October 24, 2022

Ex Denominalists!

Luke 18:9-14

Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


    During the writing of the dissertation for my doctorate several years ago, I interviewed approximately one hundred and fifty people including teenagers seeking to find out how church denominations affected their lives, only five had a positive response, and the remainder had no response.

    In asking each to share their different journey and yet similar, one could hear the Pharisee speaking to each one:‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

    They left or were kicked out for a number of reasons:  in an evangelistic church they disagreed with the theology; several were lesbian or simply female and called to professional ministry; others came out as Queer, and some for refusing to vote for Donald Trump. For all of them: their churches raised money for their building, and simply ignored the poor.

    In talking with street youth and adult homeless, churches ignore them, reject them, and for many were sexually abused by ministers, priests, or church members.

    Overall the denominational church has no meaning in their world. In fact, Christianity has no meaning in their lives.

     Looking into the eyes of each one, seeing their pain, one can hear the words of Jesus:

I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    And the Divine One stands  with a smile, that radiates across the wounds of each one, with his wounds visible, not from dying for our sins, but as the healing accepting Abba saying: “How I have wanted to gather you together as a hen gathers her children under her wings.” Safe in the arms of Jesus and our Mother God with their wounds healed. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Blazing Love!

October 20, 2022


“I have come to set the earth on fire,” Jesus proclaims, “and how I wish it were already blazing!”

(Luke 12:49).

We might find these words unsettling, hitting a bit close to home. Is Jesus condoning the fires raging across our state? Is Jesus predicting violence, calling for more death and destruction?

Quiet the opposite. In this context, fire is not destructive but cleansing. Jesus is taking a prophetic stance, crying out for a  new world order that will begin with an ultimate judgment, one not to be feared but yearned for, a blazing love that sets right and heals the world.  He is crying out not in anger, but anguish(12:50) giving us a glimpse of his own inner turmoil. For this fire can only be unleashed through his death–“the baptism with which I must be baptized”-which will set in motion the cleansing and renewal of those who follow him, and set them on fire.    

His call is for each human being to be loved as a child of God. A call to see through the evil present in people, and see the broken face of Christ. It is an invitation to bring this blazing fire to others.

My friend Mike, in the photo above, last week as we were on the street, walked over to the elderly gentleman. He gave “Jim” some food, knelt down, and with tears in his eyes, looked at Jim’s feet, the skin broken from walking, with sores, from not having fresh socks. He held the feet in his hands and placed a fresh sock on each foot with loving care!

This is the “blazing fire of love”, to individually help someone, putting oneself in another’s place, and without worrying about personal harm assisting that person.

This is the “blazing fire of love”, to see each person as precious in God’s sight! To take risks to serve!

This morning at 5:30 a.m. as I prayed the “Vigil” in the “Daily Office,” awaiting the dawning of the day, signifying trusting God to bring another dawn, my mind centered on the recent slayings in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I cry for all who are suffering; I cry for those murdered, for their families, and for the local community. All are broken, and all are in need now, and in the days ahead of the blazing fire of the love of God in individuals to take them into their arms, to hold and, to bring hope and love, and finally  I cry for Austin, a young man so overcome with the evil of mental illness he hurt so many.

May the blazing fire of love push our society to have mental health for all, and each of us to brings the blazing fire of love in caring for adolescents. In helping them find care and meaning in their lives.

And may we remember the words of Father Ronald Rothlheiser:

“Whenever we are discouraged in our faith, whenever our hopes seem to be crucified, we need to go back to Galilee, back to the dream and the road. .that we had embarked upon before things went wrong.”

And in closing  let us pray the prayer in today’s Vigils:

“Hidden God, ever present to me,

may I now be present to you,

attentive to  your every word,

attuned to your inspirations,

alert to your touch.

Empty me that I maybe filled with you alone.



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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164




I have started addressing Christmas Cards, and if you do not believe I have your snail mail and would like to have a card please email me. Thanks!

A Grateful Life!

October 17, 2022

A Grateful Life!

(We have the statue of “Mary: Untier of Knots”/and “Asin”, the Lion of Narnia!)

Each day I pray to “Mary: Untier of Knots”, asking her to help untie the knots within my life, to Jesus the One who calls me to new life.”

