Archive for September, 2015

Sr. Helen Prejean

September 30, 2015

Sr. Helen Prejean, Speaking

Philip Workman Interfaith Service


Saturday, October 10, 2015

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

1755 Clay Street

San Francisco, CA 94109


6:00 p.m.

Followed by Reception


Available for Interview by Press at 5:00 p.m. Stanyan and Haight-Golden Gate Park—October 9, 2015

Contact Fr. River Damien Sims





September 30  Richard Glossip—Oklahoma


October 1—Alfredo Prieto—Virginia


October 6: Juan Garcia—Texas


October 7: Benjamin Cole–OklahomaPhoto of Helen Prejean

Never Look Back

September 30, 2015


lUKE 9: 57-62

This morning as I read the Gospel my mind carries me back along time ago as a seventeen year old boy to my dad’s store, and I am telling Lucy, an aged, bent over black lady, who was my nanny when I was little, that I was being assigned a church that June. I had just finished my License to Preach, my parents were ill, and I was going to school.  She smiled, that warm, loving smile, the smile that had loved me through the years and said to me: “Mr. River, remember what Jesus says: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”   –“No matter how tough it gets–never, never look back.”

I remembered her words, her face, when I was thrown out of the church, and was in prostitution, and I came back, and found a way to do ministry. I remember those words now when I am faced with all that goes with ministry–I never, never look back, but keep my hand to the plow. And in my times of many doubts and wanting to give up the old Negro spiritual she gave me bring me tears and brings me hope:

“Done made my vow to the Lord,

And I never will look back,

I will go, I shall go

To see what the end will be.

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,

See what the end will be,

But still mys soul is heave’nly bound,

See what the end will be.

I was once told that ministry should become my “job”–because that way it would be less painful–I could walk away if I chose–but ministry has always been, and always will be my vocation–it is in the sinews of my very being–there is no walking away. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The Angel of Death

September 29, 2015

Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael “The Angel of Death” Rev. 12:7-12; John 1:47-51

“The poor are blessed, Jesus says, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We are likewise blessed, when the circumstances of life compel us to recognize our poverty and need and turn to put our whole trust in God.”

-Br. David Vryhof

This morning I feel the Angel of Death  around me. Today Kelly Gissendaner and tomorrow Richard Glossip are scheduled to be executed. Both are human beings who whether innocent or guilty do not deserve death.

Since the first day in my life when I first could remember,  I can remember the one theme I have heard from people is that “my generation will do it better,”  and I have come to hate being labeled by “my generation”, for as I evolve I grow.  Our “generation” becomes our “tribe” where we are stuck. And we are stuck in a  “generation” that from the beginning of time has justified  death, and revenge.  We see it in our attitudes towards war, the death penalty, poverty and homelessness.

In the group I attend for PTSD there are young men,  fresh out of the war suffering far more than I ever will,  for the sins of our attitudes towards war.  From the murder of Cain, which was done in a simplistic manner we have evolved to our instruments of war that can destroy the earth with the push of a button; from the beauty of the Garden of Eden we have stripped this earth of its beauty to the point we are dealing with extinct species and climate change; and those primitive acts are best expressed in our “humane” executions  (sarcasm) of people. Each day of my life I feed people who have very little food; last night I saw a homeless young man being spat upon by a well dressed person–this is a form of death.

We need to look at our poverty of spirit that allows us to justify vengeance through executions–and we justify whether or not we believe in the death penalty when we ignore what is going on around us; we justify war when we pay our taxes that allows for war in whatever form to be waged–we all have the blood of people on our hands.

We need to look at our own poverty of spirit and totally trust in God, and look at the evolution of this God from the tribal God of the past to the God who evolves in Jesus of Nazareth,  the God of ultimate love, the God who walks to the cross and rises from the dead with the message that we are loved, that we all have a chance to change and grow and mature.

