Archive for October, 2020

Peniel–Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker, November 2020

October 31, 2020

Drafts (42) – – Gmail

—————-Journal of An Alien Street Priest:    Richard Smallwood wrote in his song, “Same God,” these lyrics: “I’m reminded of what You have done for me/And I know that You’re going to do it again. You’re the same God.”    This song resonated with me as I reflected on the passing of Congressman John Lewis and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.    Representative Lewis invoked the same God motif as he was dying. He visited Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C. to remind those he would leave behind that we continue the work of justice because the cause is righteous, the call to work for a beloved community and God was and is still among us.    Justice Ginsburg reflected the same God in her Jewish faith, in her fight for justice for women’s rights, and for equality.    They were saints, like everyone else who breathed the same air polluted by the evil there is in this world; but, on their journey, they never lost sight of God or their purpose of love for all.    I am celebrating my ordination anniversary this weekend. What I have learned through these years is that, in the words of Bergman Mays, ministry is having “Faith and simply taking the best step forward, leaving the rest to God.” It is simply to plant the seeds in love in good or bad weather.    St. Ignatius summarizes my attitude towards ministry in his answer to a question all of us in service are asked:“What would you do if you knew the world was going to end tomorrow?”His reply:” I would go on doing what I am doing now?”    Like Paul, I have a lot of regrets for my rash words and behavior, as I am sure all who read this do as well. God, though, sustains us on our journeys and God will make good use of all our choices.   Paul continued his ministry and witness to Rome. He reminds us in I Corinthians 13: “…we see through a glass darkly.” So, the words of Verna Dozier, from The Dream of God, are words that have guided me, and remind me not to take life seriously:“We always see through a glass darkly, and that is what faith is about: I will live by the best which I can discern today. Tomorrow I may find out I was wrong.  Since I do not live by being right, I am not destroyed for being wrong.”    And that is the journey I chose so long ago and have sought to teach, and the words of Father Henri Nouwen provide the hope and heart of our journey:“Celebrating the Eucharist requires that we stand in this world accepting our co-responsibility for the evil that surrounds and pervades us. As long as we remain stuck in our complaints about the terrible times in which we live and the terrible situations we have to bear and the terrible fate we have to suffer, we can never come to contrition. And contrition can grow only out of a contrite heart. When our losses are pure fate, our gains are pure luck! Fate does not lead to contrition, nor luck to gratitude.
Indeed, the conflicts in our personal lives, as well as the conflicts on regional, national, or world scales, are our conflicts, and only by claiming responsibility for them can we move beyond them—choosing a life of forgiveness, peace, and love.” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!————————————————————————————————-Thanksgiving 2020    This year Fr. Henri Nouwen brings a word calling us to be thankful for the grateful life, to be grateful for all of our past, the good, the bad, the positive, and the negative:
“How can we live a truly grateful life? When we look back at all that has happened to us, we easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. But with a past thus divided, we cannot move freely into the future. With many things to forget we can only limp toward the future.
True spiritual gratitude embraces all of our past, the good as well as the bad events, the joyful as well as the sorrowful moments. From the place where we stand, everything that took place brought us to this place, and we want to remember all of it as a part of God’s guidance.  That does not mean that all that happened in the past was good, but it does mean that even the bad didn’t happen outside the loving presence of God. .. .Once all of our past is remembered in gratitude, we are free to be sent into the world to proclaim good news to others.”
