Archive for August, 2015

Peniel September 2015

August 31, 2015

September Newsletter
Lent, 2007;
“Where Jacob Wrestled with God” Father River Damien Sims M.Div., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656,
San Francisco, CA 94164

Telephone: 415-305-2124

On October 10, 2015, at 6 p.m., Sr. Helen Prejean will be speaking at the Philip Workman Interfaith Service. Sr. Helen is renowned for her writing, and her advocacy against the death penalty. What is often overlooked is that Sr. Helen is always working as a pastor with a number of death row inmates. She walks with them on their journeys to death; she is their pastor. Her webpage is: where you can read of her journey.
Sr. Helen’s challenge to us is to see beyond the glamour of her role and to follow her in working against the death penalty-to get our hands dirty. That means speaking out in a loud voice through letters to our Governor, President, State and Congressional Representatives to eliminate the death penalty. We have been told that when one of our political leaders receives fifty letters or emails they pay attention—write one a week, hound them with your letters and emails. It means marching, demonstrating, and being visible advocates..
There are three reasons we are personally against the death penalty:
First, the law of the Old Testament read in light of the Gospel is expressed by Jesus on the eve of his own execution: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). Love does not mean you have to like someone, it means you respect their humanity even if they do not respect yours, and let God work in their lives.
Secondly, we should meet “each crime with justice; but each life mercy.” Each of us is made in God’ image, and we can grow and change. Personally, we have seen lives change in prison; we have seen people suffer far more than if they were put to death through living with the pain and punishment. One young man I know in Minnesota , struggling with his sexuality, murdered another man he was sleeping with. He was 18, and in the 20 years he has been in prison, Jack has grown as a human being, he has helped a lot of young men struggling with their sexuality, and he suffers much from his act. We are not God, we do not have the right to decide life or death, for when we do, we become “gods”, taking the authority of God, and we destroy our own humanity.
Finally our judicial system is imperfect and it mistakenly kills innocent people, and we cannot change humanities imperfection—and one life wrongly taken is one life too many.
We find our own humanness in our respect for life. “Each crime should be met with justice, but each life with mercy. “ Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 PHILIP WORKMAN INTERFAITH EVENT with Sister Helen Prejean

3:00 p.m. Service and Giving out of Pizza at Haight and Stanyan

6:00 p.m. Philip Workman Interfaith Service of Worship “Against the Death Penalty” at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1755 Clay Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

7:30 P.M. Reception and Book Signing

$100.00 Suggested Donation at door. It includes book Dead Man Walking, signed by Sr. Helen

Light Hors D ’Oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages will be served

We asked your help in providing food, harm reduction supplies, pastoral care, and socks to nearly 1500 people each month. We live simply, we beg, and we trust in your God!
You may send a checks to:
Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 9416

Or make donations through PayPal on

If you would like to donate to the Helen Prejean Event or would like an autographed book than designate on your check. All gifts are tax deductible.


Join Us On Wednesday at Noon


Earl Warren Court House

McAllister and Polk (350 McAllister)

Prayer Vigil


Witnessing Against the Death Penalty


NOON-1:00 P.M.


Price is $60.00

Contact Fr. River at

Transformed by the Streets

August 31, 2015

August 31, Luke 4:26-30 “Transformed By The Streets” St. Aidan

The question I raise about why people chose not to believe Jesus is because if they believed him what might they be forced to change and than to do in their lives?  Many years ago I was forced to change my lifestyle and the result is the way I live my life now.

As I read for the third day in a row articles on homelessness ,  I thought of my time on the street, three and a half years in L.A. The difference is I lived in the Motel 6 and employed myself by being a prostitute , but I still lived on the street and did participated in the street economy and I remember a saying I keep on my desk by TaNehsi Coates:

“The streets transform every ordinary day into a series of trick questions and every incorrect answer risks a beat down, shooting, or a pregnancy. None survive unscathed.”

I have not survived “unscathed.” One of the reasons I stay so close to the streets and to the people I serve is I feel safe, for I  know what I am dealing with.  I can move in and out of the various worlds of culture in the Bay Area, but I do not feel  totally comfortable. I feel comfortable on the streets.

So imagine if you were mentally ill, drug addicted, never been able to find a job, or whatever the reason and you have lived on the streets for years,  how you would feel, and think and react.  Imagine if you had nothing, but the clothes on your back,  and you are threatened to be pushed around and even moved out of the area you feel most comfortable in,  how you would feel?

