Archive for December, 2017

Peniel–January 2018

December 31, 2017
“Where Jacob Wrestled with God”
Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker
January, 2018
Fr. River Damien Sims, DMin.,D.S.T.


Journal of An Alien Street Priest
As we enter the New Year I am reminded of the words of actor River Phoenix “I am in love with the human race. I don’t to separate myself from the rest of the world.  If the world is not going to good I’m part of that. I’ll be happy to take the blame. I’m along for the ride.”
We are all along for the “ride”, and rather than blame, criticize, and complain I believe we should simply take that ride.
For me the taking of that  ride is found in the definition of a priest: “one who sacrifices”.. .the word sacrifice means to make whole.”  I see taking the ride of life as trying to make wholeness out of life. Wholeness in life is being present to the needs of others.
In the past eight weeks I have been going through a dark time with an illness that was difficult to diagnose.  I have had high fevers, night sweats, weight loss, deep mood swings. I knew there was a possibility of cancer because my parents and grand parents died of cancer. It has been a fearful time. Yesterday they found a non-malignant tumor or small growth,surrounded by  an abscess, severely infected, in my stomach. It was removed, and I am on antibiotics, and on the road to recovery.
I have had very little support during this time. People love talking on social media, forming their opinions, and others are afraid I might have something “contagious”.  But there have been three people who have been my “priests”, who have walked with me during this time.
They are two eighteen year old young men, and one seventeen year old. One is my power of attorney. All three have given me acceptance, and love, without judgment. They have always been there, and being with me “ain’t easy”.  In my darkest times I could count on them. They have exemplified to me what a being a true “priest” is about–being present, being with someone, without judgment.
So as we enter 2018 I invite you to become “priests to one another”, to walk with people, to step out of your social media and not hide but interact, and be present.  One of my friends was present to me on snap chat when I was running a high fever late at night. He was so present I thought he was sitting at my bedside, so social media is a tool for ministry, but only when we put ourselves a side and walk with the other.
The story of the Velveteen Rabbit is a child’s story of a stuffed rabbit becoming so torn from use that he became a living being through the love he showed in the giving of himself.
In the next year become a priest to people around you by getting your self torn up in loving and caring. I will continue to strive to do so, join me in that struggle. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
As we end the year I invite you to join us in our ministry of presence on Polk Street and Haight Street.
We have walked for example with “Sean” who attempted suicide on Christmas Eve. We have spent time with him, and found a place for him to stay for a few days, and simply been present.
We have walked with the hundreds on Polk Street and Haight who sleep in tents, on the street, and need food, socks, but most importantly our presence.
So join us and donate.
Write a check to Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
or donate through pay pal on
This first letter of the New Year is dedicated to
Matthew Lasky
Jacob Nelson
and Ethan Wales
The best “priests” I know.


Fr. River Sims, D.Min., D.S.T.
Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, California 94164-2656

“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” Elizabeth Gilbert

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.   
(Pema Chödrön)  

The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” (Pema Chödrön)  

Self-esteem is the commitment to treat yourself in a kindly, loving manner when you’re alone.  This is an active process that requires effort and energy.

— David Burns, Intimate connections, 1985.






I Believe!

December 27, 2017

John 20:1-a. 2-8–“I Believe!”

Today as I caught up on thank you notes there were several extra checks addressed to me personally, with a note: “A Thank you to your friend Matt,” and one person wrote a note which said: “River, through your newsletter, your blog, these past months we were taken with the young man Matt, and how he has been your friend during your illness and struggles. This check is a gift to use for him.” So I will use them to purchase a couple of things he wants. And that is why I raised money for his foot ball team, and have written about him, he has demonstrated what a friend is supposed to do be like. And sometimes being there is difficult and painful, and scary.

I was at the hospital this morning visiting with the psychiatrist in charge of my guy in the mental health unit.  He commented he had met another young man at  a conference, in New Orleans several weeks ago. James told him of how he met me when he was fifteen, and how I was his friend. I hung out with him, did the same things he did, and worked with him to reconcile with his parents, and he went home when he was 17, and how I followed through coming to visit, hanging out with him and his friends.  James said “All I know is he is my friend, never an authority figure.”He keeps a photo of me on his desk. He is in training to be a therapist.

