Archive for February, 2020

Note From Temenos Catholic Worker

February 29, 2020

Temenos Catholic Worker

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


It has been an eventful week with public attention worldwide focused on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. While there have not been any confirmed cases in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed announced this week that the City has initiated emergency preparation activities. As we know this may be causing some unease, I want to let you know about our response:

.This is a good occasion to review what each of us can do to help our community remain healthy at all times. We are all in this together.

  • Keep others healthy – If you, or your child, have a fever and flu-like symptoms, please stay at home and see your health care provider if appropriate. It is good practice to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, using a tissue or sleeve, and throwing tissues in a bin immediately after use.
  • Keep yourself healthy – Wash your hands frequently and vigorously with soap, especially after touching public surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. ..
  • Stay Active, Exercise.
  • Holy Communion/Eucharist: We serve Holy Communion every week, and at the request of individuals, we will use only wafers.
  • Food will be prepackaged by the manufacturer. We will not serve hot meals until this problem is resolved.
  • When our friends have fever, and congestion we will insist on taking them for medical treatment.

In addition to prevention, I also want to emphasize the value of Chesed – or kindness. During stressful times people may incorrectly direct their fear toward others. I want to remind us all to counter stigma by learning and sharing facts. Viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups. All of our faiths emphasize this value.

Finally our work will continue. We will not retreat, but minister to people on the street, providing support, counseling and comfort.

In Jesus, Street Person and Rebel,





February 28, 2020

Celebrate! Stand Firm in the Lord!

“Stand Firm in the Lord!.  .Celebrate joyfully in the Lord All the Time. Philippians 4:1-9

    Ash Wednesday was wild on the streets! People in the doorways, sitting on the sidewalk, in the alleys, and the majority wanted to have ashes imposed.

    On the Polk side of Hemlock Alley I was putting ashes on foreheads, and down the alley were two guys, participating in oral sex. As I walked towards the street, one shouted, “River, I need that, I am really a sinner.” It was funny, amusing, and meaningful! And so the day went!

    Despite constant words on social media, the media, of telling us of the imperfections of our religious leaders, despite our churches keeping their doors closed to others unlike themselves, redemption draws close, Jesus cares for his very imperfect brothers and sisters, and brings them near, forgiving, giving them new chances, but always bringing redemption in the worst of the worst.

Father Henri Nouwen says to us:

“You are not what you do, although you do a lot. You are not what you have collected in terms of friendships and connections, although you might have many. You are not the popularity that you have received. You are not the success of your work. You are not what people say about you, whether they speak well or whether they speak poorly about you. All these things that keep you quite busy, quite occupied, and often quite preoccupied are not telling the truth about who you are. I am here to remind you in the name of God that you are the Beloved Daughters and Sons of God, and that God says to you, “I have called you from all eternity and you are engraved from all eternity in the palms of my hands. You are mine. You belong to me, and I love you with an everlasting love.”

    Jesus was anointed to bring good tidings to the poor, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. He brings those to everyone, and Jesus has brought them to me, and that is why no matter what I follow him, despite my imperfections. People ask me if I am going to change my way of working in the age of the cornovirus–the answer–is I will be careful, but nothing changes–I continue, for there is nothing to fear.

    This Lent my fast is to read Isaiah 58 and do my best to practice it. I invite everyone to read it, pray it, live it. Make it your mission statement too. This manner of fasting is gift not penance, God’s loving wish for the flourishing of all.”


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

Ash Wednesday

February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday, 2020

       Today is a day of repentance, remembering our mortality, and entering into a time of reflection on our lives.

        As I walked the street yesterday, in a door way there was Sean, with dirty clothes, sores on his arms and feet; in the next doorway we see Joyce, hair unkempt, a wild look in her eyes, as she injects drugs; today I will take ashes out and many will receive them gratefully, a number will curse me, because I represent the Church that has abused them hurt them in one form or another through the years.

        Those who are angry, curse me, yell at me, not seeing me, but the Church remind me the Church is made up of human beings–broken, disturbed, angry, human beings, through whom God seeks to bring healing, and service to the world. Healing comes when we are open with one another, admit our wrongs, and try to correct them. Healing comes when we remember we are human, we will die, and on this journey we need each other.