2 Timothy 3:14-17

New Living Translation

“14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

     Fr. Henri  Nouwen writes of living in gratitude, and one might ask “How can we live in gratitude? Every day we have death around us, and as I walk the streets and see the pain of homelessness, I have pain and now the long-term effects of the Coronavirus.

     We look back and we can divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. I have found when that in dividing the past in such a manner leaves me limping toward the future.

     Fr. Henri says gently: “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 all that has happened in the past was good, but it does means that even the bad did not 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 the good  news to others.”

     I look back and see my life in the closet,  as a minister, my life as a whore, on the streets, all of which brought me here as a priest. My life good, and bad, has been a blessed life. My life in the injuries has been blessed.

    In working with people, I share their life experiences and share with them the love of Asian, “The Lion of Judah”, and Christ in The Chronicle of Narnia ( The God who loves them no matter what, and does not judge them). The God who is with them now in their pain, and fears, and always is holding them in his arms.

    The photo above is of Asian, the Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia, who represents Jeus, and

He is strong, nurturing, and always there. 

    The photo was given to me by Tony, who calls himself, “A renaissance man,” ( Harlem Renaissance that is). Tony is a young black man, and sees himself as the “personification of African-American culture, an artist, activist, B-Boy, Beatbox, Emcee, Father-Healer, Motivational Speaker, Teacher, poet, Spoken Word Artist, and Vegan.” He chooses to live in his van, where he makes art and paints shirts and sweatshirts with the same pictures.  He is a large man, always happy with a loud voice. Tony tells me he gave up on the Church a long time ago, “they preach judgment, hellfire, and tell us how to live in their middle-class ways when all we have to do is love one another”. Tony does not want to house until “everyone has housing.” He is getting me blankets, and jackets to give away. Tony is an example of being grateful for his life, he takes it as it comes and is grateful!

    As I have let go of the judgment garbage Christianity and embraced the giving non-judgmental love of Jesus, my life has become grateful, and that is what I share with the people I work with. For Asian (Jesus) teaches that we are all precious, so precious in the eyes of the Living God, for in the words of Dorothy Day, “He is disguised under every type of humanity that treads the earth!

    And each day as I lift the Bread and Wine, I am reminded that Jesus gave his life, that all might have a life! Be grateful! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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 whole program of creation is to being us back into contact with God! “Jason Shulman

Book Review!

October 13, 2022

Forest Inslee and Angel Burns in this book on short-term missions state as their primary thesis:

“Not only are most short-term missions efforts are ineffective but are shown to cause damage to those they are meant to help.”

Their contention is that short-term mission groups are basically unhelpful because they are unable to get to know the people they come to serve, and are harmful resulting because of the class differences between the two groups. The”rich” people come in, do their thing, and leave. No relationship and no equality. There was a youth group, the cutest white kids one can find, came to Haight to witness for Jesus, and at noon, got on a bus to go to lunch down town at an expensive restaurant, and one of the guys on the street asked if he could go, and the response: “Accept Jesus, and one day he will help you be able to afford a decent meal.” That is harmful!

In the past, I  have hosted groups, but as they left, there was a feeling of using the guys I serve. The youth were always fun, and enjoyable, but they had their phones, and “toys”, always well dressed. When I worked with the youth directly I could enable them to find sameness in much of their journey with these guys.  But their leaders were afraid of the youth really getting to know them. As one said: “Our youth might get a disease, or be hurt physically.” That is ignorance from an adult!

The other aspect is the youth were tourists, they basically stayed in nice hotels and wanted much of ther time away doing tourist things. In fact, one group had me take them around the City.

Every group I have hosted have come from major cities: L.A., Chicago, etc., and when I suggested to their leaders they do mission trips at home and work out a long term plan to have work. The answer was always “no” they wanted to come to the magical city of California.

The authors sum up their work in these words which I agree with:

Real, practical, systematic transformation will happen only when STM practitioners at the grassroots level–both senders and hosts–have the courage to design entirely new approaches that fundamentally challenge the status quo.”

Frankly, short-term mission trips are ineffective and can be harmful. I no longer take short-term mission trips for that reason. The authors suggest groups come and live with the ones they are serving for several months and come to know them.