The Doctor told me that that is why he refers adolescents to me because I can enter their world, be their friend, be loyal to them, and yet be present to them to provide support. He also told me I was paying a big price and that it was a price few were willing to pay. He also said it was a great gift, and it was showing on me. The good doctor also said, “You scare the h. ..ll out of my interns.” and laughed.

What I do know is that in the letters and notes people praise me and raise me to sainthood, and the reality is I am as dirty as you can be, I simply love Jesus, and do what he has called me to do; What I know is I have no idea where all of this struggle is leading. I really don’t, but what I know with all of my heart  are found in the words of Paul:

“I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from

God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. . .we know that God works all things together for good for the who love God, for those who are called to his purpose.” Romans 8.

Personally there is nothing black and white in my world, and I do not where all of this is leading; but the reality none of us do. With the fires in Santa Rosa, and in the southland, disasters across the globe, there are no safe spots, no guarantees. What I do know is that God is there–and once we see that we move from our tribes into a unity with everyone and provide for every one.

There are no guarantees, none what soever accept God’s presence.  And that presence is often hard to find, but it is there. I hold on to that by the grit of teeth presently, but I hold on.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Sloughing Towards Bethlehem

December 26, 2017

Sloughing Towards Bethlehem

Matthew 10:17-22

Christmas was a saucy day for me. I spent all day at my friends in Marin. I I hung out with his family and friends. Matt has always given me the same thing I give him–no judgment, and so I have given him total trust. This Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two best since I have had them with my family, thanks to Matthew and his family. Matt and Jacob have been like my brothers, and I treat and love them in the same way. Both holidays were like being in heaven for me, so amazing, so much fun, so joyous.   Around 10  I felt it was time for me to leave, for one thing it had been a long day, and there something that just kept pushing me. I had had a couple of Old Orchards to drink and my buddy was concerned, but I knew I could drive. Matt kept pushing me to stay, and the truth is I am the same way, I would have done the same. And I did not want him to worry.  He wanted me to sleep in my car for a little bit, and I would have to simply  to please him, and then I received a phone call from  San Francisco General and a sixteen year old had cut his wrists  that took care of that.

I have only known Sean for a few weeks, just one of the guys who I see and hang out with. I frankly had trouble placing him. I got to the hospital and I recognized him and he was crying and afraid, and I told him I had to call his parents, and he was afraid, and I told him simply to trust me, and I called and their response, “What do you want?” And I said, “his health care power of attorney,” which they were certainly willing to give, and when I called back to tell them how he was doing, no answer, and no response since.  The doctor looked at me and said,  “I suppose you would like to be his supervising therapist?” and I said, “Gladly.” I looked in his chart and in parenthesis the doctor had written “feral” and I challenged him on labeling. He started to argue and I simply yelled, “I know you think I am “feral” –because you have told people, and I own that, but I know how to use the system, and I promise you, I promise,  if you do not take that out of his  record, I will file a complaint, he is only 16, give him a chance.”  I sat with Sean until 6 a.m., and held his hand, and simply let him talk. This afternoon I will spend several hours and begin the arrangements to get him out of the hospital.

And listening is what I do, pure and simple, without judgment. I have spent hours this week listening to people on the street and off, just being present.

All suffer from the same melody–loneliness, alienation, fear of being alone, all suffer, and in listening people feel loved, welcomed, and cared for. This is my greatest gift to listen without judgment. To have some one cuss me, spit on me, and than to listen;  I was once told by a supervisor that I had a great gift: “To let people enter into   your life, and you become as part of theirs,  to be one in their lives, to meet them on their ground, without fear and with absolute acceptance,” and she then said, “And this will lead you into a lonely walk.” Sounds romantic, but believe me there is no romance their.