I now choose to live simply, to stay close to the streets, Christ used my experience to call me to this ministry, and for that I am extremely grateful to him, but the reality is I would never have been comfortable in the “other life”, and I understand the fear, the distrust, that people who are homeless feel towards those in authority–to this day I trust no one in authority–that is why I do ministry the way I do. So what I am asking is put yourself in their shoes?  Seek to understand. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Honoring our natural place in the web of life by eating the foods intended for us will plant seeds of abundance, love, and freedom, whatever our religion may be. Our prayers for peace will bear fruit when we are living the prayer for peace and, most importantly, when we offer peace to those who are at our mercy and who also long for peace and the freedom to live their lives and fulfill their purposes. Dr. Will Tuttle

The Echo of Hope

August 30, 2015

August 30, “The Echo of Hope” James 1: 18-27

“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God, the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the Godless world”

This past week there has been three articles in the Chronicle regarding the homeless–all very negative. James reminds us that real religion is in how we treat other people in particular the homeless and those who are “loveless in their plight.” Dietrict Bonhoeffer once said: “We too can pray these Psalms through Jesus Christ from the heart of Jesus Christ.”  For me that interpretation is that we can read the Scriptures from the heart of Christ, whose greatest commandment is “To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, thy strength and thy might, and thy neighbor as thyself.”

When you strip every thing down to the nitty gritty it comes simply to caring about your neighbor, and in doing so the rest will take care of itself.  Today I talked to James, who is  in his fifties, and he talked of wild stuff he believed in, and I listened, and gave him some food– all that matters is love.

In I Corinthians 13: 13:  Paul tells us: “But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation. Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of these is love.”Deo Gratias! Thanks Be To God!

Our Innermost Prisons

August 28, 2015

August 29, “Our Innermost Prisons”  Mark 6:17-29

John was imprisoned, but he was freer than any one else because he speaks his mind and truth; when we look at the outward appearances of people we imprison our selves. Frankly in our self-imprisonment of knowing what is exactly right we smother ourselves.

For example I have received several negative comments about the photo I  placed on Facebook–my guy is not Christlike because he has a sign asking for money for beer, and he should not be asking for money for beer if he is broke and homeless.

First of all I know this guy, he is the kindest, most generous person I know, he is like the widow who gives her mite; he has walked with friends who are sick and dying; when I was sick he came to Polk from the Haight bringing me a vegan meal. He is the broken body of Christ and he lives out his faith in giving to others.

Frankly he is simply being honest, and who can deny someone a beer if they want a beer? Frankly I hate beer, but than I am the weird one. I am reminded of the story of Dorothy Day being given a large diamond ring, and a homeless woman came into her soup kitchen beaten up and Dorothy gave her the diamond because she felt she needed it to brighten her day.  Stupid! Depends on what perspective you look at it from.  After reading the replies my friend is going to get a beer tonight because I am going to buy him one.

But regardless I see Christ in the people who have tried to kill me, who have hurt me. I saw the face of Christ in the well dressed man who cussed me out when I as walking the Peace Vigil Against the Death Penalty on Wednesday. Christ is broken in all of us and we are called to love him. That is what is going on now around the homeless–people separate themselves from their humanity–and what happens we sit in judgment. And in that process we hurt others.

We judge in the most rigid ways. I laugh, in fact I enjoy it when people asked me if I am a priest because for example I was wearing a bright pair of Afghcan pants with my green clerical shirt the other day and the comments I received from the self-righteous, middle to upper middle class folk–“how can you be a real priest,” and I simply laughed for in their negativeness I saw humor and I saw a witness that I was giving about being clergy and being human.  We identify priests with wearing all black, we identify priests with simply working in a church. A friend of mind works in an environmental agency as a priest and people tell him all the time that he is not a “real” priest” because he does not work in a church.  

We limit ourselves by our quick judgments, we wall ourselves off from other people.  Let us be open, not be so fast to judge, and see Christ in all creatures.  Let us free ourselves from our inner prisons, let us be free to love, to give, to be open to others.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Let the Sand Run Behind You

August 28, 2015

August 28, “Let Your Sand Run Behind You” I Thess. 4:1-8; Matt. 25:1-13  St. Moses the Black

Today as I read C.W. Nevius’ article in the Chronicle, “Lee’s Homeless Plan is A Breath of Fresh Air”, I was dismayed at the uncaring attitude that is permeating the City’s government and other segments of life.  Let’s cleanse the City, let’s make it nice. This is a form of “ethnic cleansing.” Let’s forget it is our fault for not paying for the the services needed for people to have adequate mental health care, drug treatment and housing.

I thought of St. Moses the Black when he was called in to make a recommendation of for punishment of a fellow month when he said: “My sins run out behind mjudge the errors of another.e and I do not see them, but today I am coming to ” In other words he is aware of his own faults when he places judgement on another therefore he will judge with compassion. It is because we see our own sins, sins of failure to provide for the needs of others.  that this attitude is developing . I heard the words of Dietrict Bonhoffer who wrote: “the church has an unconditional obligation to victims of any ordering of society.” We have an obligation to people who are victims of poverty, drug use, and mental illness. We should turn our frustration to the national, state and local government to have them fund the services.  And face the reality that we live in a City where it is really expensive to live, and look at our fault in that as well..  What I have read the past few days is our inhumanity to our fellow human beings.