        So this Lent be you Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, or other circle of belief I invite you to join in this period, to remember you are “dust and to dust you shall return,” and to love your neighbor, especially those you see in our doorways–feed them, talk to them, give them some socks, pray with them. 


The Word

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

—Matthew 6:5-8


I am created in the image of a God who is One. I am unique. The Father loves me personally. I thank God for who I am.

1. Give Thanks. I thank God for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word.

2. Pray for Light. I ask the Father to let me see my day as the Holy Spirit sees it, and to show me what I need to see.

3. Find God. I look at my day in the light of the Spirit.

What I have done?
Did I do what I had planned?
What happened that wasn’t planned? How did I respond?
What did my heart tell me?

4. Anything Wrong?

Have I been anxious? Sad? Focused on myself?
Does something in a relationship need to be addressed?
Have I been ungrateful?

5. What Now?

What do I need from God today?
What do I need to do today? Tomorrow?


When I go now to my inner room,
God my Father, Creator of my inmost self,
I go with ashes on my forehead and in my soul
for what I have done
and for the little love I return to You.
Is it repentance enough that I accept as mine
the burden laid on all of us by all of us?
May I embrace as my own and offer to You
the sufferings of the world that invade my day—
the child in terror, the man without work,
the woman wrapped in oppression and disdain?
Let me feel the grief that weighed like lead on Jesus’ heart
and know His unyielding love for me.


Father River Sims

Temenos Catholic Worker/Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc.


The One Candle in the Darkness

February 25, 2020

The One Candle in the Darkness!

Jesus answered.
Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me? John 18:34

Protect Your Inner Sanctuary
There is a false form of honesty that suggests that nothing should remain hidden and that everything should be said, expressed, and communicated. This honesty can be very harmful, and if it does not harm, it at least makes the relationship flat, superficial, empty, and often very boring. When we try to shake off our loneliness by creating a milieu without limiting boundaries, we may become entangled in a stagnating closeness. It is our vocation to prevent the harmful exposure of our inner sanctuary, not only for our own protection but also as a service to our fellow human beings with whom we want to enter in a creative communion. Just as words lose their power when they are not born out of silence, so openness loses its meaning when there is no ability to be closed. Father Henri Nouwen
    It is 4 a.m. I can not sleep, woke up at 2 a.m.. I lay looking at the candle that burns all night each night, my one candle in the darkness. It reminds me that none of us are really alone, God is with us, in season and out of season.
    Each morning during my morning office the questions that I raise are those of Saint Ignatius: “What have I done for Jesus? What am I doing for Jesus? What will I do for Jesus?
    My mind, my soul, all of my being, are over whelmed by seeing people outside my door in sleeping bags, without food and health care. Friday I will go to Kaiser and have my blood pressure checked as a part of my annual physical, and than an eye exam. I talk to my doctor Wednesday on the phone. People on the street do not have that privilege. Yesterday my teeth were cleaned, and had my four monthly check up, few have that privilege. I have a comfortable place to sleep, will eat tomorrow morning. The questions of Ignatius follow me, and I feel like I do not do enough. I try to follow his advice and be indifferent, take each moment, live each moment, do my best in each moment, but it is hard.
    I tend  not follow Nouwen’s advice, try to explain, to justify, to be totally open, in my desire to please, and to find support. That approach  always fails, always. I am as bad as one of my eighteen year old friends who has a thousand “friends” on snap chat, and if one of them says something negative he gets upset. My buddy wants to please, be praised, and it always fails.
    That one, solitary candle reminds me that we are not alone,  I do the best that I can, I do aim for perfection, and fail miserably, that life is unfair, people suffer, and our job is to touch that one solitary person on the street, until all are touched. Never ending, but in so doing, the candle shines brightly leading us onward. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Sims

Park 1 Lenten Study of the Book of James

February 25, 2020

The Lenten Study of James–February 26-March 2, 2020

The Challenge of Faith!

James 1:1-8

“James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus the Messiah, to the twelve dispersed tribes: greetings. My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy, because know that when your faith is put to the test, what comes out is patience. What’s more, you must let patience have its complete effect, so that you may be complete and whole, not falling short in anything. If any one of you falls short in wisdom, they should ask God for it, and it will be given them. God, after all, gives generously and ungrudgingly to all people. But they should ask in faith, with no doubts. A person who doubts is like a wave of the sea which the wind blows and tosses about. Someone like that should not suppose they will receive anything from the Lord, since they are double minded and unstable in everything they do.”


