Archive for May, 2016

Without Porfolio

May 30, 2016


The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Luke 9:11-17

Recently I was walking down the street and a young man grabbed me and hugged me, and as he did he wept.  All he was asking was to be loved, and not be alone. Without the personal touch==we simply become robots.

Several days before I moved to San Francisco, some 22 years ago, a prominent Lesbian journalist commented: “River you are going with out a portfolio.”  In other words I was starting a ministry without backing or financial support, out of the boundaries of the norm. We have developed a “portfolio” over the years, and yet we are still “without portfolio” because we walk with people as a friend, as an equal, without expectation, we walk with them in the moment.

We walk with people in light of the body and blood of Jesus that paid a price for us, that justified us by faith, and through that justification invites us to walk with others on their journey, and simply to feed them the food they need, when they asked for it without expectation of anything in return.

That comes out of my own experience of living  on the street-being pushed too and fro-by out reach workers, and other “professionals”  with all the right answers, being told by my Church I was “intrinsically evil” and removed from ministry and shunned; those years were painful, difficult,almost destroyed me, and shaped my life.  God used them as a means for our ministry to be one of meeting people in the moment, and walking with people where they are rather than from the capitalistic cultural approach of someone who”knows” what is right. As I chose my path I allow others to

choose theirs.

Recently I heard a professional label a person they were working with as “feral”–which means they are wild and can not be tamed,  and in talking with her she commented that she can see that I have a lot of feral characteristics.  I laughed and told her that I became feral on the streets-and that the rejection by the  established church made me a wild cat-I was a tame kitten in my early adult life, but the streets made me feral, and I am damn proud to take the label. Such labeling is from a perspective of power,of knowing what one thinks is right. When one is labeled “feral”, it means they can not be helped.  So I take the label proudly for the system   has never worked for me unless I have had an equal say in working with in it. For I believe we must work with people as equals.

My experience on the streets now continue to shape my life.  I provided food and socks to fifteen people last night who have been on Polk street, homeless and into drugs since the day I first stepped on the street. Not much as changed. I see young men and women in the Haight who simply want to travel, and do not want any other life. I remember a cousin when I was ten or so who would stop by, and my mom said he was a “hobo”, he had had a job, but  chose to leave it and live without housing and wandered the South.  He died in a “hobo” camp years later.

In the last few months I have kept my distance from my housed friends, or as a friend told me I seem to have a professional stance with them.  It is my problem–all mine–but each one wants to talk about the “homeless problem”, and they all have solutions, and it is talked about from a distant approach as a problem to be fixed. One of the difficulties is that at present their are really no solutions–rent is high, there is lack of housing, increase in homelessness through out the country. The majority are mentally ill, drug addicted, without access to treatment that is not available, and that is a reality, we have to look at individuals.
I get snappy, and angry, and hate myself for weeks afterward, because I truly love them, they are the only family I know now, but my face simply goes red when we talk about homelessness as a problem–without looking at the individuals who are affected.

I am not a a distance, but on the same level, I see their faces every day. These guys are not the “homeless problem” but individuals who are in pain, who are crying, afraid, and hopeless at times.

You see I walk with these people, I live with them, I nurse them, I care for them, I bury them.  I have treated their wounds, have had their vomit on me. I have been stabbed, and shot at, have gotten malaria in my work with them.  I see and touch their humanity, and see the very face of the broken Christ.  They are not “homeless” people to me, they are the ones’ to whose care I am called, I am their friend, their pastor, their brother. 

My calling as a priest is to be their shepherd, to walk with them, to administer the Word and Sacrament through pastoral care, and feeding them.  I truly believe that if each of us  live with what we simply need, simplify our lives, and give the rest to the work of serving those with less there would be plenty for all. 

For me the best summary of my life is that my mission is found in the statement:

“obedience to Christ does not consist in engaging in the propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in a being a living mystery. It means living in such a way that one’s life does not make sense if God did not exist. To be a living mystery means to practice the works of mercy and in the words of Dorothy Day “to love to the point of folly.”

“I am a vagabond for Christ. I must go until Christ’s work is done. I go like the wind.” Kawaga

Each of us is simply asked to give a cup of cold water, each of us does the best that we can.

