joy of talking to a person, listening, feeding people who have little, taking them to the hospital, sitting with them.  What makes me happy is simply making others happy.  For when we make people happy they make the changes that they can make in their lives.

There are no black and white answers, when people asked “how did you know you wanted to be a priest?”, all I know it was that  “still small voice” that spoke to me when I was 12–I simply followed,  no black and white answers, what makes me happy is not black and white, not scientific. There are no guarantees with people, there are no guarantees in life, only in the words of Sr. Mary: “Find happiness in making others happy.” This afternoon “J” stopped by for some food, and some socks. He is 45, and I have known him since he was 23. He was a sex worker at that time, and a heavy speed user. He continues to use, but he has tried program after program and stops for awhile, than returns to using,   and so now he talks about the part time job he gets occasionally  and how much he makes  pan handling. and always asked me for a loan, “until  I get it together.” J always gives me the warmest of smiles, and he is happy in the moment, and he moves on to try again.  And I am happy as well. St. Mary guides me for I find “happiness in making others happy,”  Try it!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


http://www.temenos. org

The Steep Ground of Truth

August 6, 2016


Luke 9:28-26

At the Feast of the Transfiguration Jesus ultimately stood alone as the fulfillment of the Law.  He fulfills the Law in love–all else fell aside.

The Transfiguration is symbolic of transfiguration’s within our lives.  It is ultimately about relationships where we are treated to little glimpses of of one another’s souls and come away awed by the sheer luminosity of the experience. Many years ago we met Dr. James Kennedy through correspondence and he touched our soul; He was the grace of God to us in a time when we needed to find that grace. A young sixteen year old  who has been working with us all summer sent us an email thanking us for a  “hell of a fun summer, and I think I can believe in the Jesus you talk about, he’s fun;” in all of our guys on the street we encounter that luminosity. 

Transfiguration comes when we open ourselves to God’s love, to being willing to change, and to love people for who they are, not from our own expectation.

It has been seventy one years since the first atomic bomb was let go on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Destruction unknown was let go, and now terrorizes the world. Innocent people, victims of their own government as well as ours suffered much. In remembering them we should open ourselves to let God’s love transfigure our lives into lives that give life, that work for peace, justice, and equality for all.  Let’s accept our differences as God’s gifts, and give praise for that creation. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, Ca 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims, Director, D.S.T., D.Min. Candidate


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