    We are all a mixture of good and bad. In remembering that we can see our lives as a journey of discovery, we find comfort in our pain, our bruises, and forgiveness for our wrongs.     I am remembering so many past Thanksgiving as I write: the preparation of meals, the smell of turkey and dressing for many, the volunteers, and the passing out of the meals. Seeing the grateful faces made all the work worthwhile.    Also, I am remembering the changing of Polk street, which used to be a place where young hustlers hung out, adult bookstores were on several corners, and tons of gay bars stood. Now we have gentrified.  Haight Street is always changing, going from a cheap place to live to gentrification. We adjust and continue to do ministry in the midst of change. Gentrification has brought more homelessness, pain, and need.     Nearly three years ago my shoulder was broken; after much struggle and rehabilitation, total use has returned with limitation. I cannot lift more than thirty pounds though, which makes preparing hot meals difficult. Therefore I will no longer do weekly meals, and instead, give out items like fruit bars.     The positive is that we return totally to the heart of our ministry which is listening, being a presence, to each person we encounter. We do not have to take a couple of days to recuperate and have the energy to totally listen.    We would like to thank St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for allowing us to use their kitchen twice a week for over ten years, and also allowing us to store our supplies of socks and clothes at the church. Giving us a place for storage is worth more than words can express, and their support and friendship, even more so. We hope we can continue that partnership and see where it evolves. Our first donation and volunteers came from St. Luke’s, and I will be buried there, so I give my heartfelt thanks for that support.     This Thanksgiving we will hang out on Polk Street late in the evening providing snacks, socks, needles, condoms, and other supplies and simply listening. We’ll be on the Haight on Thanksgiving Day in the afternoon doing the same.—————————————————————–Volunteers:    Recently we have had a number of individuals request to volunteer. We have had to respectfully decline due to the pandemic.     We will not consider using volunteers until after a vaccine is fully available and it is safe.    The best way to help is through financial giving.     We are truly beggars, and if you would like to give and support our ministry, you may by sending donations to:Temenos Catholic WorkerP.O. Box 642656San Francisco, CA 94164www.temenos.orgorpay pal found on———————————————
The Ebb and Flow of Life
Ordination Anniversary RetreatSeabreeze MotelPacifica, CaliforniaOctober 30, 2020Standing on the edge of the beach looking towards the ocean one is struck by the vastness that is beyond, all goes on without end.And as one looks down at one’s feet I see the tide, ebbing and flowing in and out into that vastness.
For a while I will walk this beach, experiencing its peacefulness, and experience the storms that come and go, pushing and shoving. I can see starfish being washed in, and picking them up one by one, they are cast back to life.One may ask? “Isn’t throwing the  starfish back a waste of time, you can not save them all?” Our answer is “I saved one, one life, that spills into eternity.” An awesome gift and privilege.
And as I move closer to the edge of the shore, and know that soon the tides will take me out into eternity, forgotten here, this saving one starfish at a time is an understanding of my response of God calling all of us to the dream of God. The dream of her people living in unity, and at peace together. The dream of all being nourished and loved by God who created us.
I have found that the resurrection is the experience of knowing in whom I believe, and in risking my life, for God is with me. There are no guarantees, none whatsoever, only faith.
I  live in the grays of life for know institution, no bureaucracy, can in it’s black and whiteness guarantee the resurrection–it is in the risk of trusting in the One who is eternal, that I find hope, and trusting as I enter the flow of the tides which draw me into the eternity that God is with me, I have done my best, and the footprints of saving the starfish one by one will be my eternal gift to God. Soon I will be forgotten, but the ebb and flow, will continue, my footprints will bring others into the eyes of God. I have done my best, and that is enough! ——————————————————————–
We are sending out Christmas Cards and if we do not have your snail mail and would like to have a Christmast Card, please send your snail mail to“Doing Small Things With Great Love!” Jan Johnson——————————–