    Ash Wednesday, February 26, is a time of entering into Lent with an attitude of repentance, and the awareness that we are mortal, “dust to dust, ashes to ashes .. to the earth we will return.” Fasting means to bring us low, to make space for self-reflection, listening and returning to God. Fasting also draws us outward. In the Hebrew Bible fasting is about community and for the community. To think we fast individually is an allusion. As a community we pray, act toward healing, renewal, and justice. Fasting is a luxury to much of the world, for much of the world is hungry.

    Our study of the book of James will anchor us during Lent combining the inward and outer movements of our souls.

    I once thought of waves as coming from far away, when in reality it is when the wind and tide take hold of the waters that is there all the time and make them dance to their tune. They are the random products of other forces. The challenge of faith is not to be a wave.

Opening:  What is it like to be tossed by waves, whether inside a boat or just in the water?

Study: Read James 1:1-8. It was a challenge in James time to be a Christian, as it is now, and always has been. It is a bit like opening the back door to set off on a walk and finding that the wind nearly pushes you back inside before you’re even started. And James tells us we should celebrate such a moment (v. 2)! We should learn to look at them with joy. Why does James tell his readers to celebrate trials?

2. There are many kinds of tests: actual persecution, which many face today; fierce or nasty temptations, which can strike suddenly when we’re not expecting them; physical sickness or bereavement; family or financial troubles and so on. But you would not be tested unless you were doing something serious. Mechanics don’t test scrap metal; they test cars that are going to face tough conditions.

    Those who follow Jesus the Messiah are not simply supposed to survive. They are supposed to count, to make a difference in the world, whether through the quiet daily witness of a faithful and gentle life or the chances, given to some, to speak and act in a way which reveals the gospel to many others. For all that we need to become strong, to keep up the challenge. What tests do you experience or have experienced?

3. When has patience had a positive effect on you and your life as a result of the testing of your faith?

4. Wisdom is needed to deal with trials and build patience. What does James emphasize asking for wisdom with faith (vv.5-8)? What does he stress about God in this passage that makes us able to ask for wisdom with such hopeful expectation?

5. How is Jame’s view of God different from common understandings (or misunderstandings) of what God is like? How can having a wrong view of God result in doubting God?

6. The challenge of faith is the challenge not to be a wave. There are many tides and winds in human life, and it’s easy to imagine ourselves important because we seem, from time to time at least, to dance and sparkle this way that that.

    The question is whether the character developed within each of us is the real thing or are we like James says in verse 6 simply double minded and unstable, blown and tossed about by this wind or that. In what ways has life tossed you about?

7. Learning what God is really is like–and reminding ourselves of it regularly–is he key to it all.  As you consider this passage, what steps would you like to take to grow in the character and faith that come from knowing God?

Pray: Knowing that God is at the core of this passage, ask him to open your heart to him and to help you know him better. Ask God to help you grow in faith and patience and trust, and may the Holy Spirit give you wisdom that God freely offers.

Please feel free to call me at 415-305-2124 or email at if you would like to talk, pray or have any questions.

Father River Sims


Filled With Mercy!

February 24, 2020

Filled with Mercy!

“Who is wise and discerning among you? Such a person should, by their upright behavior, display works in the humility of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealously and contention in your hearts, don’t boast and tell lies against the truth. This isn’t the wisdom that comes from above. It is earthly, merely human, coming from the world of demons. For where there is jealously and contention, there you will get unruly behavior and every kind of evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from above is first, holy, then peaceful, gentle, compliant, filled with mercy and good fruits unbiased, sincerely. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13-18 The Kingdom New Testament.

The Reverend Greg Weeks writes: “At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” — 1 Kings 19:9

Of the many shared experiences we have in life, asking “Now what?” is one of the most common.

We ask that after epoch-marking events.  Some are positive. Your child leaves for college. You get the promotion. You retire. Some are negative. A loved one dies. A relationship dies. Your health wavers.

Regardless, life as we know it screeches to a halt, and we peer into an uncertain future. Now what?

My house has grown quiet since retiring from pastoral ministry. Time slows. It’s sort of like being in a cave…

…which is where the prophet Elijah found himself. He had plummeted from the high of success to the low of being a fugitive with a price on his head. He dealt with it by running away, first to the wilderness and then to the silence of the cave.