My suggestion is that churches in the United States look within their own community and area and find where people are impoverished and work with them on a regular, long term basis, and let their youth get a taste of real mission and pain people suffer. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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


Coming Out As A Human Being!

October 11, 2022

Coming Out As A Human Being!

“For freedom, Christ has set us free: stand firm therefore and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery Galatians 5:1.”

    Jason Shulman, tells us today on National Coming Out Day that when we encourage LGBTQ individuals to come out, we should be yelling from the house tops our coming out as human beings in these words:

“To be human is to lose our way and find it again. The human lineage is the lineage of falling down and getting up again.”

    My own journey can never be separated from my faith in Jesus. It is that relationship that has sustained me all of my life in the good times and the bad times.

    In the southern town in which I was raised, all were Christians, and the battle was between those who were really saved, the Baptists or the Methodists. I have gone to many a revival where all of us young guys went forward to be saved from the sins of masturbation, cussing, smoking, etc. This happened every spring and fall.

    When I became a Methodist minister the sins became a little more sophisticated, namely, homosexuality was an “intrinsic evil”. I found myself out on the streets when I came out.

    The “coming out” event began my evolution of faith. I have come to see that “to be human is to lose our way  and to find it again..to fall and to get up again.”

    Heaven and hell as we have known it has been tools used to control humanity. Jesus loves every last one of us. Life is about remembering to whom we belong and to our call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    Time and again we forget who we are, we fall down into living lives of destruction but are invited each time to rise up. To claim our humanity and the love awaiting us.

    When we forget our humanity we fail to remember our connectedness to each other and harm ourselves, and the environment. We fall when we hurt others. We can get up again and begin anew, we are imperfect.

    Come out–be human! Recognize the LGTBQ community as simply human beings, as well as all other communities of ethnicity, color, economic status, and religion.

“To Fall Is To Be Human,

To get up again is divine!”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Father River Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164




Write Down the Vision!

October 2, 2022

Write Down the Vision!

Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time!

October 1, 2022

Habakkuk:2-4; 2:2-6

“God how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help, murder, police?”. .And then God answered, “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. . .”

Our reading for the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time is from the short book of Habakkuk, just three chapters, and is entirely devoted to a dialogue between God and the prophet. Habakkuk’s name means “to wrestle and embrace,” and in this book, he is wrestling with God, and also embracing him.

When Habakkuk was writing, Israel was under corrupt leadership where injustice, evil, and tragedy were the norm.  Habakkuk saw the injustice happening around him and questioned whether God even cared. His heart ached for the people and the oppression they were facing. In the midst of the injustice, Habakkuk was trying to reconcile who he believed God to be and what he saw in front of him. It is a  familiar dilemma that many of us have faced, wondering where God was in the midst of pain and sorrow and whether God truly cared.

Against all odds, Habakkuk decided to wait faithfully for God’s response to his lament. When God finally answered, Habakkuk heard this command, “Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run,” and God promises, he/her “will not disappoint” and will come at the “appointed time.”

We too see injustice, oppression, and discrimination around us. Homelessness is growing every day in the City and across the nation. Each day as I walk down the street, there are ten or so people frankly out of it, either on drugs or mental illness or both; working every day I see hundreds without clothing, sleeping equipment, and food. Housing being built is for the upper classes, there is hardly a middle class in San Francisco, the very rich or the very poor. The police are harsh with people who are homeless and are discriminatory and do not deal with mental illness or drug users well. People without housing are seen as a “problem” and are pushed from place to place. We walk by and ignore the one in front of us in need. The politicians are so polarized, and divided, that nothing is done. The religious community keeps their doors shut, and complains about homeless people sleeping on their doorsteps. This is not God’s vision!

God’s vision is not found in our sitting back, and whining, but is found in “wrestling with the issue, and embracing God” in action.

We are called to meet the needs of people without housing outside of our doors; to feed them; give up our money and our time to provide food and clothing for them; to advocate and fight for their needs in society and other issues; to open our doors to the needy of the neediest.