A Hidden Hope

October 28, 2020

A Hidden Hope

Ordination Anniversary

Ephesians 2:14: “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”

    During the time of Paul, there were great cultural separations, and division among–Jews/Gentiles/Romans/the wealthy/the poor and many more. (Sound familiar)

    How did Paul come to embrace such a radical approach of inclusion towards the different groups?

    Beginning with his experience on the road to Damascus of encountering the risen Christ, Paul came to a shocking realization all people are  equal in God’s sight.

    Paul was willing to be beaten, jailed and beheaded for his belief.

    The past four days I have been in the hospital and as always confronted by our alienation from others. Kaiser Permante  gives the best of care, and I have always had insurance.

    I am not “blessed”, but “privileged”, and rather than feeling guilty am convinced more than ever of the importance of not judging or condemning, not even our own past, but looking at people with immense compassion and love in the way Jesus looked.

    Rather than judging the woman caught in adultery, Jesus told her to “go and sin no more”. I can imagine this woman seeing the compassion in the eyes of Jesus, knowing she was loved and set forth to “sin no more.”

    We are all called to “sin no more”, to sit idly by as people suffer on our streets, and in our world. We are called to work for the equality of all people in having houseing, food, and health care. We do it by giving  a pair of socks, a listening ear, simply little by little.

    Tomorrow in celebrating our anniversary we renew our “Rule of Life”:

    1. Obedience–Comes from the Greek word meaning ” to listen”.  No judgment, simply compassion and caring.

    2. Silence–Do not give opinions, always speak in love, respecting each person’s perspective, and speaking to those things we hold dear–Matthew 25:31-46.

    3. Humility: Comitment to selfless living. It is easy to fall prey to false humility, pretending to take a lowly place in the hopes of receiving adulation and an invitation to come up higher. True wisdom is grounded in earthly wisdom, a knowledge that all persons, no matter their circumstances, and all the created world share in an unbreakable interconnected-

ness of life given by God. We are equally loved and esteemed by the Holy One who desires all of creation to flourish.

    We live in a “hidden hope”:

“The world lies in the power of the evil one. The world does not recognize the light that shines in the darkness. It never did; it never will. But there are people who, in the midst of the world, live with the knowledge that he is alive and dwells within us, that he has overcome the power of death and opens the way to glory. Are there people who come together, who come around the table and do what he did, in memory of him? Are there people who keep telling each other the stories of hope and, together, go out to care for their fellow human beings, not pretending to solve all problems, but to bring a smile to a dying man and a little hope to a lonely child?
It is so little, so unspectacular, yes, so hidden, this Eucharistic life, but it is like yeast, like a mustard seed, like a smile on a baby’s face. It is what keeps faith, hope, and love alive in a world that is constantly on the brink of self-destruction.”
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
In coming to  San Francisco a friend said: “You can not make it alone,”  and the truth is he was right. In these years around me has built a community that loves, supports, and cares. You are that community, and we walk together. Thank you.

I Learned Everything I Need to Know In Kindergarten

October 23, 2020

I Learned Everything I Need to Know In Kindergarten!

The Most Important Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

        Yesterday I received a phone call from a young friend who asked me what I thought of the Pope’s recent comments about civil unions. It is the same question posed by people about events every where, and the only answer I can give is in these words by Eric Rucker:

“We are in between. We’ve let go of one trapese and are hanging in the air, not having grabbed the other bar toward which we are sailing yet. There are no answers for what family, church, and society look like because we are co-creating with God.”

    We are “co-creating with God,” and that co-creation’s chief command is found in our Gospel above , and in the words of Jesus, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”

    There was a recent article describing how divided our society has become: rich, poor, different races, and political parties. We are each in our own little group, and Jesus calls us to move out and love one another.

    In his book All I Really Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum summarizes the values we teach young children, and values that as we grow older we forget. Take some time and meditate on these values, and ask how do you put them into place:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookes and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and write and play and work everyday some.

Take a nap every after noon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffice, hold hands, and stick together.


    This is the common core of humanity, and remembering those words we can say the words with our whole heart all of us learned in the first grade:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Peel back all the mess and this is who we are as we live in America. This is who we are going, and struggle to bring closer into reality. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. All! Not finished, yet–but “We are in between. We’ve let go of one trapese and are hanging in the air, not having grabbed the other bar toward which we are sailing yet.

Love is needed! “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Let’s become kindergartners again.!