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, John Knox Seminary


May 27, 2016


Mark 11:11-26

The Bible presents us with four questions: In Genesis we are presented with first”Where are you? Where is your brother? In the Gospels: Jesus asks: “Who do you say that I am am?” and “What do you want me to do for you?”

These four questions are questions that we struggle with all of our lives. And as we answer them they determine the quality of life that we live, and how we treat others.

Yesterday we spent time with a gentleman who shared that his daughter was given an over dose of drugs by a man, and died, and that he killed the man.  He refused prayer because he was “unworthy.” and now as “guilty” as the man who killed his daughter.

It was also announced yesterday by the Attorney General of the United States that the death penalty would be sought in the case of Dylan Roof.

For us the first two questions echo here: “Who are we?” and “Who is our brother?”  Our understanding of the Gospel is that our identity is found in God, and from that identity we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We are not to seek vengeance.  Secondly “Who is our brother?”  Again the Gospels are clear our brother and our sister are every human being, every creature, and only God can take or allow a life to be taken. And the answer for the second two questions are in affirming that life is a gift, that we are blessed to have life, and that only God can take that life, and that we are called to love each other.

For when we take a life, we damage ourselves like our friend yesterday, we tarnish our souls, and lose our sense of wholeness.

One of my favorite quotes is “To seek justice, but to have mercy.”  When we commit wrongs we suffer the consequences, but in those consequences there should be mercy. 

Dylan is barely of age, his brain is not fully developed,  he was raised in a dysfunctional family, in a culture of racism, and of violence.  He has not ha a chance from day one.  To be given life without parole would give him a chance, to live with his crimes, and in living with them to come to awareness of the enormity of what he has done, and to repent, to change, to grow, to develop.

The first gentleman–who knows the true story, because he has long term addiction and mental illness–will be tortured for the rest of his life with guilt–it will drive him deeper into drug use.

The second two questions sum it up for us “Who do you day that  am?” and “What do you want me to do for you?” speaks to us in that we  affirm Jesus as the  one who love us, and as a  Savior who leads us to salvation.  Savalation–for us means from ourselves, to give us a new quality of life. And that means we love each other, treat each other equally, and let God ultimately be the judge.

Those four questions determine how we approach life, and the last two are how God approaches us–with mercy, with forgiveness. Let God determine who should die. Let us live in God’s time. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Peniel–June 2016 Pride Month

May 25, 2016

JUNE 2016



P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims, Director/Pastor, D.S.T., candidate for D.Min.



There are two gifts that I have received which I treasure.  First is a clergy stole given me at my ordination to the priesthood by an Anglican bishop. It is a rainbow stole made out of the quilts of men who had died of AIDS.  He was in the closet and when he placed the stole around my neck, he said, “You will carry the Gospel with the courage I have never had, and I give thanks to God for this moment.” There was a mixture of sadness and joy in his eyes, for he was a man who suffered in silence. He left the ministry at his retirement, and the church, and found a partner, and came out.  He was seventy years old.

The second is a small New Testament given to me by a woman who died in her nineties. One day, while I was visiting with her, she broke down in tears and shared how she “liked women,” but because of the times and her religious affiliation she had struggled with the guilt and never told anyone.  Jane shared her loneliness, and the hate she felt towards herself through the years. She was a great and devoted woman, but Jane was never allowed to be fully herself. She suffered much, she suffered long, and never felt completely whole.

Pride month is a big party in San Francisco, but we see young men and women coming to our City because of its openness and their own oppression at home.  Pride is a time to celebrate who we are, and to celebrate that being a human being is not about race, creed, color of skin, or sexual orientation, but how we treat others, pure and simple.  We are human beings created in the image of God, are called to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” Pride is about  celebrating our differences as gifts from God.

Pride is the month we celebrate the Exodus to Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgender/ and Questioning people into the freedom of being who they are, into the light of being fully human.

For the past six years, the Reverend Dana Corsello has worn our rainbow stole during the worship service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, celebrating the Exodus of Queers into the promised land of freedom and acceptance. The wearing of that stole symbolizes a church with arms open for all.

