The Long Loneliness


The Long Loneliness

“A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “:Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered,  “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went.”

“But Jesus. . .did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people, and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:24.


    A question “What do you see in the photo above? A priest, a guy named River, or an abuser because I wear a collar, and am proud of my priesthood, a sexist, a violent person,  a lover of evil ? Ask yourself and hold your answer. All of you will have different answers. Saint, sinner, or don’t give a damn? You see all I am is a sinful person, trying to live out the Gospel of love.

    Last night riding a bus to the hospital, a young man pulled a knife on me, I blocked it, and looked him in the eyes, and he screamed, “Abuser,” and as he screamed I continued seeing the pain, hurt and fear in his eyes, I continued to look him straight in the eyes,  and suddenly this  young guy calmed down and started crying, he saw my humanity, and my care, and we talked. Sean hugged me as we got off the bus.

    Several years a go a woman priest started cussing me as I came into a meeting wearing  clerical s because women priests were discriminated against by men wearing the same; I sat with a family last night of a young man who had died, and the the collar brought comfort and hope. 

    In times like last night I sit with the Book of Common Prayer, and in my wavering faith,  join together with the Church universal, and let those prayers cover me. Some have been written by segregationists,  homophobes, racists, killers, and patriarchs,  yet  all are  written by the Spirit of God, operating with in the sinful structure of our humanity. Those prayers are transformational.

    Faithfulness means practicing what is not always in our heart, so that it will become a part of us. Showing up, even when our lives, reputations, and relationships are threatened, and even when we don’t have the best intentions, for it is still a reasonable and God blessed start. We meet people where they are. We are not in a “tribe” or on a “team”. We are not “team players”.

    Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Junipero Serra, and so will I have his tattoo cut from my shoulder, or will we remember he was a  man of his time, and in that time did the best he could in showing love, a love that the majority of people did not show to Native Americans, he operated within a different cultural context; do we cut out Abraham Lincoln from books, or do we remember he is the President who freed the slaves, maybe not for totally pure reasons, yet he freed them; the same with President Grant, he owned slaves at one time, but he did not in his later years, and as  President lead a compassionate reconstruction.  Do we ban “To Kill A Mockingbird”, and Huckleberry Fin,” because of some racist words, common in their time and culture, or do we see them for what they are, and also see the great literature?

    Should I tear up  the photos of my parents who used the “N” word often, or do I see them as the compassionate people they were, and love them in their ignorance and a part of their times and culture?

    All of us are a mixture–I look back on my life and cringe; I act now in moments of pain and fear, like when I was sick or feel threatened, and I am humiliated, but continue on the journey. I have used words like the “N” word, “fag” in my past, but have been transformed.  I have friends who use both words, and I love them for their goodness. I do not walk away from them, nor do I judge them, but live a life that shows them a new way of thinking and believing. I have friends who have been abused by “white” people, and yet they do not see the “color” in me.

    I trust no one, because I am judged by my actions and where I stand–friends have walked a way because I minister to death row inmates; friends have walked a way because I do not agree with them; close friends. I watch what I say to “friends” because we know they will be offended, and I have people walk away when I tell them I am a priest, and when I stand firm in my faith. I trust no one.

    The Gospel of John summed it up: “But Jesus. . .did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people, and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:24.

    Will I stop wearing a collar because it represents  shadows of pains; Will I stop wearing my cross or wearing the rainbow ring? No, I will not throw out the diamonds with the bath water?     The good over all shines true, and my prayer is that one day people can see me for who I am, my intentions, without judgment and forgive me when I make mistakes. My prayer is people will learn to meet in the middle.

    This is what Dorothy Day meant when she referred to the “long loneliness.” We need to meet in the middle.

    The only time there is any hope of trust is when we meet in the middle and try to live out the words of Jesus, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” This is the foundation of trust. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O.Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


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