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

What Difference Does It Make?

October 21, 2020

What Difference Does It Make?

“Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his deah on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Ephesians 2:16

    This past nearly six months witnessing so much pain and death, and recently with so much pain and exhaustion from having my lungs burned, the question that comes to mind is: “What difference does it make?”

    I can drop dead in my apartment and probably will not be found for days, and then my ass will be burned to a crisp, hopefully, buried at St.Luke’s and then simply forgotten about, so “what difference does it make?

        In “In the Hound of  Heaven”, Francis Thompson wrote:

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled him dow the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the midst of the tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes, I sped

And shot, precipaitated,

Adore Titanic glorious of chasmed fears.

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbed pace,

Deliberated speed, majestic instancy,

They beat–and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet–

All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’.


“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me’

    I have been driven from the day at age 12, standing around a campfire at Arcadia, a Methodist Church Camp, feeling my heart warmed, and hearing the call to ministry, that rings through the years as clear as that night, and so “what difference does it make?”

    Through the struggles with an institutional Church, whose understanding of sexuality continues to be immature, and destructive, the years of prostitution, and the years working on the streets, I hear that call loud and clear, never dimming, and so “what difference does it make?”

    I have seen people come and go, walk away and condemn, and find myself not fitting in, being a misfit like  adolescents on the street, with no regrets, so “what difference does it make?”

    I fit really into no category, therefore making people uncomfortable, when all we are is an evangelist: “modeling Jesus’s love in our daily lives and finding opportunities to share that love.” A love that is seen in a kaleidoscope of all religions. “What difference does it make?

    Finally, as monuments are being torn down, schools renamed, and new “idols” being raised, remembering my ancestors and myself have worshiped at those idols at one time or another, but have grown and moved on, and yet condemned for the past, I ask myself: “What difference does it make?”

    I have no answers to that, accept to hold to the faith in the One my life is attached to and to hear the words of:

Verna Dozier, from The Dream of God, are words that have guided me, and remind me not to take life seriously:

“And so what difference does it make?”  For me it is simply a question mark (?) with the hope, of one day hearing the words: “Well done my good faithful servant, your work is well done, you are welcome into my Kingdom.” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Snap chat: riodamien 2



October 18, 2020


Matthew 22:15-22

    We are each classified as “homo-sapien”, meaning “wise person” in Latin.

God created us with the ability to choose wisely, to make decisions that bring fulfillment to ourselves and others.

    Carl  Jung once asked the question “What is my myth? We all have myths that guide us. It is the myth or sometimes the myths we choose that decides how wise we are.

    Jesus was challenged by the Phariseess about his myth:

“Now tell us what you think about this? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”. .Jesus said: “Well then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God?”

        The “myth” to which Jesus gives the utmost loyalty loyal is described in his words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind and soul, and thy neighbor as thyself.”

     This is a  myth which has no labels, meets people where they are, and is non-judgmental. In this election season we need to remember that our attitudes and actions determine the future, and as Martin Luthr King, Jr., so bluntly summed it up: “We must love as brothers and sisters or perish as fools.”


    ” Out beyond ideas of wrong doing or right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there when the soul lies down in that grass. RUMI. Translated by Coleman Barks


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Trust and Gratitude

October 12, 2020


“As for me, I look to the Lord for help, I wait confidently for God to save me.”

    From the manisons  of Pacific Heights to the valley of Noe Valley,  the streets of the Tenderloin, and the hard and tough streets of San Francisco, all of us, the very rich, to the poorest of the poor are afraid, suffering within ourselves from fear. A disease, a killer is running among us.

   If we still ourselves from anxiety and list: these  words will bring   hope and guideance,  the words of  of Francis DeSales and Fr. Henri Nouwen, listed respectively:

“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me and I in Him.”

