Archive for January, 2019


January 26, 2019


A Simple Faith: Book Review

January 21, 2019

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: By Amy Hollingsworth

Mark 2:18-22

“Frankly, I think that after we die, we have this wide understanding of what’s real. And we’ll probably say, “Ah, so that’s what it was all about.” Fred Rogers

Jesus essentially said in this exchange: “I, Jesus, am going to take you, humankind, as my pride. My disciples will be my witnesses in this. They can not very well fast while preparing for that feast.”

The simple faith of Mister Rogers was that he was a witness to the wedding of Jesus to human kind.  One of the quotes that Mister Rogers had framed on his wall was from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “L’essential est invisible pour les yeux” ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye”.  It is with our hearts that we can see what is essential. That is the way Mister Rogers approached life, with his heart.

Mister Rogers described heaven as “When I think of about heaven, it is a state in which we are so greatly loved that there is no fear and doubt and disillusionment and anxiety. It is where people really do look at you with the eyes of Jesus.”

In an example of those  eyes that see the best in each of us, the invisible, and the essential. Mister Rogers once told a story: “I heard this true story of this child, a little four year old boy whose mother and dad had just brought home a baby sister,” . . . .. “He pleaded with his mother and dad to have some private time with his sister.” . .he walked into the bedroom, and asked his sister, “Tell me what it was like, I am beginning to forget.”

Mister Roger’s story echoes William Wordsworth in his sober observations in “Intimations of Immortality from Recollectons of Early Childhood,”

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades 0f the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing boy.

The life of Mister Rogers is about a man who is prophetic in calling us back to being like “children” in which we view view people from a perspective of love,  and wonderment, which leads us to seeing the good in everyone, and in so doing our lives are transformed into caring, nurturing, and providing for people. In each person, there is good, there is love, we have to look for it, we have to show them love in return. It is painful, it is hard, but we follow the Bridegroom, who went to his death doing just that.  We are called into caring for all of our creation. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Accepting Our Wholeness:Both Light and Darke

January 17, 2019

Accepting Our Wholeness-Both the Light and the Dark

Mark 1:40-45 The Message (MSG)

4″0 A leper came to him, begging on his knees, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.”

41-45 Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy. Jesus dismissed him with strict orders: “Say nothing to anyone. Take the offering for cleansing that Moses prescribed and present yourself to the priest. This will validate your healing to the people.” But as soon as the man was out of earshot, he told everyone he met what had happened, spreading the news all over town. So Jesus kept to out-of-the-way places, no longer able to move freely in and out of the city. But people found him, and came from all over.”

“It is very difficult for each of us to believe Christ’s words, “I did  not come to call the virtuous, but sinners..” Perhaps no psychologist has stressed the need for self-acceptance as the way to self-realization so much as Carl Jung. For Jung, self-realization meant the integration  of the shadow. It is the growing ability to allow the dark side of our personality to enter into our awareness and thus prevent a one-sided life in which only that is presentable to the outside world is considered as a real part of ourselves.  To come to an inner unity, totality, and wholeness, every part of our self should be accepted and integrated. Christ represents the light in us. But Christ was crucified between two murderers and we cannot deny them, and certainty not the murderers who live in us.” Henry Nouwen

In the time of Jesus leprosy was not just one disease, but was any scaling, of the skin, acne would have been considered leprosy. People who touched those with “leprosy” were considered law breakers, usually pushed to edges of society. Jesus broke the law. He demonstrated that love and care broke the boundaries of the leprosy of his time.

We have forms of  leprosy in our society which separate us from people, for we all have the goodness of God with in us, the ability to love our neighbor, but we let the “law” separate us, laws that we make to protect ourselves.

Two forms of leprosy are privilege and survivors guilt.

We are all entitled to housing and health care, but our streets are filled with people suffering from no housing and health care. Those of us who are Caucasian are very privilege.  It is difficult for us to go beyond that privilege because when we do so we feel guilty, and we question why we can have what we have and others can not, so we put up our walls. This past year each day I would go to Kaiser I felt guilty because every one I know on the streets do not have that “privilege,” sometimes it was difficult to look them in the eyes; people who get off the street have trouble seeing their friends on the street again because of guilt over that privilege.