Today and tomorrow I fast for the two scheduled for executions, I fast to let the my limited emptiness remind me of the nearness of the Angel of Death; I fast to remind me of my responsibility in their executions; I fast that the two scheduled to die may know they are not alone; I fast in repentance, and I fast in the hope when the desire to kill others–in any manner–through the death penalty–or through lack of housing, of war,  medical care, and lack of food is no more and we “have conquered. . by the blood of Lamb.”  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O.Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Giving Our lives Away

September 27, 2015

“Giving Our Lives Away”

Today I made a hospital call and went by the Folsom Street Fair. I was wearing clerical s.  A friend who runs a small organization has a small booth where he has people peddal–with a leather peddal- another person for a fee. He said, “River with your collar I can make some money, will you give me fifteen minutes.” He sent a helper out and a lot of people came. As they flung the leather whip at me so much anger came out and the comments towards the clergy and the church. The whip was one where I would not be hurt, and I played the role, but the comments were painful. There was so much anger.

This is a symptom of the anger that is within all of us. It comes out on the homeless, on people of color, on any one in authority.  It is symptom of the major distrust of the universal Church. Our actions hurt and really destroy people.  We are all tainted.  We are always asking people to do for us–come to church; attend this meeting; attend this service–rather than asking them what can we do for them without any expectation in return.

The secret to any change is found in Susan Cain’s quote: “The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.” 

Richard Glossip is scheduled to be executed Wednesday; pray for him, and write the Governor, but pray for him.

In 17 days Sr. Helen is coming to speak–Come and hear her–receive her message–and leave with your life changed in order to end the death penalty. Come and receive in order to go out and give.


Philip Workman Interfaith Service

Saturday, October 10, 2015

6:00 p.m.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

1755 Clay Street

San Francisco, CA 94109

(3:00 p.m. Giving Out of Pizza, Service of Holy Communion/Haight and Stanyan )

For more information:

Fr. River Damien Sims–415-305-2124

“The Universal Act of Kindness”

September 27, 2015

“The Universal Longing of Kindness Mark 9:28-38

“I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.”

Susan Cain says to us: “The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which every one is always kind.”

That too me is the heart of the Gospel–being kind to one another. There is no kindness in our comments on Facebook, no kindness in walking past a person who is hungry on the street. No kindness in being “too busy to talk to someone.”

One night, a young guy introduced me to a new young man who had just come to the Haight, and he said to him, “Don’t mistake his kindness for weakness.” I felt that was the greatest introduction I could receive–for kindness is not being run over or being weak, it is looking a person in the eye, holding their hand, giving them a cup of cold water, taking their phone call and listening, being present with them even when we do not feel like it. Kindness is about moving out of our own shell to be with another. Kindness is about loving the other–without judgment.

Another aspect of kindness is forgiveness: Confucius once said: “Those who can not forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must cross.” Forgiveness is a freeing action for us. If I held a grudge for every insult, every physical act against me I would have been dead from a heart attack years ago. Forgiveness frees us as well as the other. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

VegInspiration Jesus’ message was intolerably radical, for it was the revolutionary vegan message of mercy and love for all creatures that strikes directly at the mentality of domination and exclusion that underlies both the herding culture we live in today and the culture of Jesus’ time. Dr. Will Tuttle
Temenos Catholic Worker​
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

Being Displaced

September 26, 2015

Blessed Paul VI
Luke 9:43-45
“While everyone was marveling at everything he was dong, Jesus said to his disciples, “Take these words to heart; the Human One is about to be delivered into human hands.”
Many of the homeless youth in the Haight have been told by police that there time is coming, when they will no longer be welcome in the City; it is strange to have homeless individuals feeling displaced—they have nothing and displaced from where—they have no homes. The tenor of the City has changed, the population has changed and the needs are increasing. There is a family making $75,000. 00 a year living in a tent in the Park because they were evicted.
I think of the refugees from Syria and the Middle East and they feel like they are not welcome anywhere; I think of the Muslim kid last night who told me of being beaten up because of his faith.
And I think of Jake in the photo, showing me the skateboard I bought him, he is working a job, living in a SRO, making it. That is the way most people start out, and in this City is almost impossible. We as people of faith need to open our eyes, and our hearts and start figuring out how this can be done. For in not doing anything we are “delivering the Human One into human hands.”
If someone can do nothing but write emails and letters to their Mayor,
State officials and Federal officials and protest—that is absolutely fabulous because when these officials start getting correspondence—in their vote ridden minds—they think of their future, and that is where change takes place. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
The vegan ideals of mercy and justice for animals have been articulated for centuries, often from within the religious establishment, and it is fascinating and instructive to see how these voices have been almost completely silenced or marginalized by the herding culture. It seems to be an unconscious reflex action. For example, if we read Jesus’ teachings, we find a passionate exhortation to mercy and love, yet the possibility that the historical Jesus may have been a vegan is a radical idea for most Christians. Dr. Will Tuttle