Through the years of struggle with the church, the years of prostitution and the years of ministry in San Francisco, this walk has become very lonely. Through these years of being stripped of all value, and honor, and than building up that honor and reputation again I have come to see life differently:

The God I love, I serve, and have given my life to is a
God who accepts all people, if their is salvation after death it will be universal God will not, will not turn people away. When Frosty sent me the text of “bringing Jesus to hell with me so we can party in at least being warm,” I told his mom that was going to be my message at his memorial service,  that I would rather be hell with him than in heaven singing psalms with the good people,” because it would be boring. She laughed.

I believe that we should all move out of our tribes, and meet people with love, and give of our money, until all are provided for, all are fed, all are taken care of.  I have had the best health care in the world because of my usefulness, not because I am loved.

When I gave my health care power of attorney to my 18 year old friend Jacob, my doctor and others I work with howled, and I jokingly told them, “Well he will end it quickly, rather than letting me suffer like some of my older “colleagues” would; and then I simply said, I trust him completely, he knows me for me, he accepts me, he tolerates me, and I trust him completely. It has never been about age for me or race, creed, sexual orientation it is about trust, and listening. and caring.

I am sloughing towards Bethlehem, I have had an illness, which has left me weak, tired, and unsure of life, I have trouble remembering stuff, I am so unsure of myself, I can not speak without notes.  Each day I listen and thankful that is all I have to do, and frankly I do not know where this road is leading, but within me is that call that has driven me from the pastorates of the south, to the streets of L.A. and to San Francisco. A still small voice that rings loud and clear, and the question I have is do I have the courage to still listen to that voice. I am not sure how many more steps I will take. Any romantic notions I have had of my life are now gone, and I see the road ahead as more difficult, than ever, because not to live this life would be death in living. We choose our calls, and they give us meaning and fulfillment, but the majority of the time they lead us down a tough road,and I am not sure how touch I am any more. We all want answers, black and white, we all want to escape pain, hurt, and loneliness, and the reality is life is really messy.

Matt’s mom, a wise woman, one who has tolerated me, gave me a bracelet for Christmas with this quote:

“Seal my soul as your own, that your reflection in me maybe a reflection of all to see.” I know what this means because it has been lived out in those around her  and her these past weeks. I am forever thankful.

That is the goal of Jesus of Nazareth for all of us, and it is a goal we never reach, but we can try, and is a painful goal, it brings much pain, much hardship, but for me in sloughing towards Bethlehem  it means to find that the One who is the embodiment of that hope, the One who loves without judgment, and accepts us as we are.  And he summons us to do the same–Accept, care, love without judgment. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

Temenos Catholic Worker

Wisdom Walking

December 25, 2017

Wisdom Walking: Pilgrimage As A Way of Life by Gil Stafford

Im Memory of Frosty, 1999-2017

Gil Stafford writes of pilgrimage and his journey on the road of life. One of the quotes that touched me was to in a quote from Brene Brown in which she said “I try to hide a way the imperfections and fret over the mistakes here and there. I work hard never to let people see me sweat. .. .I couldn’t hide them any more. People saw me sweat and it was hard.”

Today has been a day of humor, of struggle, and of pain.  We served food and gave out presents in the Haight and on Polk.  When I came back to the church and was sitting, one person who has known me for a long time, came up to me and told me she would like to have lunch with me if I was no longer “contagious, ” and when I came home I had an email from a friend whom I have laid down my life for, saying “I would like to see you, if you are not contagious,” what is strange is I have never been contagious just ill from an infection from some crowns.

I felt very tired, very tired, of struggling with people who I have given a lot to, and can not even call and ask me what is wrong; tired of trying not to sweat, trying to be clean, and perfect. And my mind turned to four  relationships who have seen me sweat.

First was Dana, former rector of St. Luke’s the only pastor, and the last I will have had since child hood. She invited me into the church, she showed me so much respect, in my craziness,and trusted her kids and her house to me. On my desk lies the Bible she gave me, with her inscription, each day it reminds me of her love.