Survivor’s guilt is a common problem for those who survive disaster, illness, and other forms of death dealing disasters. I have known men who survived the AID’S CRISIS of the 80’s who have let that guilt incapacitate them in their relationships and all of their lives–they live in the past, feeling guilt; I experience survivor’s guilt–surviving the streets, surviving vocationally, surviving attempts on my life. 

Both of these can separate us from caring from our neighbors who are different from us, but the reality is we are no different, we all  suffer, we hurt, and struggle, it is just some of us have been more privileged by the color of our skin, intelligence, or just plain luck, to live more comfortable lives. And we fear we may lose that privilege so we have difficulty looking the “others” in their faces. A person who became homeless recently told me how her friends have turned their backs  away her.  We are afraid that we too may go that way. We live in the fear that we may become one of the “other’, we may get leprosy.

Only in accepting our dark side, as one of our two halves, can we truly come to healing, and to loving our fellow human beings and all of creation. Dr. Will Tuttle summarizes it in this way:

“Love brings freedom, joy, power, grace, peace, and the blessed fulfillment of selfless service. Our true nature is calling us to awaken our capacity for love, which is understanding.”

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Making Time For Life

January 16, 2019
Mark 1:29-39
All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.
Michelle Alexander

Remembering Janet B. Jones

January 12, 2019


Remembering Janet B. Jones

“Beloved Follower of Christ”

I learned of Janet’s death yesterday. She was found deceased in her home on Van Ness Avenue yesterday morning. My heart was filled with sadness, and grief. 

On the surface one would see Janet as a prim and proper Episcopalian. She was white haired, slender, well educated, but her life was lived as a “Doer of the Word.” She was active in her church participating as a Lector, and in so many other ways, but where she shined was in her service to others. She missed our Good Friday Service last year because she was sitting with someone who was dying; she took the Eucharist to people regularly, she visited the sick, and fed the homeless. Janet was a “Doer of the Word”.

And to me she was a good friend.  Janet has edited our newsletter for years, she spent endless hours editing my dissertation, and when I became ill last week and my phone had been turned off, she emailed me to call her,  to let her know I was alright. I called, and told her I was sick and in bed. Next I knew she sent me an email saying she had paid for food for me for the week to pick up a cross the street; when I had surgery last year, she sat with me several days so I would not be alone; Janet celebrated communion with me several times when I could not do it myself or get out.

More importantly she was a pastor to me. Last year I became bitter after my surgery, it showed in my writing, and my attitude toward others, I was very, very lonely. One day Janet looked me in the eyes, with her all knowing and caring look,  and told me a story of how a young guy taught her that forgiveness was the most important thing in all relationships, and that judgment was useless, and to truly live you lived without judgment and you forgave. She said, “You are that young guy,” pray, and think, and go back to the One who is always with you, and you will find healing.”

That was the beginning of my healing, of coming back to being myself. She taught me that while others may turn, always forgive and we remain whole.

She gave me a poem to read, to reflect upon, and I now leave you  with this poem, and with the knowledge that Janet has now joined that Great Cloud of Witnesses, cheering me on in my ministry, and cheering all of us  in our respective ministries,  until we join her and all the saints.

Love After Love

The day will come the time will come when with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door and each will smile at each other’s welcome saying sit here, eat

you will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine, give bread, give back your heart to yourself to the stranger who loved you all your life who ignored you for one another who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, feel your own image in the mirror, see it.

Feast on your life.

Derek Walcot

Janet knew that when we feast on our own lives, seeing our own goodness, we can open ourselves to share that goodness with others. 


“May the Lord bless you, and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine up on you.  May the Lord be gracious to you.  And may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant  you peace. Amen.”

If you would like to remember Janet and her ministry.

Please give gifts to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1755 Clay Street, San Francisco, CA. 94109

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Remember Your Baptism and Keep It Holy!

January 11, 2019

Remember Your Baptism And Keep It Holy!