St. Clare of Assisi once said: “We become what we love and Who we love shapes what we become.” Sr. Helen Prejean, in the photo above, is a living example of that phrase. In 1993 she was a school teacher nun in New Orleans, and in an experience of seeing Christ in a condemned prisoner, she experienced a new conversion of the heart, and her life has been given to advocating for the end of the death penalty. She has become who she loves.

God’s vision asks all of us to show up and speak up for justice, and do justice! We must trust the vision of justice will come, even if we have to wait. We are simply carrying the torch until we pass the torch forward.

Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently said: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”

As the consecrated Bread and Wine are lifted at the Holy Eucharist, the words are uttered: “See who you are, become who you see!

Let us lift our eyes up to the homeless, the poor, and see the broken body of Jesus, and minister to him, let us become who we see! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Angels UnAware

September 30, 2022

Saints Michael. Gabriel. and Raphael

Angel’s Unaware!

John 1:47-51

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him: Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him. . .

John Shulman writes in The Manual For Receiving God,

“God receives us just as we are. But we don’t receive ourselves in the same way. We don’t love ourselves as we are. Our deepest work is not so much to improve ourselves as to realize ourselves, to see ourselves clearly and dearly.”

I have spent the better part of my life trying to meet the expectation of others. And the result has been simply being a mess. But as I have come to love myself what gives my life meaning and purpose is merely to practice kindness to who and what I am, and in so doing I practice kindness and love towards everyone meet, a message I heard from  our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of the Angels in Los Angels on a night of working as a sex worker, many years ago:  “Jesus loves you as you are, get on with the ministry of loving others.”

Yesterday was the feast of three angels, which brought to mind the angels, the angels who are “Angels Unaware” that have come through my life.

One of those angels was Damien, whom I first met in 1992, in Minneapolis, a young man, who struggled with his sexuality, being kicked out of his home because of that sexuality, and living on the street, hustling, and doing whatever he had to do to survive.

He was an “Angel Unaware” to me and others. I struggled with my own sexuality, trying to find my way in a world without the institutional church, friends, and family, Damien walked with me, and from him, I “began to see myself more clearly and dearly.” He died of AIDS and now is a part of the great Cloud of Witnesses that surrounds us.

Damien lived out the tack that Jesus taught in the Gospel. One person approaches another, engaging in simple conversation, dignifying his existence by simply recognizing the fellow human being before him. Only then does Jesus speak of angels.

Perhaps we would do well today to treat our pesky emails and texts, phone calls, and surprise visitors in this way. Don’t keep looking for the next message, put down your games and snap chat; be present to the person on the other end of the one you just received. After all, you may unknowingly be entertaining an angel. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164




Socks Are Life!

September 28, 2022

Socks Are Life!

One rainy, dark night, coming home from dinner with friends, waiting to cross the street, a young guy named”Shaggy” pulled on my jacket. He was wet, and begging for socks.

Looking down I saw soggy, wet, socks, looking like they had been worn forever. So I took my shoes off and handed him the socks on my feet.

That began a journey of examination of the importance of wearing socks, and how difficult not having clean socks are for people who live on the streets to obtain. Few people give socks in donations, and they are expensive.

When one walks the streets of Polk and Haight in San Francisco, one sees a variety of people–tourists, bright-eyed, awed by the buildings, art on the walls,  cable cars, our multi-colored culture in general, people who are housed, middle class to the wealthiest, and people who have no housing.

Estimates tell us in San Francisco alone there are twenty-thousand plus people without housing,  and one-fourth of which are young adults–from 12-23. For the most part, they are sight unseen, no one seems to see them, the invisible population of the City.

This is my parish, my church, a ministry of presence with people, especially youth without housing. It is a  listening ministry, simply hanging out, making no judgments, and along with the listening food is given, and always the number one request– socks.

I have given you a pair of socks, take them in your hands (they will be given a pair of socks), feel and, smell their pleasant order, experience the soft touch, and imagine how comfortable your feet will feel when they are placed on your feet.

Imagine wearing those socks for six or seven days, and imagine the smell. Imagine wearing wet socks.

Socks are more than comfort, when feet are injured from not wearing socks or from dirty wet socks it leads to poor health through sores and infected feet which spreads throughout the body. Socks are an item of providing good health.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement once reflected on prayer to a group of teens who asked her how often she prayed:

“Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow? I doubt it. I believe some people–lots of people-pray through the witness in their lives, through the work they do, the friendships they have, and the love they offer people and receive from people. Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer.”