Second is Matthew, whom I have known for over three years, since he was 15. From the moment we met there was a sense that we had a lot in common, in the last five months, I find myself wondering where we are different. He has walked with me during this illness, he has always said he liked me because I did not judge him, and the truth is he has never judged me. Last night we went to a concert and he asked me if I was having fun, and the truth is I always have fun with him, it was a crazy and fun concert. In Amsterdam with my fever high at night I found it hard to figure out directions, I forgot things, and he tolerated me. Outside of my parents and my brother, no one has ever accepted me as he has.  I have sweated a lot in front of him. I have tried to push him a way, and he stays. Matt is always telling me basically what to do, and I follow his suggestions; last night he was put off because I was not listening to him, about something and the truth is I was, just trying to work it out tactfully. We are so much a like it is scary.  I am going to his house for Christmas tomorrow, and he talks of gifts, and the truth is he has given me the best gift of all–taking me for me, screwed up as I am;

And then we have Jacob, who went to Amsterdam, and who takes me for me as well. He has my health care power of attorney because like Matthew, he accepts me for me.

And finally we come to Frosty, whose photo, along with Matt and Jacob’s sit on my desk. I met Frosty in Sacramento three years ago walking on the River Walk. He was 15, and every month I would see him. He would test me, he would fight with me, and one day he knocked me in the river, and jumped in and I said to him, “You little fucker I am going to kill you” and we both started laughing, and I new he was simply testing me, trying to prove my friendship, as I do my friends. Frosty came to San Francisco, and his mother called me, and sent me money to help him. He was from a small town in the Mississippi and never fit in, and left suddenly. She did not understand why. I met his fourteen year old brother who started texting me and now snap chats me. Frosty helped me on my dissertation, reading it, getting people for me to talk to. One day he commented, “This is as much about you as us, you are one of us–one of the  “lost boys,” and I laughed and said “yea, it is our story.” Several weeks ago he wanted to go skating and we spent the day skating, laughing, just having fun, and it was a great day, and he spent the night. The next morning he told me he had decided to go home, “I am tired of the city, I simply want to be with my mom and  don’t fit in here either. ” San Francisco is a great city, but ultimately to fit in you must conform, and lost boys do not conform.  And he had one favor to ask of me–to baptize him, and as I did I found much joy.

Two nights ago I received a snap chat, that was disturbing, “Hey man, remember to come to hell and we will party for ever, but bring Jesus to cool the fires,” and than the next day his mom called to tell me he had committed suicide. As we talked I told her the reality was he never really fitted in any where, as I do not, and that was a struggle he could not over come.

And so tonight around a fire in the Park, we celebrated the Eucharist, we remembered Frosty, and I will go in February to Mississippi to have his memorial service, and his brother will come in August for us to take his ashes and scatter them at the Rave in Joshua Tree. Frosty was one of my best friends, ever loyal, always present, testing me as I  tested him, but we sweated together. And so my friend, “May God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, bless preserve and keep you, now and forever, and may you shine with the stars in glory.” Amen.

And for us who continue the pilgrimage on this Christmas

Day let us remember that the Jesus whose birth we celebrate was one of the “lost boys,” he never fitted in, and he fought for those who no one cared for, and he died for them, and rose to call all of us to move out of our safety zones to love everyone.

And as for me, when the time comes, I will go to hell taking Jesus with me to party with my friend, and I will always remember his love for me–as we both sweated together, and continue this pilgrimage until I enter the great Communion of Saints where I will see my friend again. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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