It’s noteworthy that in each leg of his journey, he was given something. An angel gives him food and water. God gives him a fireworks show then, of ultimate importance, that sound of silence.

I’m finding it quite tempting to answer “Now what?” by coming up with a list of things to do. Elijah didn’t do that. He just went on a road trip then stopped. In stopping, he began perceiving things differently.

If you were to characterize the prophet’s emotional state, it would be “listless.” Not real passionate about anything. A bit lethargic.

But “listless” could also be understood as “list-less.” You’ve given up trying to control the future by the list of activities you come up with today. List-less means you’re open and vulnerable to whom and what lies ahead.

Maybe the best way to deal with your “Now what?” is to wait for the future to give you the answer. For the voice to come in the sound of silence.”

            The past three weeks we have been ill with a virus, in the hospital for a couple of days, and off the phone. Our world, accept for the television has been silent. In many ways the past two years have been the same, as we have struggled with an injury, which with other evens have resulted in the  refocusing of  our ministry, and people pulling away because of we do “ministry different”.

            The increasing tech world has isolated us from one our humanity. No one knows or understands when we are sick—we are simply stuck in our words, and in time.  Technology with all of its good points, has resulted in a separation of meeting people where they are, in real time, in their real needs in our society. We are separated from one another.

            As we have laid here reflecting on our past, our sins, we realize we are not truly good, but only in relationship to Jesus do we find  good. Our life has been “filled with mercy”, which calls us to “work out our salvation” in our good works. We try, we do try!

            And so in laying here we have come to grasp that as our life is “filled with mercy”, the best way of living is found in Greg’s words;

“Maybe the best way to deal with your “Now what?” is to wait for the future to give you the answer. For the voice to come in the sound of silence.”

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


What Good It Is

February 22, 2020

What Good It Is

“Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters if the world hates you. We know that we have passed to life because we love the family. Anyone who does not love abides in death.” I John 3: 14a (Kingdom New Testament-N.T. Wright)

    Pope Francis was asked in an interview what someone should do when encountering a panhandler on the street. His answer? Give something, every time, no exceptions, and give with compassion and eye contact. The Pope raised the question that we all do: suppose the person wants to buy wine, or drugs? He turned the question around back to us: If “a glass of wine or drugs are the only happiness he has in life,that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?”

    Our excuses for not giving, like ‘it’s dangerous to take my wallet on the street”, or “giving just perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” do not stand a chance against the urgency of Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    St. James writes with a similar boldness: If you tell a hungry person to go in peace but don’t feed him or her, what good is it? Faith without works is dead. That passage is so plain and simple, it could appear on social media, where it would it would receive critical responses in reply.

    St. James and Pope Francis share a gift for cutting through the b.s. of the theological haze to show us that sometimes the requirements of discipleship are straightforward–uncomfortable and challenging. Christian service takes a minute to learn and a life time to master.

    During Lent we are going to be presenting a study of the Book of James once or twice a week and invite you to reflect and mediate, letting yourself enter into the Word. To paraphrase Aristotle “Knowledge is no good unless it comes from the heart,” and James calls us to let our faith come from our hearts.

    People often say that I place myself in danger, am reckless, but the words of Sophie Scholl, a member of “The White Rose,” speaks to all of us:

“Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

    I have chosen my way of burning, my way of breaking the point in order to enter into the reign of God. I invite you to choose your way of burning this Lent as we study the book of James.

(Study Book: James : 9 Studies for Individual and Groups and The Kingdom New Testament both by N.T. Wright).


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Who What When

February 20, 2020

Who? Why? What?

 James 2: 1-13 The Message (MSG)

The Royal Rule of Love

1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

8-11 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.


Mark 8:27-33 English Standard Version (ESV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

“Lift us by awe at the things we see: to set our minds on none but thee.”


“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy is of is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave holding, women whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for call the religion of this land Christianity.” Frederick Douglas

Questions to Consider?

    Think about it-how many of us who are white are not afraid late at night, when we are on the street and see young blacks or Hispanics in front of us talking ahead of us? I would think you get quieter, more nervous, and move over to the other side of the street if you can.

    How many of us have ever been to a black church or meeting? In all my years of ministry I have preached in two black churches, and my friends I have done a lot of preaching.