“After all the people had been baptized Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

There is a poem entitled “Wait” by Galway Kinnel, which reads:

Wait, for now.

“Distrust everything. If you have to.

But trust the hours. Haven’t they

carried you everywhere, up to now?”

One of the hours that I trust was the hour of my baptism on a sunny day in May. I was so excited. My parents had been raised in the Baptist tradition and did not believe in infant baptism, so I had to wait until I came of age (ha! at 12). As the water was dripped on my head I was overwhelmed with joy and my life seemed so full. That was followed in  August with my experience of my  call  to ministry at a campfire.  I remember those two hours in my worst times, and they carry me through.

I remember as a student pastor my first baptism. Two young guys, brothers. There parents too was of a Baptist background, and wanted them immersed. On a hot summer day we gathered at a creek and as I baptized them, I felt God’s Spirit so close, and was so thrilled to be a pastor. That was an hour of trust I remember in my low times.

Another hour I remember is the night when I was on the street and so far away from ministry, that I had nothing but disgust for it. A young friend of mine was seeing a “john” in a motel, and the date went wrong and he was stabbed. He called me and as we waited for an ambulance, his blood dripping over me, Shane requested to be baptized. He was 19, and he looked in my eyes, and said, “I know you are a minister, and my friend, please, please baptize me.”  Dripping water out of a glass the words of baptism were pronounced, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and added, “May God receive you into his Kingdom,” and a few minutes later Shane entered into the Kingdom.  This is an hour in which I trust, and hold on to, and remember in tough times.

Baptism says to us, “You are my beloved son or daughter,” you can trust me in your hour of pain, need, and doubt.”

Through the years I have baptized many–in churches, hospitals, hospices, and on the streets, and each time it reminds me that it is an hour that I can trust because it calls me back to the Beloved.

God never let’s us go, we move away from God, but Jesus will always seek us out, “trust the hours.”

“Remember your baptism and keep it holy.”


Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Perfect Love

January 8, 2019

Perfect Love

Mark 6:34-44

“Give them some food yourselves.”

Last night I gave a young lady some food, as she huddled under  her blanket, and she smiled and said: “You are giving me communion!” And for me each piece of food I give is the body of Jesus, becoming flesh in the person given the food.

She told me that this was all she had to eat all day. Studies show that nearly one in four people go hungry each day in San Francisco, they lack nourishment. The wealthiest City in the nation, and people go hungry. People walked by her last night with food in their hands and simply ignored her.

Jesus did not care much about appearances.  The first line of the gospel demonstrates his care: Jesus heart was moved with pity, He felt compassion for people who were suffering. His immediate response was to feed both their spiritual and physical hunger. Jesus fed them with loaves and fishes through the people present. Each shared of what he or she had and there was enough. He also demonstrated and revealed the deeper sustenance that comes from God’s word and the promise of God’s enduring love.

So we are to do the same. To love one another without regard to race, creed, social or economic standing, gender or sexual orientation. For we are all the same.

We are called to be the love that Jesus so perfectly demonstrated to the world.

The people in Washington D.C. this week who are demonstrating in Witness Against Torture are being the love of Jesus to the world. Lifting up the pain of people on Guantanamo Bay and our neglect of them. 

We can be the love of Christ each time we eat in a restaurant by having our left over food boxed up and giving it to a homeless person; we can take our left overs at home and give out. We can keep candy bars on us and give as we move through our daily routine. Simple ways of demonstrating the love of Jesus.

Personally I have given up hope of our government doing very much, but where hope for me comes from is in each person who reaches out and feeds the hungry, one by one, builds a majority who can change the world, Feed some one today!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Doing and Being

January 7, 2019

Doing and Being

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

In our lectionary reading Jesus is about doing: “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.”

His ministry was of doing. He got his hands dirty, he preached the Good News, but he was also about being. Rabbi Heschel tells us that in our age when knowledge is king that we need to be on guard for the “the immense preciousness of being.” Fred Rogers said, “Just be quiet and think, it makes all the difference in the world.”