My invitation is to each of you to give the prayer of clean socks! Clean socks save lives!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



snapchat: riodamien3


Hope in the Midst of Tragedy!

September 27, 2022

A Hope Beyond Tragedy!

Reading 1 Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day.
Job spoke out and said:

Perish the day on which I was born,
the night when they said, “The child is a boy!”

Why did I not perish at birth,
come forth from the womb and expire?
Or why was I not buried away like an untimely birth,
like babes that have never seen the light?
Wherefore did the knees receive me?
or why did I suck at the breasts?

For then I should have lain down and been tranquil;
had I slept, I should then have been at rest
With kings and counselors of the earth
who built where now there are ruins
Or with princes who had gold
and filled their houses with silver.

There the wicked cease from troubling,
there the weary are at rest.

Why is light given to the toilers,
and life to the bitter in spirit?
They wait for death and it comes not;
they search for it rather than for hidden treasures,
Rejoice in it exultingly,
and are glad when they reach the grave:
Those whose path is hidden from them,
and whom God has hemmed in!


Suffering is not a subject we want to think of, even bring up, let alone talk about, when all of us suffer in one manner or another.

Job was suffering over the death of his kids, and he went back and forth in his questioning and doubts about God.

The actions of humanity result in our suffering. Climate change, violence, and abuse are a result of human action, yet we want God to deliver us.

My young friend Damien was raised in a loving and caring home, with a conservative faith experience. At twelve years old he was “saved” in his words.  He told me that from the age of nine, he knew he was gay. In adolescence, he would sneak around gay bars, and parks where men cruised, and had sex.

Damien began to have symptoms of HIV at sixteen and went to a doctor who diagnosed him and told Damien’s parents.

Telling his parents, refusing to repent he was kicked out of his home and found himself hustling on the street. He was free, cute, and he lived wild.

He converted to AIDS at twenty and experienced severe depression, had no faith in anything, and became suicidal. But in his struggle, found faith in a God of love, and he moved into being present to others. He was safe in his sex life, and with hustling clients; Damien worked with others suffering from AIDS, and volunteered in a hospice; he died in peace at San Francisco General Hospital at the age of 23.

Through his struggles with doubt, rejection, and in despair without hope, the resurrection of the Crucified One, turned defeat into triumph, ugliness into beauty, despair into hope, and the cross into faith in the resurrection. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Real Human Grief!

September 27, 2022

Real  Human Grief!

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:30-31). ESV

Death is inevitable, we can not escape death. As much as I watch my diet and stay at the proper weight, check my glucose, exercise, and get the proper rest, I will die.

We have “little deaths” in our lives, preparing us for our final moments, and it is important we recognize and grieve these “little deaths” in preparation for living with compassion now! In my own life I remember many:

My grandparents

my parents,

losing my first career in coming out,

my friend Brandon in the photo,

my son Zack,

my friend Vicki Yeley,

my friends Ken and Rose Innes,

 the thousands through the

years of my ministry,


the thousands of friends who move through my


the gentrification of the City, little deaths, much grieving.

Death weaves within our lives every day, we can run, we can try to hide, but death is present.

Many times I am asked: exactly what do you do? How many people do you get off the streets? Tell me of someone you have really helped.

My ministry, (our) ministry is not about providing material items, they are secondary, necessary for survival, and heart warming, it is one of spirit, being present with individuals in their lives in general, holding their hands, simply listening as they struggle with living on the streets, wrestling with addiction and abuse. Listening to their wrestling with God and meaning in life, and in facing death each day on the streets. The streets “ain’t for sissies”.

Father Henri Nouwen in his lovely words shares his reflection on facing death:

“Real human grief means allowing the illusions of immortality to die in us. When those whom we love with an “endless love” die, something also has to die within us. If we do not allow this to happen, we will lose touch with reality, our lives will become increasingly artificial, and we will lose our human capacity for compassion.”

To experience our “real human grief” allows us to open our hearts to others without judgment, in all-embracing care and love. For we see we are all on the same journey, and experience the same fate! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!”


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164