    In San Francisco where are our youth agencies, agencies for the aged, and all other agencies housed? Look around and you will see mostly white neighborhoods.

    When we talk of homelessness what do we talk about? Do we talk of individuals or do we lump them together as one group? Do we talk about them as neighbors, with whom we can assist in providing housing, and at least food, clothing, and support? It is hypocritical to call anyone a neighbor whom we do not help, hang out with, and show care towards. We use neighbor as a term to ease our guilt, and to help us in ignoring the problem. How many of your neighbors have you helped. Signs around churches that ask our “homeless neighbors” to stay a way are actually being two faced. Our fellowship halls and kitchens remain empty.

    When we pass a homeless person on the street, how do we respond? Do we speak or do we even see them?

    How many black or Hispanic people are there in your organizations for worship on Sunday to your business and social groups?

    How many of us live in neighborhoods where there are people of color–especially black and Hispanic?

    In the last couple of years I have become best friends with people who are Hispanic. The majority of time I am the only white person in their midst. We blend together because we love each other, and respect each other. They have walked with me at times when my white friends are distant and away. I can call them any time day or night and they are there. And it is in being friends with them that I have seen what they experience daily. Their schools place them on a lower level than their white, wealthier counterparts. For example the Hispanic  mother of one young man sat down with his white counselor, who ask her if she was on “welfare”, asking a woman who works hard in a great job. Did this counselor ask the white moms in his upper middle class school on first meeting them if they were on “welfare.” I have seen the police target us when my Hispanic and black friend are with me–where when I am with my white friends there are never any problems, and the list goes on and on–racism is alive and well in  Northern California.

    From the Church and religious organizations to , politics and our daily living we remain a racist society, we are separated–in some places more overt, but in all areas of our country. To truly deal with racism, homophobia, and all bias we have to hang out, work, and talk to people who are different than we are.

    Jesus ask: “Who do you say that I am?” and the answer rests in who we welcome into our company? None of us will ever be perfect in this journey, but we can try, and try as hard as we can until we enter the Kingdom of God where there is no separation. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Fleeting Clarity

February 20, 2020

Fleeting Clarity

James 1: 19-27 “Religion that is pure, undefiled, before God the Father is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Mark 8:22-26


        Fears of rejection–of being ill, deteriorating physically, and being alone, make up ninety percent of my fleeting clarity, cloud  my mind as I lay ill, and as I read social media, where there is little concern about the homeless and the disenfranchised.

    As I move along the street, we passed person after person  within a block, sleeping or begging for money. Most I have known for a long time, people who are down on their luck, moved out of their homes by gentrification, mental illness, age, and youth trying to find their way. In these moments there is a feeling of spiritual solidarity with each one.

    It is a  similar  feeling in being with the blind man from Bethesda in my imagination, slowly recovering sight, hearing and mobility.  A fog is lifted for a time, as we  deal with the fleeting clarity.

    It is in these very brief moments that I encounter Jesus and hear the real meaning of religion from James which is:

“to care for widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

    And as  the end of my own life’s journey nears its end I take to heart   the words of Father Walter Burghardt:

    “As you exit this sacred spot hosting the Bread of Life, pledge yourselves to be a kind of sacrament–vibrant symbols that speak to the fears and tears of a broken world. Vow not only to joy with all whose laughter is richly human but to weep with all whose pain parallels your own.”

    In the  time that is left we will seek to preach the Word that nourishes, yet challenges, heals, while it bruises in the land of milk and honey where one in four children grow up beneath the poverty line, and go hungry each day, and our pulpits are silent.

    We will not turn our eyes away, from our friends, who sleep outside our door with no health insurance, food, nor places to live. We will strive with all of our hearts to “to keep oneself unstained by the world”–not to buy into it’s apathy, materialism and to “care for the orphans and the widows.” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Steadfastness in Being Different

February 17, 2020



“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you  know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And lt steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-3

    Yesterday I was told, “you are different”, as I have been told “you act like a child,” as well,  neither in a positive way. And I acknowledge both as being true, thanking God for these two gifts.

    My life has been shaped by three experiences, all of which intermingle, and are vary much a part of each other:  my relationship with Jesus, and the  Church, and my time living on the street as a whore, and my years in ministry on the street.

