The Sacred Space


On Good Friday as we  we walk through the Tenderloin many of us will be nervous, on guard, and we will see a mixture of people–well dressed business men and women, techies , and than  drug users, and the homeless. We will see people suffering from mental illness, and from the effects of living on the streets for many years.  And than after dark it will become a place of drug selling and using. For me this is Sacred Space.

Across the street at the Supreme Court Building I have vigiled against the death penalty for years, mostly alone. I have been spit upon, and threatened, and have had people share of their pain over loved ones being murdered, or who are on death row. That is Sacred Space.

Around the corner is a Park for children, and many years ago there was a needle exchange there on Thursday nights, and it was there that I was stabbed by a needle with blood, from which I was infected with malaria, that haunts me to this day–and which reminds me of how fragile life is, and the pain of so many–it is sacred space.

As we go up the street we will see the places that provide food, and clothing, and medical care to so many homeless people–that is Sacred Space.

Two weeks ago I held a young man in my arms as blood drained from his body late one night after being stabbed at Golden Gate and Hyde–that is Sacred Space.

The Tenderloin for over twenty years has reminded me that Christ is crucified here hourly, and for that reason it is Sacred Space. So as we walk through these streets, I encourage you to keep silent, use the rosary or the pin I am giving you, and meditate on the lives of people who suffer here. As we walk I urge you to pray “Lord have mercy,” listening in your mind to the words of the hymn “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

These Stations today mark the Sacred Space of life and death, and of the hope of resurrection. This is not a fun walk, this is not a worship experience for ourselves alone, it is bringing the reality of these Sacred Spaces alive in our  midst today. It is for us to feel the crucifixion that happens on the the streets every day, and know that we are in Sacred Space.

This Sacred Space is created by Jesus.  Not the Jesus of our church sanctuaries where we sit comfortably, and talk to our friends,  not the lily white Jesus of our art, or the Jesus who is above our humanity, beyond our flesh and blood, but the brown, Jewish Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples, and in so doing reminded them that it is in the dirt of humanity they are  called to serve, and in so doing wash the feet of Jesus.  Jesus creates Sacred Space out of the worst, and the dirtiest.

And in the Jesus of Good Friday we have the ultimate pledge of God to humanity–the pledge to love us until the end of time, and calling each of us to be  the broken body of Christ.

These days I remember my first District Superintendent, E.W. Bartley, who died recently at the age of a hundred. He gave me my first church as a seventeen year old snotty nose kid, and he gave me a quote that has guided my life:

“Life is not to be neat, tidy, well put together, but an adventure to be lived, and when we slide into home base at the end we  will be , saying, “What a ride, what a ride!”

I continue the journey, and I continue it in the Sacred Space, and I invite my friends, my enemies, my colleagues  to join me on this journey, and to join me on Good Friday as we come together to walk the Stations remembering our call to walk with the hungry, the disenfranchised, the poor, the homeless, the abused, and those on death  row and their victims and to continue  their journey until they slide into home base saying, “What a ride! What a ride!


April 14, 2017

City Hall: Polk and McAllister



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

P.O. Box 642656

Temenos Catholic Worker

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty



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