― Francis de Sales

And to offer gratitude:

Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an “accident,” but a divine choice. It is important to realize how often we have had chances to be grateful and have not used them. When someone is kind to us, when an event turns out well, when a problem is solved, a relationship restored, a wound healed, there are very concrete reasons to offer thanks: be it with words, with flowers, with a letter, a card, a phone call, or just a gesture of affection. . . . Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love. (Nouwen)

Let us pray:

“Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversaries which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer)


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


Finding the Rainbow

October 8, 2020

Finding Rainbows!

22 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!

“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.

“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chose

     Twenty-two years ago on October 6,1998, Matthew Shepherd was beaten and left for dead—tied to a fence in Wyoming. The only part of his face not covered in blood were  two white lines running down his cheeks from where his tears ran dry. His death ignited a fight for equality and calls us simply to be human, to love our fellow human beings. Matthew was gay, and his death is symbolic of the hate and discrimination that is often given to LGTB Q people.

    Equality for LGBTQ  will truly be manifested when we have “a revolution of the heart” and everyone is seen as a child of God.

    Sarah’s story describes a journey that many experience. She was raised in the South. It was tough. She was in the closet half her life. Her vocation as in a homophobic institution, which is still the same today.

    She suffered from severe depression, fearful she would discovered. During that time she had several therapists, and each one would try to “change her”, and one reported her to the organization resulting in her being dismissed. Sarah has never trusted a  therapist since that time.

    Sarah became a sex worker and reinvented her life, and now is a counselor. Today she finds that her guard must always be up, always the possiblity of being hurt.

    We need to be aware that danger still lurks. Matthew was killed because of hatred and misunderstanding.

    I was invited to attend his burial at Washington Natural Cathredral and watched it on zoom instead. In his statement, the father spoke loud and clear how homophobia is a live and well. They were at peace now because Matthew would be safe, they were afraid to bury his ashes any where else. Homophobia followed Matthew in death for twenty-one years. He is safe now, buried in honor.

    The question I asked myself I often:

“How do I find the energy to keep loving when the world seems to be going the other way?”

    Personally, my answer to the the question is found in these words:

“I have seen Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows with a harp and a sword in my hands.” “Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on A Road.

    Ultimately to find “the peaky mountain  wrapped in rainbows,” we must remember that in the finality of life the only thing that matters is love.

    We honor Matthew today, rest in peace!

    Deo Gratias! Thanks be To God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



National Coming Out Day is October 11–Send an     LGBGTQ a message through text or phone. Celebrate who they are. Thank them for their courage in coming out.

Love In Practice!

October 6, 2020

October 1, 2020

Love In Practice

“Love in Practice is a Harsh and Dreadful Thing, Compared With Love in Dreams” Dostoevsky “

St. Therese of the Child Jesus

    On October 1, 1994, the Feast of St. Terese of the Child Jesus, of the “Litte Way, we bought pizza for four young huslers, at the pizza place between Sutter and Geary, the first acts of our ministry.

    Our vision was simply to be a listener, a pastor, being present to young guys in their fears and pain.

    In a world where every ordinary day life becomes  a series of quick questions, every incorrect answer death, and there is no one to trust, we honor our ordination vow: “To preach the Word and Administer the Sacraments,” through listening. Along the way, we have given  food, socks, and a ministry of harm reduction.

    Through the years we have learned to love with out judgement, being indifferent to the world, and listening to the words of St. Therese:

“My vocation is love! In the heart of the Church, who is my Mother, I will be love. So shall be everything and so my dreams shall be fulfilled–to make Love loved.”

        We have come to see all as our brothers and sisters, and success simply as dedication to our path of listening, a path that Dorothy Day sums up for us in these words:

“A revolution that starts with each one of us. When you begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love…with that burning love, that passion which led to the Cross, then we can truly say! Now I have begun. . .”

Thank you to All Who Walk With Us through Prayer and gifts! You have made this journey possible!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



We are beggars! Money is needed for socks, food, and other supplies and we appreciate whatever is given:

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

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