Taking time to be allows us to comprehend our lives, and our world, and see that we are all in it together. We are so splintered, and our technology brings the good but also the bad. The negative is our lack of communication with one another, our lack of being observant of our part in climate change,and homelessness, and what we can do. We all bare  guilt, we all bare responsibility to make changes.

I am ill with a high fever that comes and goes, my shoulder is in a lot of pain this week, but the blessing is simply to be.

I have been questioned a lot about why I do what I do, and it is simply that  been lead through my own circumstances and experiences.

I was on the street for three years, had to fight each day for a place to sleep, had to endure threats of violence, and some days not eating–even now I eat sometimes too much because I am afraid I want have anything later, when I have plenty;

I have walked with people as they face murder trials and seen them go to prison for life; my son was murdered, and through my own journey came to see the death penalty as wrong, but can understand the other side;

I work with people on death row, and those who may go, seeing them as children of God, who have hope. I simply do not argue the other side of any of these issues, because for me arguing is useless, I know where my responsibility lays.

Now I face threats of violence, in the present housing market, my place of living is insecure, and financially I struggle, sometimes not knowing where the next dollar is going to come from.

All of this is why I work with homeless kids, and people who are on or facing death row simply as children of God, without judgment. That is why I protest the death penalty. I have and still face plenty of judgment–I will not pass it on–that is God’s responsibility.

Today we begin the Guantanamo Bay Fast. “The US attempts to make demons out of the 40 men still detained at Guantanamo, stoking citizen’s fears and then satisfying that fear with lawless brutality against these men. We fast to keep their humanity in front of our own eyes and the eyes of our nation. Let us fast and act together this week in  search for a solidarity that transforms.”

My goal in life is the search for a “solidarity that transforms,” and as I share my journey, I invite each of you to reflect upon your journey, and simply be, and in that being seeing the “solidarity that transforms,” as that which holds each of us together, and brings us into right relations with each person we encounter and nature around us. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


The Hidden Revealed

January 6, 2019

The Hidden Revealed

Matthew 2:10-11

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his  mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense , and myrrh.”

A game that some friends, Matt and Jacob,  and I have played this past year has been “Chasing the Tiger”,  which is basically hide and seek, as we chased the tiger through the woods in Marin County. After mid night, in the shadows of the night, in the darkness of the Park, one of us chase the other two, the tigers. You never know where you will end up–in the creek, the doorways of the school, but you keep on until you catch the tiger or you get tired, and give up.  It is delightful, and always full of surprises, as we try to reveal the tiger who is hidden.

Walking down Polk Street late at night one brings to mind the  photos taken in war zones across the world, for we see people sleeping in our door ways, huddled under what cover they have, cold, afraid, dirty, hungry. They have no where to go, they watch for predators who will rob them of whatever they have, beat them up, they watch for the police who will move them out of their sleeping place, and they watch for the housed  people walking down the street who scoff at them,  call them names, sometimes kick them or simply ignore them as they go into the fine restaurants and bars.

Epiphany calls us to reflect upon the Hidden One reflected in the 12 million undocumented immigrants on our borders and in the country, and the millions of refugees world wide, who suffer in homelessness, isolation, and rejection.

Epiphany calls us to to meditate upon the Hidden One at Guantanamo Bay, forgotten through the years. Below is an announcement of the Guantanamo Bay Protest this week, and ways of participating in which we can reveal the Hidden One.

The are the Hidden One, is waiting to be revealed on this day of Epiphany. Today as we celebrate the revelation of Christ to the world, let us remember the “better angels” in our midst, who call each of us to reveal the Hidden One, Christ, in our actions and attitude towards those who are homeless, refugees, and imprisoned in our world.

Call to Fast in Solidarity: From Gitmo to Kings Bay Plowshares

Join us from home or in DC

Dear Friends,

We’ll be gathering tomorrow in DC for Witness Against Torture’s week-long Fast for Justice. If you can’t join us in person, we invite you to join us from home, fasting with us in solidarity with the men in Guantanamo or taking action in other ways. We welcome you to join a conference call with us on Monday evening.  Details are at the end of this message.