    The Church introduced me to Jesus, and threw me out when I questioned my sexuality, in doing so we came to see  her as a place for broken, beaten, people, who hurt others, and yet through the Holy Spirit that brokenness finds healing and  transforms the world. Like a mustard seed it grows in the middle of the weeds.  The Church is people, and as a result she hurts others in many ways, and yet at her best she brings much joy, and provides so much hope.  As Dorothy Day once said, “The Church is both a whore, and our holy mother.” Nothing in this world is black and white. That is why we need to let down our blinders and be gentle with one another.

    People are always asking me about my time living on the street, being a whore, and now. I say little, unless we talk in general terms, which frankly glorifies both. Our time living on the street was a horrible, devastating, and yet redeeming time. We saw, experienced and lived in a world    violence, hopelessness, hunger, fear, and pain every day.  It was a time of not knowing what the next minute brings, where the next meal would be coming from, when there would be a meal, and a warm place to sleep,  and with no hope of getting out of that world. It was, and is a very dark place to be and live. As the unknown author says, “The street transforms every ordinary day into a series of quick questions and every incorrect answer risks a beat down, shooting, or a pregnancy.”

    Each day the street offers offers death both physically and spiritually. It is not a place to glorify. Yet it was a time of transformation, in that we met Jesus again, and in a new way, making days on the street both then and now, days of grace.

    I have PTSD from those days, and my experiences here in the last 25 years, it comes with the territory, and I see in it a gift of God, my thorn in the flesh.

    The Church was not present, never did I find any pastoral care  on the street, the only time we saw religion  on the street was when we had groups pounding the Bible on our heads, offering a salvation that made one sick to your  stomach, or other groups trying to draw us in for their own personal ambitious purposes. Most of which were demonic.

    And now I continue to see violence, hopelessness, fear, and a lack of meaning on the street. It is not pretty, it is not artistic, it is raw. And it is not pretty, but painful, to see people walk by and not give a damn. The street was scary, painful, and fear provoking and still is, and yet  by learning to be steadfast in Christ, we have grown, and continue to grow, and in so doing our life is being transformed, and we are  like a child, open to the wonder of the world, accepting with out judgment others.  We live in no tribe. We are  damn proud when people call us “different”, and tell us “you act like a kid,” for it means the Holy Spirit is working in our life. It means we are  not stuck, but growing.

    Last week the dad of one of my friends paid me the greatest compliment, saying, “I see you with the kids, and it appears you are a big kid, just like them, and then as I take my time and observe you closely  I see that you are an adult, guiding, and caring for them, without them knowing, and that is why I never worry when he is out with you, I sleep soundly.”

    My greatest learning is in being steadfast in Jesus, trusting in him, and  that we are all equal, we are all broken human beings, and it is in walking with one another as equals that growth and redemption nurtures and develops.

    My friend the Reverend Gregory Weeks wrote this piece, which sums up in a more “adult” manner, (Greg is the real adult here) the way in which Jesus calls us to follow him:

“If you stray to the right or the left, you will hear a word that comes from behind you: “This is the way; walk in it.” –Isaiah 30:21

One of the most profound revelations I’ve ever come across is that we are programmed to be either liberal or conservative. We’re predetermined to traditional values and vote Republican, or to lean toward progressive ones and vote Democrat. Jonathan Haidt, in his book The Righteous Mind, explains this in detail.

So, whether we stray to the right or to the left, there are people straying in the opposite direction, thinking they are just as correct as we think we are. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’ll be dense today.” We all wake up looking at the world through the lens with which we’re born.

I guess the beginning of wisdom is to work on this humility thing. To expand my field of vision, don’t I need to try and look through others’ lenses?

Maybe a good start is not getting so upset because the “other side” just doesn’t get it. They’re just as upset at us as we are at them. So, why not just learn more about what they’re thinking and why they’re thinking it?

Full disclosure: I will never vote for Donald Trump. Yet really good people wear MAGA hats. So, what am I missing? And what are they missing? We’ll never know unless we stop talking at, and start listening to, each other.

Jesus envisioned a community where we could all come together, acknowledge our limitations, and accept each other as equally flawed, equally promising brothers and sisters. In so doing, we hear the Christ’s voice calling from behind, “THIS is the way. Walk in it!”

It really shouldn’t be all that difficult, should it?”


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164