Merry Christmas! Christmas Note from Temenos Catholic Worker

December 23, 2017
On my top bunk my friend Kale is asleep, after along night at a  club. We have been friends since he was fifteen. He sees me simply as his friend, and the “strange” kids that are always knocking on my door are alien to him; He is from  Sebastopal and an upper middle class family, and I am simply his friend. The world around me is alien to him. Tonight I am going to the  rapper Berner’s concert, and when I was excitedly talking to someone in a restaurant yesterday about going, a person said to me, “You are not black, why do you like that kind of music?” Tomorrow night I will celebrate the Eucharist late at night in the Haight, after giving out  gifts and Christmas dinner, and people will be walking around not seeing one of the Haight Street kids. I go back and forth to Marin to hang out with friends all the time, and our conversations are never about homelessness.
We are so separated by our money, race, politics, and our fear of each other. It is a whole different world across the bridge. It is a whole different world  north of me on Polk Street, and out side of the Tenderloin. On the Haight people never see the pain and poverty.
  I move in these different worlds and frankly sometimes I screw up and bring part of one with me.
And so we come to Christmas and we stand in awe  at this self-giving God. But there is more to the awe.  There is also a mandate: This God who loves us so, summons us to evoke the same love to every one.  We are called to “love one another.” We are summoned to love our neighbor as ourselves, and our neighbor being everyone around us, not just those of our same culture, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, and those in the area of where we live. Eventually we are summoned to love our enemies. Such responding love is the way in which we live out our awe. It is very painful, to come out of our safety zones; it is painful to walk in areas of poverty and ways of living we do not know nor understand. This love calls us into the dark places of life, into the jungles of our streets, and the jungles of our lives.  This love does not participate in the romantic familial love of conventional Christmas.  It is rather love that calls us into the dark places, there to live with the power of transformation that comes we live the questions in the name of Jesus.  For that reason we sing “Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Have a glorious Christmas and Happy New Year!

One Moment At A Time

December 21, 2017

One Moment At A Time!

Today I visited a seventy eight year old woman in a nursing home, the first visitor she has had, since I have been there last a month ago. She has trouble understanding why Medicare pays for such poor places, no television, rehab three times a week. I paid for television for her.

I then went to visit eighteen year old Jared, who was hit by a car–his way of trying to commit suicide,  in a rehabilitation center, same atmosphere. He asked me where God was, and I said, well one aspect is me being here and he laughed, “No River, you represent Satan I am a Satanist,” and we both laughed. He is out in the open with no privacy. And so I promised him a cell phone, and paid for a T.V. and told him I would bring my X box over early Christmas morning with his gift and play games and bring him a nice breakfast..

In the last weeks people have commented maybe it is time for you to do something else if you are  burning out. It angered me because I have been ill, not burned out. I never get burned out, in fact I am energized by the street.

I do not burn out because I do not take what I see personally, and know that I do my part in caring for people–that is enough. I sometimes share about someone with a friend and catch myself because to them it is sad, and probably makes them uncomfortable. I feel guilty afterward because I frankly do not like troubling people I care about. This is where I live 90 per cent of my life lies  and I forget and slip over sometimes. I feel guilty.

Through the years I have learned people do not like to see life on the street, it scares them. To find a good therapist for someone who is on the street is impossible.

What I feel sad about is the lack of interest from the public in general, the government.  Two friends of mine were talking recently and one commented that their’s might be the last generation to enjoy a good life; and today in the paper and article said that the upper middle class saw life as rosy, and as seeking out their own goals, and the poorest were altruistic in caring for others. Reflect upon that.

So for me I do my part, and invite people to look at the One whose coming we celebrate and asked ourselves what does he call us to do? For prayer is about being his hands and feet on the street without judgment. The whole ministry of Jesus was not about saving souls but about bringing wholeness to the poor and the oppressed and hope for everyone. Burned out? Angry?  Not any more, I simply do what I am called to do, being present in the moment to those in pain, to those who need to listen, and hope that all of us will.  Let us put the Planet and people first! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656


Standing on the Edge of the Canyon

December 19, 2017

Standing on the Edge of the Canyon

Last night I received  a snap chat from my friend, an 18 year old M who lives in a small town in New Mexico. I have texted and talked to him for three years as he has struggled with his sexuality. The conversation turned into a three hour phone conversation.

M is couch surfing, he has been kicked out of his home because he told his parents he “might” be gay. Sounds so familiar. He feels so isolated, so alone, and talks of jumping off a “canyon” in his area. He said: “You are like God to me, you never judge me,” and he texted me all the cards and letters I have sent through the years. I was overwhelmed, no one has ever kept stuff I have mailed them.