This year, we will also be fasting in solidarity with the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 (KBP7), our friends who are currently awaiting trial for their dramatic anti-nuclear weapon action at the Kings Bay nuclear submarine base in Georgia last April. Many of them have been deeply involved with our WAT community.

In November’s KBP7 evidentiary hearings on their Religious Freedom Restoration Act motion, defendants presented testimony that can provide us with insights for WAT’s resistance to the prison at Guantanamo.

Martha Hennessy opened the Nov. 19th hearing by recounting that her mother and her grandmother Dorothy Day taught her to pay attention to others’ suffering and to practice loving kindness.  The KBP7’s concern for the death of billions in a large-scale nuclear conflagration is firmly rooted in their concern for the dignity of each person they meet in daily life.  Similarly, we in WAT carry in our hearts and proclaim in the public square the personal stories of men who have been tortured and imprisoned without charge or trial at Guantanamo.  Holding fast to the human dignity of each person unites our two causes to resist violence on every scale.

Carmen Trotta told the court that the possession of nuclear weapons freezes nations in hatred.  We must let go, he said, to become a cohesive community.  Likewise, we in WAT recognize that we can never achieve true security for the family of nations while our own nation clings to torture chambers and offshore prisons.

KBP7 members Mark Colville, Liz McAlister, Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, and Steve Kelly addressed the idolatry of nuclear weapons and the false sense of security these idols are meant to provide.  This idolatry of things hugely powerful has a flip side: the dehumanization of the utterly powerless.  The US attempts to make demons out of the 40 men still detained at Guantanamo, stoking citizens’ fear and then satisfying that fear with lawless brutality against these men.

We fast to keep their humanity in front of our own eyes and the eyes of our nation. Let us fast–and act–together this week in the search for a solidarity that transforms.

We invite you to join our fast next week wherever you are and in whatever way you choose.  Let us know of your intentions by writing us at

We will hold a conference call with those who are fasting or taking action in solidarity with us on Monday evening at 8:00 pm.

Conference Call information
Dial-in Number: 
Participant Access Code: 1860434

We will be sharing advocacy and action information and reflections on our website, our Facebook page, and through daily update emails to this list. We look forward to being in community with you, in person or in spirit, this coming week!

Our commitment is eating one meal a day and fasting the remainder, writing our Senators and Representatives, and the White House, and keeping those in our prayer who are in Washington D.C. protesting.

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Limited But Full of Grace

January 3, 2019

Limited But Full of Grace

John 1:19-28


John the Baptist’s mission was to emphasize the importance of Jesus over himself. This became a major characteristic of Jesus’ teaching: humility. This means facing two realities about ourselves: that there is a very small part of us that is limited and sinful but that this must not prevent us from seeing the far greater part of ourselves that is gifted by nature and even more so with grace.


In my experience, middle-class Americans do not feel at ease around poor people. Even people of high ideals who care about the needy experience discomfort in the presence of the needy themselves.

Rabbi Eliezer Finkelman


We have difficulty seeing homeless people because we face our own fears, of where we could be, and we wonder if we deserve what we have. I have seen that with volunteers, and with interns, they just can not enter into the lives of our youth.


It took me years to realize that and have seen volunteers hurt, interns run away terrified. And my way of work is to enter into the lives of my kids.. I have spent a life time doing this, and to me it is just natural. That is why I have not taken an intern in a while, and why I keep volunteers doing stuff that is easy and fun. I have had a lot of guilt over expecting to much out of people.


It is scary, and threatening to hear people’s pain, to see their anger, and see them act out, to see their suffering. 


Today Aaron and his mom  Carla were here cleaning and reorganizing my place as a Christmas gift. And I spend a lot of time with Aaron and he really has never figured out what I do. He just knows I am free to hang out a lot, and than I go away and say I am working, and he wonders “what work?” But these two have been my greatest support and closet friends.


We all have our place, and what Jesus asks of all of us is to share of what we have, to live simply, to love each other.  We each have our place, my place is on the streets, others have their places they are called to. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164