Temenos Catholic Worker
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164


September 25, 2015



By Mayo Clinic Staff

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.

Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.

PTSD-POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER is not a condition one gets over. It is a part of one’s life.

In my own life I have been stabbed, beaten, shot at, threatened, and raped—I have been diagnosed with PTSD.  It is a condition I work at through therapy and my own personal reflection. I have difficulty when people want to hug me, there are times I have flash backs, there are days I simply just have to shut the door and be alone. I look at it as a part of a life well-lived, a piece of wood that has been broken but is healing into beautiful scars. It is a  hell, which  enables me to be compassionate and walk with people in pain and those  who have PTSD in a way I could never have done before. It is not something one is “cured” of, or it can not be just “fixed”.

Many people who live on the street, and those newly forced onto  the street because of economic conditions, and face and  experience physical danger daily, have been brutalized by the social system, and the police, develop PTSD or have symptoms. Many now who have been on the street for years receive disability benefits because of the PTSD they have experienced on the streets.

I am writing this because I have received a number of emails asking me about PTSD, and also the recent political statements against homelessness effect the symptoms of PTSD among the homeless and there is no sense of understanding it within the government. All is black and white. Being homeless, being on the streets—is a situation that scars a person for life.

In my own life I have excellent health insurance thus providing treatment, for most they have no treatment.  I also am not afraid to admit the problem,  I am also open about my needs, others are fearful.  What I hope this does is to open people’s hearts to me more compassionate understanding.

Temenos Catholic Worker

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Who Do You Say That I Am?

September 25, 2015

St. Therese Couderc  “Who Do You Say That I Am? Luke 9:18-22

“Who do you say that I am?” is the question Jesus asks all of us, and how we answer determines the shape of our lives. Last night I as I wandered the Haight I was asked by one lady to pray and anoint her; another asked for Communion; and the rest simply wanted socks and food and to talk.  We talk about the most mundane things, and in that talking the Word becomes flesh;  my parish is the streets, and that is one of my responses to the question: “Who do you say that I am?”

I have received several death threats this week concerning the Anti-Death Penalty event, it unnerves me, but that is another way I answer the question, “Who do you say that I am?”;

I have a priest in Portland whose son has received a poor health diagnosis and I am flying up there this week to see him–again that is another way I answer the question of “Who do you say that I am?”

I have people who joke with me or simply can not understand my refusal to eat meat, but for me all life is sacred; “The Buddha says in the Mahaparinirvana-sutra, “Eating meat destroys the attitude of great compassion.” The ninth-century Islamic Sufi saint Misri says, “Never think of anyone as inferior to you. Open the inner Eye and you will see the One Glory shining in all creatures.” That is another way of of answering the question for me of “Who do you say that I am?”

The point I am trying to so poorly make is each of us is called to answer that question, “Who do you say that I am?’ There is really no right or wrong answer, but we all are presented with the question. And how we answer it determines the shape of our lives.  So listen to the Christ and think of how you respond to his question of “Who Do you say that I am?

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“Who Is This?”

September 24, 2015

Raoul Wallenberg   Luke 9:7-9  “Who Is This?

Herod was confused about what what was happening around him.  If John had been raised from the dead for example. Confusion over him.

Last night I baptized a young guy who sees God as both Jesus and Buddha, and as we talked he saw the best of both persons expressed in the one God. I am saturated with the Anglican tradition, and as this quote summarizes the way I interpret the authority of Scriptures. It has gotten me through years of doubt, and questioning of my sexuality and questioning of my call.