Pride Month is an announcement to all the world that the “Janes,” Bishop Angus, and all people who suffer in the closet are free to be who they are, and that that freedom comes in God.  Happy Pride! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Each year, Temenos is in charge of the Accessibility Area, and works with the Accessibility Area on the Parade site. We need volunteers. And so if you would like to volunteer on Saturday, in the afternoon, to work the Accessibility Area or on Sunday to work either the Accessibility Area or the Parade site, please contact Fr.River at 415-305-2124. It is a fun time, an awesome time!



We are beggars. Like St. Francis we depend on the love and care of others.  We do not accept grants, but live on the graciousness and love of others to provide for our support in serving food to 2000 a month, giving out ten thousand pairs of socks, providing pastoral care to 300.  We open our hearts to you.  You may send support to:

Old Photos

May 22, 2016



“We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand–out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” Romans 5:4.

Today is the anniversary of Harvey Milk’s assassination, my mother’s death, and tomorrow, Zach’s death.

As we sit here we  look around our  room and every where there are photos, old, and new.  Photos of the saints who have guided us-Damien, St. Francis, Harvey Milk, St. Ignatius, Dorothy Day; our mom, our dad, Zach, River and people who were our  friends and have joined that great communion of saints; there are photos of our closest friends who have walked with us through the years: Keenan, Kevin and Vicki, Marilyn, Eli, Matt, Miles, Robbie, Kyle and finally there are the photos of the youth who have been on this journey with us for over twenty years now, some now  in the great communion of saints, others living.

These photos communicate to me the living reality of a life  lived as priest, and  one as a  friend first of all. A life that has been well lived, and one that always travels the road less traveled. For us  it has not been a life of hardship,  but one of walking through the difficulties of life. One of always finding hope in Christ.

All of our lives are difficult–We have not yet to meet a person’s whose life is not–and it is in working and living with those difficulties that we find much joy in life.

As we  view these photos we know stories of all kinds of abuse, pain, fear, you name it, it is in these photos, but at the heart of every photo is the person who is worth every ounce of love that can be given, every sacrifice that can be made, for in each one we have found that divine spark. That part of each of us that is the image of God. When we are asked how we can stand to see so much suffering,there is only one answer– they  are our friends,  and in them the image of God shines, and we journey with our friends in season and out of season.

And so today as we stand in reflection and sadness we stand in joy with the words of Paul shouting from our lips:

“We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand–out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” Romans 5:4.

Come Lord Jesus! Come! 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, Knox Theological Seminary

Like A Child

May 21, 2016


St. Christopher Magallanes     Mark 10:13-16

“Truly I tell you whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will never enter it. (verse 15)

We are    always being asked, “What can be done about homelessness?” For us  the solution can be found in the way the “children” around us  deal with it. Every week for the past six weeks one fifteen year old who hangs out with us gives of his last dollar to provide for Haight Street youth.  Haight Street youth are always giving of what they have to help each other. When we were  taken to the hospital last summer after being stabbed two Haight Street youth sat with us through the night; when we were sick one slept on our floor.  When we  were in the hospital three weeks ago it was one young adult who stayed with us. When we become like children we are open to the needs of others. We give equally and gladly.

Today we noticed in a real estate window a list of apartments–the prices shocked us, stunned us.  No one can rent these places without making a fortune.  The  response we hear is  no response, or if you do not have the money move on.  If we became like children we would share of what we have, so that others might have. Our churches would not stand vacant at night, but would provide housing, as well as our  office buildings, and people would be fed.  Hospitality would be provided through out the City.

The only system that will change our “homeless problem” is a  change of heart, a change in which we open our lives as little children to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. 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


May 20, 2016


We are always being asked about our faith, and as we listen we perceive the questions are about their journey, and also about what makes us tick.  Most want a logical answer, and we can not explain our faith in a logical manner.

For our faith in Christ comes from our experience.  As a young boy we experienced this strange warmness of the heart, and from that moment our life was turned upside down–we knew we were called to ministry. We were driven to ministry.  No logical explanation. Our  father had a business that did well, it was ours , but we turned away from it.

The deaths of my parents, and my brother drove me into looking at faith, and it sustained me through depression and through finishing seminary and ordination.