People on the street are terrified. One man who has lived here all of his life, and on the street for ten years because of mental illness talked of suicide today for fear he is being driven out with no where to go.  The reality is the power of words wield life and death; the power of threat wield life and death.  We are not talking about “things” but fragile human beings.

Each of us should write the Mayor, our Supervisor, our Senator, our Congress person, our State leaders and protest this attitude.  And write the Chronicle, hound them with letters,  emails and phone calls. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Living in the Mystery

August 27, 2015

August 25,” Living in the Mystery”  Psalm 90

“Teach us to number our days so we can have a wise heart.”(90:12)

Twenty years ago I was such a wise ass, I thought I knew everything, and the reality I still know nothing.  Instead I follow the advice of Maria Rilke to “live the questions,”  to live in the mystery.

Tonight I talked to, and fed around 60 people on Polk, all older, and I have known many of them for twenty years. One was a young guy around 20 selling drugs.  He followed me and said, “You are the most different priest I have ever met, you don’t judge me for selling, using, prostituting.” And for me that was compliment–for you see I live out the questions–the questions of why he has never had the chance to make other choices, of why we live in a City where it costs so much to live,  to live in a time when money is the god that is worshiped. There is no judgment because I have been where he is and have done the same thing. All of us have committed sin, in one way or another and have no right to judge another.

Two things I have learned is to not judge, to live in the mystery of life, to love people for who they are and to let God do the rest. We live East of Eden–we live in the imperfect world.

Secondly, using the words of Dr. Will Tuttle:
“Many spiritual teachers have pointed out that when we harm others, we harm ourselves even more severely. The hard-heartedness of the killer and exploiter is in itself a terrible punishment because it is a loss of sensitivity to the beauty and sacredness of life. That loss may go unrecognized, but the life itself, armored, violent, and competitive, is lived as a struggle of separateness and underlying fear, and its relations with others are poisoned.” 

We harm others in our judgment, severely, we cripple them for life in our judgment.  We harm others in our holding on to what we have rather than sharing,  Living in the mystery is living in the love of Jesus of Nazareth who calls us to care for one another, and that is all. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“You Have Searched Me”

August 26, 2015

August 26    “You Have Searched Me and Known Me” Ps 139

Today as I moved on the Haight with food, a woman stopped me and said, “I have watched you for a long time, and am astonished at how gently you speak to those rough kids and they respond to you like  loving kids.”

I have had people try to figure out the “mystery” of me, and a part of that mystery is how I talk to people without my guard up.  Through the years I have come to know myself, and know that I am just like those kids; I am just like the sex workers–I am a flawed human being who will close my eyes in death and be equal with every one. In knowing yourself you become real to people.

Tonight my heart is filled with sadness, anger, and frankly trying to understand the mystery of the human rights I see violated in the proposed plans of this Mayoral administration to drive the homeless out of down town, and even push them out of the City. My heart is filled with sadness that no one seems to care, especially in the community of faith based people.

You see these “homeless” people (that is with sarcasm) are simply human beings who have problems that have placed them where they are or people who choose to live their lives in this way. And in this City of $3000.00 apartments–more of us will be homeless. David, Zeke, Amanda, my guys on the Haight are simply human beings, who deserve the same love, and respect that everyone deserves. 

When I answer their calls at 4 in the morning, take them to the hospital, listen to their latest romance story, I am simply hanging with loving people. 

To have the comments made by the Mayor  like those reported today sounds like a dictator pushing around his people,and that is absolutely wrong. My question to any one who listens is what are you going to do about it–ie letters, advocacy etc.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

When we uproot exclusion and domination from our plates, seeds of compassion can finally freely blossom, and this process depends primarily on us watering the seeds and fully contributing our unique journey. We depend on each other, and as we free the beings we call animals, we will regain our freedom. Loving them, we will learn to love each other and be fully loved. Dr. Will Tuttle

The Sum of All Love

August 25, 2015

I Thess. : 2:1-8  The Sum of All the Love 

“We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much.” I Thess. 2:1-8

The reign of God is not love of the world, but love of people. Today on Facebook there was an article in which the Mayor plainly said that with the Superbowl coming that homeless people would have to clear out of the down town area.  There was an article in the paper about homeless people using the bath room on the streets–it cost’s me $2.00 for ice tea when I have to go to the restroom-when I am working in the Haight –I am glad I have the money.