As we talked I told him that I stand on the edge of the canyon all the time. I,too, think of ways of ending my life. I feel like I am a “f. . .ck up”. I live a life in which people put me  on a pedestal and when they see the real me, move away.  That is simply my craziness. The things you have told me you have done, I have done, in fact I have done far worse. We are all simply human beings. But the way I deal with this is to seek die a good death, not one in which I selfishly take my own life. So I told him a story of a friend.

My friend, J is 18. He is one of my two best friends. His picture along with my other friends is on my desk and on one of my phones because I look up to him, and he reminds me of how to live life. I trust him completely, and absolutely, he has seen me at my worst. I have been criticized for making him my health care power of attorney because he is “too young,” and my response is I trust him completely, and that for me is what matters. And a part of that trust comes from seeing how much we are alike in our view on life. He is into martial arts, he has scars all over his arms and his back from his fights. I gave him a nice martial arts sword for his birthday and Christmas. It was more than a gift from me it was symbolic of how he seeks to live his life and how I try to live mine. He talks of fighting as a a way of living  life and how dying with a sword in your hand in a righteous battle brings meaning to life. 

My scars are for the most part internal, and they have been from my own actions, and from the way of life I have chosen. Symbolically I carry a sword too. I want to die fighting, I do not want to die in  bed. I want to die fighting that others might have less pain in their lives. I really do not believe in life after death, so much any more. I see it as a something developed to keep people under control, an “opiate” of the people. I do not believe in the institutional church because it is a tool of the system that is enslaving. If there is life after death I want to be in hell with my friends who smoke, do drugs, have sex, cuss, not singing  psalms and being bored, I want to be where we have fun. People say I take chances and risks, I do, very intentionally. The Angel of Death and I are old friends. For to me to truly live, and to truly die is to die with the sword raised in battle for improving life, and in battle for the Jesus of the Gospels, who did not die for our sins, but for justice for all people. My prayer is that I will die bravely, my head held up, my sword up and hear the words of Jesus, “Well done my good faithful service,” if not than to die knowing I died the good death, without fear, with courage, and with hope that others might have a better life. My friend J reminds me of what it means to live a righteous life.

So let’s both stand on the edge of the canyon together, and let us both choose to die the good death in service to others. Life really sucks, but there is some goodness there. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

Temenos Catholic Worker



December 18, 2017


“To enter Advent we must leave fear for faith.”

Last night as I was walking up Haight sixteen year old Jason approached me, and I simply called him by name, and he simply went off on me. Knocked me down, gave me a bloody nose. I simply held him as he exploded. And I realized what he was screaming about was simply his own displaced anger at life. He felt safe with me, no matter how inappropriately he did it.The police came and wanted to take him in, and I simply said, “It was just two friends having a disagreement, and the woman cop said, “Yea and who got the worst of it, he should go in” and I said, “Then the  both of us go in.” The officer replied, “Next time you two bro’s want to fight go to the Park.”

I brought Jason home. We both got cleaned up and spent the night hanging. And he talked of being kicked out of a shelter, his family do not want him home, his loneliness, his fears, not really having friends he can trust. He cried a lot. I shared to of own my own sense of feeling like he does, my own fears. I told him how last Friday I displaced my anger on the two people I trust and love more than any one else in the world because it simply came out where I felt safe, and how ashamed I am for doing that. I shared with him of the fear I have had around this illness that seems to be passing the past four months. I told him of how losing four of what I thought were my best friends the past four months has shattered me. I feel like I am really a fuck up.  I told him I live in much fear, my faith is shaky, but that I am here for him, always, without judgment, just next time not to hit me in the nose and ruin my shirt. In those moments we were equals in our pain, and friends.

The truth is when we are honest we all have a lot of fear. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I get tons of calls from people from all walks of life, lonely, no where to go, no one to talk to; I have had twenty people call me suicidal this week all times of the day and  night. All of us suffer, it is  when we move beyond the pretend of the Christmas lights to suffering that Jesus entered into that we can walk with each other acknowledging that life is difficult, but that it is worth living.