Than came the years of being kicked out of the church, prostitution, and our faith held us together; and than our years of ministry in San Francisco, great years, awesome years, words can not express how wonderful they are–but years of living on the edge, not knowing where our next dollar is going to come from. getting malaria, the attempts on our life, the continuing threats on our life,  constant criticism, and it has been faith that sustains us, and gives us hope.

For in faith Jesus is real, very real to us, he brings joy in the midst of pain, fear, and doubt. Faith for us is never logical, never in our head, it is in our heart.  Our faith is about being on the River on Fire, with living a life full of the Spirit.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!River On Fire

Giving A Cup of Cold Water

May 19, 2016


“Why anyone by just giving a cup of cold water in my name in on our side. Count on it that God will notice.”Mark 9:42

St. Alcuin said that we should “Remember to care for the soul more than the body since the former remains, the latter perishes.

Last night outside of Safeway we met a young guy.  Someone had stolen his money, and we gave him three dollars and our card, and went on our way to our meeting.  We simply listened, spent some time with him, and gave him what we had.  In those moments we were treating him with respect and and naming him by our acknowledgment.  We gave him a cup of cold water.

In giving each person a cup of cold water we care for their soul, we give them an acknowledgement of their humanity, and we show in those moments love that rekindles hope in living.

Giving a cup of cold water is acknowledging a person’s existence, that they matter, that they are  care cared for, and that we care.  And in doing that we care for the soul. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

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


River on Fire

May 10, 2016



Ernest Hemingway tells us that “to be fully human means to take risks.”  Life is about taking risks, it is in the risks where we grow, where we gain strength, where we truly burn off our ego and embrace life and all living creatures with compassion.

Our culture seeks success in terms of financial gain, in terms of results, and the reality is when we  seek such success means we leave the most vulnerable people behind. We leave ourselves behind. We leave our humanity behind.

Risking means to walk with people, it means to put our lives on the line.  It means to give our all for the greater good of others. That is the call of Jesus. Risking means to put our egos aside and follow Christ into the hinder lands of life.

Damien said: “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all for Christ.”  A statement that sends chills down our spines because we know he has leprosy and will suffer much.

When we became a member of the Order of Christian Workers a long time ago we were given the religious name “Damien” after Damien of Molokai.  It has since become our legal name, and we wear it knowing it reminds us that we are called to be “different.” That we are called to become a street kid in the way we relate and live. We take risks, and in taking those risks we suffer but we become more fully human.

The River of Fire in the photo for us symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we approach Pentecost let us invite that River of Fire into our lives, invite the River of Fire to engulf us and to push us to take risks for the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised, those who hurt the most.  Let us enter into the River of Fire. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims, Director/Pa

Living on the Edge

May 7, 2016


“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”Rev. 22:13

Today Fr. Dan Berigan was buried, the world is a little less friendly with out his presence.

This month I have eliminated basically all dinner and luncheon engagements because I am putting the time into my dissertation. What I have noticed is that what one of my friends tells me is true, “You talk and act like a kid and you have more kid friends than adults.”  I laugh about it, but what I notice is unless I set up lunch or dinner engagements I see no adults. Their lives are busy, and my life is lived at odd hours, and odd places. We just do not move in the same circles.

The times I have been  in the hospital or sick, it is my younger friends who seem to be there. The other night in the hospital I talked to a couple of people on the phone, and one came and  picked me up, but it was my younger friends who sat with me during that time; when I was sick last summer, the same way. So I guess I do hang out with “kids” more than I do with adults. To me they are my friends, just people, people who care.

This month is also a month of memories. Zach died fifteen years ago, my brother was killed this month, and my mom and dad died. There is sadness, yet for me it is simply a part of life. I conducted a memorial service for two of my street guys Wednesday, and I reflected on how death is a part of life, we all will die, but there is much joy in the resurrection.  That is where I find hope, and strength. When the Angel of Death flutters around me has she has two weeks ago, I know that “all things work together for good for those who love God.”  Death is never easy, facing the fear of death is not easy, and seeing death is not easy, that is why the resurrection is so important.

Thirdly, Lady Gaga says “If you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re not doing your job.” In writing this dissertation I am finding that I am seeing myself for who I am–I am a trouble maker, I am difficult, and I do piss people off.  The truth is that is the most likable part of me, it is when I am most real.

Jesus makes life good, and for that let us be thankful. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164