At the heart of this rhetoric there is the message of greed;  of the dislike for people who are different than we are; the lack of understanding of mental illness and drug abuse; the lack of the understanding that we all play a role in the lives of others and are responsible for each other.

Around my neck I wear an emblem of the three religions that have developed out of the Hebrew tradition: Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. At the heart of all three we are told to love our neighbor.

People are not easy to love, they are fucking hard to love.  When someone spits on you as was done to me the other night, when someone stabs you as has been done to me or shoots at you it is hard to love your neighbor, to have faith in humanity, but I know that if God can love me, so can I love my neighbor and I know that that day will come when we will have to look God in the eye and God will not asked us how much money we have made, how much prestige we obtained, how nice an apartment or house we have– but very directly “How much have you loved your brother and sister and what have you done for them?” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Within us lie seeds of awakening and compassion that may be already sprouting. Our individual journeys of transformation and spiritual evolution call us to question who and what we’ve been told we and others are, to discover and cultivate the seeds of insight and clarity within us, and to realize the connections we’ve been taught to ignore.

As we do this and as our web of journeys interweaves within our culture, cross-fertilizing and planting seeds, we can continue the transformation that is now well underway, and transcend the obsolete old paradigm that generates cycles of violence. Dr. Will Tuttle

Help Homeless

August 24, 2015

HELPING THE HOMELESS BY NOT STEPPING AROUND-article in San Francisco Chronicle by Heather Knight

This article is sharing what I believe is the general attitude about homelessness in the City–a lack of empathy and a lack of approach by leaders in regard to the situation.  It fails to look at several of the reasons that homelessness is so not getting any better and probably in fact growing.

First the rental units, a one bed room in certain areas of the City are $3000.00.  The greed of land lords and the lack of housing has increased the problem. Rent control needs to be looked at for all housing.

Secondly the failure of political leaders on all levels–national, state, and local to address the problem. We need treatment centers, affordable housing, mental health centers where people can live and receive medication. With group homes and adequate mental health care many of our homeless would be off the streets.   Our leaders have failed to look at the over all problem which are  growing nationally.

Thirdly, people in general are apathetic. They do not voice their opinion to their leaders, they do not feed people, treat them with decency, and basically turn their heads and walk the other way. We all must be willing to give up some of what we have so that others may have. This is the core of the matter.

Fourth faith groups, and other homeless advocacy groups turn a blind eye to the political situation, they turn a blind eye to the need in front of them. We need to look at how we budget our money, we need to look at how we interact with people who are homeless, we need to be willing to give of ourselves. As a priest I have been told that when I preach my sermons are “too tough”. As I look at them I simply am calling people to “feed the hungry, give the thirsty water, welcome the stranger, give the naked clothes, visit the prisoner, visit those in jail, give the drug user a clean needle.”  To me that is not hard, that is what we are called to do as Christians, and as followers of any faith tradition.
Frankly what scares me, really scares me personally about this article is the apathy that it shows in all areas of the City, and I fear in this country as well.  We need to be concerned, we need to fight with all that we have so that others might have.. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Walking With Jesus

August 23, 2015

August 23  “Walking With Jesus” Josh. 24:1-18;  John 6:60-69

“We believe and know that you are God’s holy one? John 6:68.

In both Joshua and John we are called to follow the One God.  We can use those verses to exclusivity say we are to worship the Jewish God, rather than see them as one expression of worshiping the One God who is revealed in many ways: as Buddha. Mohamed, as a Hindu, and so on.  In knowing Jesus as the way I have come to know the God who calls us to love one another, that is the heart of God.

Scott Adams says that we should “remember there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”  One young man came up to me recently to thank me for “saving his life,”, and I looked at him with a questioned look, and he said: “One night my mother and brother had been killed the day before and I was walking down the street and ran into you and you bought me something to eat, and we talked, really about nothing, but you showed me you cared, and that was enough, I decided not to take my life.”  Our acts of kindness flow.  I am asked how I know what to say to people–the answer is always I talk to everyone the same, for we are all human beings on the journey.

That is why it is important follow the advice of Dolores Huerta

“Giving kids clothes and food is one thing, but it’s much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people.” Service of people is simply being present to others.

For me God comes in the form of love, I encounter the greatest of all love in the face of Jesus of Nazareth, but to other people God comes in other ways, and we should respect that. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

We have all been born into a herding culture that commodifies animals, and we have all been affected by the cruelty, violence, and predatory competitiveness that our meals require and that our culture embodies.

We’ve also been taught to be loyal to our culture and relatively uncritical of it, to disconnect from the monumental horror we needlessly perpetuate, and to be oblivious to the disastrous effects this has on every level of our shared and private lives.
Dr. Will Tuttle