My faith is very, very, very shaky right now.  I feel at times like I have no rudder, no guidance, and every person that calls me, texts me, or stops by, I think, “what the fuck am I doing listening to them, I have nothing to offer.” But I listen!  It is very shaky. I take it one moment at a time. Jason and I were two friends last night, and we made life easier for one another.

So that is the invitation, share your feelings, and move out from your tribes, and see the difference. Make life easier for yourselves and others.Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.



Choose Life

December 16, 2017

Choose Life!

“See I have set before you today life, prosperity, death and adversity.  If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing the commandments and decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live, and become numerous. .I call heaven and earth against you today, that I have set before you blessings and curses. Choose life!”

Several nights ago sixteen year old Shane came to my door. I have spent two weeks feeling guilty because he had put upon snap chat a picture of his cut wrists and disappeared. For two weeks I feared he was dead.  He said, “You pissed at me?” and I looked into the those eyes and said, “No, we are both fuck ups!” I put him on my top bunk, and that night my fever raged, and I woke up with him holding my hand and putting a wet cloth on my head, and saying, “Go back to sleep you are not alone.”

Last night there was a mix up in communication between me and two friends, and I was drinking, and I acted out towards them both displacing my anger.  I was hurt, angry, over a recent rejection, and I lashed out.  I lashed out because I felt safe.One of my friends kept telling me “Stop acting like a fag” and when I would try to leave pushed me down over and over.” At the end of the time he emailed me what a wonderful time that we have had. And during the movie my fever came up, and after the movie, he asked me, “Is your fever down?” And I realized there was very little I could keep from him. Last Christmas he and a friend came by, and another friend stopped by and later commented, “I have never seen you so happy and free.” And I realized I was, because my friend has never judged me, but taken me as I am. He will list for me jokingly things that I have done since I have known him through the years, and I realized he has always seen me for me.

In the last year things have changed, I have made some decisions that have pushed me farther out on the edge, further “outside the gates. And they are decisions I would make again with no regrets.  But with illness and rejection there has come pain that I could never have imagined, and words and Scripture do nothing.

My former teacher Walk Brueggemann writes:

“As long as we try to talk in terms of labels or creeds or mantras, we will never get on the same page. But if we talk about human possibility and human hurt and human suffering, then it doesn’t matter whether we are talking with Muslims or Christians or liberals or conservatives; the irreducible reality of human hurt is undeniable.”

I am a priest because I believe the Church holds the message of hope–but only when it sees hurt as undeniable and outside of creeds and mantras, that constrain and protect us from entering into the suffering of others.

One sixteen year old and two eighteen year old’s have pushed me into choosing life, to grieve, and to move on into what ever God holds for me to do. They have loved me for me, they have allowed me to be me, and that is what I try with all my heart to do–to allow the kids I work with to be themselves. It is painful, scary, but as someone once told me I chose the road less traveled, or shall we say it was offered to me and I chose it willingly and so again I choose it. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Mercy and Grace

December 14, 2017

Merciful and Gracious

Psalm 103: 1-4, 8, 10

Since the latter part of October I have been running high fever and losing weight. I have become emotional at times, crying, and there have been so much going on–four deaths, people coming to me under stress, and people not understanding where I come from. During that time four high school students from Marin have walked with me. In the middle of the night as my fever raged and fear comes, I snap chat; one checked on me during the day, and two have walked with me day in and day out. They have done so without judgment. I wonder if we are friends at times,  I doubt, but they still walk. 

They have lived out Psalm 103:

“Bless the Lord, O My soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and do not forget all his benefits–

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the Pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love

and mercy.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He does not deal with us according to our sins.”

For following God is not about judgment,not about what you believe it is about your actions, and these four have reminded me that it is in our actions that God becomes incarnate in our midst.

So in this second week in Advent I invite you to be kind, to give of yourself, in your actions and allow God to become incarnate in your life.

So thanks Matthew, Ethan, Kevin, and Jacob.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164