“The Anglican tradition is to revere the Scriptures, but to understand that they must be both interpreted and viewed alongside the other ways of God’s revelation – to understand authority as a graceful synergy between Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

-Br. Curtis Almquist”

That synergy has been life giving.  As I look at ministry I think of Raoul Wallenberg,  a Swedish citizen who saved a 100,000 Jews during World War II, He said: “I will never be able to go back to Sweden without knowing inside myself that I’d done all a man could do to save as many Jews as possible.”  Ministry for me is walking with as many people as I can on the streets, providing, food, pastoral care. Last night as I laid my hands on the head of that young man, I felt complete in myself.

We spend to much time trying to figure out who Jesus is, who God is,if there is a God, and throw our lives away centered on our selves. We need to just get out of ourselves and like Wallenberg give our lives away–he ended up dying in the Soviet camps, but his life was fulfilled, and for me that is the ultimate goal of living.  It is not about money, a place to live, friends, or even respect it is about giving your life to God in others. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Rather than relying on science to validate veganism and our basic herbivore physiology, we may do better by calling attention to universal truths: animals are undeniably capable of suffering; our physical bodies are strongly affected by thoughts, feelings, and aspirations; and we cannot reap happiness for ourselves by sowing seeds of misery for others. Nor may we be free while unnaturally enslaving others.

We are all connected. These are knowings of the heart and veganism is, ultimately, a choice to listen to the wisdom in our heart as it opens to understanding the interconnectedness and essential unity of all life. Dr. Will Tuttle

Living on the Hyphen

September 23, 2015

Living on the Hyphen  Luke 9: 1-6

“Jesus called the Twelve together and he gave the power and authority over all demons and to heal sicknesses.  he sent them out to proclaim God’s reign to heal the sick.  He told them to “Take nothing for the journey–no walking stick, no bag, no bread, no money, not even an extra shirt.  . . .”

Through the past 21 years I have sought to live out this summons of Jesus, and the struggle I have had with it has bought me great pain and depression, but in the last six that  struggle has lifted, for I realize that ultimately that is what the call to ministry is about.

For me I “live on the hyphen”–in between so many worlds:priest-and the various worlds people live in–wealthy, upper middle class, and middle class, poor, and very poor; but the world in which I live and feel most comfortable is priest–homeless youth/prostitutes–for it was that world that I lived in nearly thirty years ago–then as homeless and sex worker- that shaped my life and to which I am called to serve. It is a world in which boundaries are fluid,  a world of danger at times.  It is best summarized in an event that happened last night. I was getting food out of my car, and “Jake” comes up on his bike, and says, “I have had a hell of a good day selling weed”,  and you need this for our socks, and handed me an envelope–with a hundred dollars in fives and ones. My history with Jake has been one of many roads. Last Spring I was sick, and he called me and told me he was really sick, and I found him and he was sick, and I took him to the hospital; because he had not filled out the papers he did not have the insurance he gets as an homeless guy, and the doctor says to me, “these feral kids always want a free place to sleep”, and I yelled “I am a feral grown up and I promise you if you do not admit him I will make trouble for you.”  Later as I sat in Jake’s room that night the doctor told me “you know I made a judgment that could have really hurt him, thanks,” and walked on.  So here was Jake giving back. For me my boundaries are not shaped by where you come from, who you are,but by the act of love, of providing an opening to people.  I have my judgments–god do I have my judgments–but I refrain of putting them to the best of my ability on others, to let them encounter God where God is.  To practice mercy we must over come human indifference, our judgments, and train our eyes to see God in all persons–especially those who are on the edge. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

It is the height of irony that eating a diet based on animal foods, which are complicated, wasteful, cruel, and expensive to produce, is seen as simple in our culture, and that eating a vegan diet based on plant foods, which are simple, efficient, inexpensive, and free of cruelty to produce, is seen as complicated and difficult. Nevertheless, the truth is slowly coming to light, and the pressures within the old paradigm are building as more of us refuse to see animals as objects to be eaten or used for our purposes. Dr. Will Campbell