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Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion Hardcover – February 20, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345486927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345486929
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Where is it written that literary women must move to coastal California (if they don't already live there), become Episcopalians and write conversion memoirs? Miles, like recent memoirists Diana Butler Bass, Nora Gallagher and Lindsey Crittenden, loves Jesus and detests the religious right, though she is also critical of "the sappy, Jesus-and-cookies tone of mild-mannered liberal Christianity." Mild-mannered she is not. Converted at age 46 when she impulsively walked into a church and received communion for the first time, the former war correspondent suddenly understood her life's mission: to feed the hungry. What her parish needed, she decided, was a food pantry—and within a year (and over opposition from some fellow parishioners) she had started one that offered free cereal, fruit and vegetables to hundreds of San Francisco's indigent every Friday. Not willing to turn anyone away, she raised funds and helped set up other food pantries in impoverished areas, occasionally "crossing the line from self-righteous do-gooder to crusading zealot." For Miles, Christianity "wasn't an argument I could win, or even resolve. It wasn't a thesis. It was a mystery that I was finally willing to swallow." Grittier than many religious memoirs, Miles's story is a perceptive account of one woman's wholehearted, activist faith. (Feb. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A self-proclaimed blue-state, secular-intellectual, lesbian, left-wing journalist with a strong skeptical streak, Miles was hardly a candidate for Christian conversion. Yet convert she did, wholeheartedly at age 46. For upon her first Communion (in an Episcopal church), everything changed (she still can't fully explain the feelings that arose during her first Communion). She realized that "what I'd been doing with my life all along was what I was meant to do: feed people" and started a food pantry in her gritty San Francisco neighborhood. The journey from skeptical secularist to devout Christian was long, complicated, and often convoluted (her parents were avid atheists), but the story she makes of it is engaging, funny, and highly entertaining, including many surprises as well as the occasional wrong turn. Incidentally, Miles comments, often with great insight, on the ugliness that many people associate with a particular brand of Christianity. Why would any thinking person become a Christian? is one of the questions she addresses, and her answer is also compelling reading. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Sara Miles is the founder and director of The Food Pantry, and serves as Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. She is the author of CITY OF GOD: FAITH IN THE STREETS; JESUS FREAK: FEEDING HEALING RAISING THE DEAD; and TAKE THIS BREAD: A RADICAL CONVERSION.

To find details of Sara Miles' speaking engagements in a city near you, go to the "events" section of her Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sara-Miles/152978483594?id=152978483594&sk=events

Customer Reviews

Sara Miles is a good writer & her story is told well.
Agatina
This is a great read, one that will make Christians open their eyes, and people of other faiths respect someone who has lived her life in love.
O. Brown
I thought this was well written and interesting, especially against the background of this particular church group.
Bobbie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on May 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sara Miles describes herself as a blue-state, secular intellectual, a lesbian, and a left-wing journalist who developed habits of deep scepticism from covering revolutionary movements in Central America. Her grandparents on both sides were missionaries, but in reaction to that upbringing her parents were actively hostile to religion. So, it's a bit of an understatement that she also describes herself as a "very unlikely convert." But at the age of 46 Miles walked into Saint Gregory's Episcopal Church in San Francisco, partook of the Eucharist, and experienced a radical conversion. She had never heard a Gospel reading, never said the Lord's Prayer, and knew only one person who went to church. Today she is on staff at Saint Gregory's.

That was some eight years ago and only the beginning of further conversions. Building upon her life experiences as a chef, her conversion through the Eucharist, passion for the poor, and the founding vision of St. Gregory's, in 2000 Miles started a food pantry at her church that gave away free groceries (not meals) with no questions asked and no forms to fill out. Each week food for about 400 families was placed around the eucharistic altar. Such was the open communion and unconditional acceptance that she experienced at Saint Gregory's and intended to extend to anyone who was hungry. Through connections with the San Francisco Food Bank, and the generosity of unexpected donors, the miracle of the loaves multiplied and Miles went on to jump start nine more food pantries around the city.

Mundane food for the body became not only a sign of God's kingdom but, as theologians would say, the actual thing signified. Those who received wanted to give. Care for broken spirits accompanied bread for hungry bodies.
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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By O. Brown HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
*****

This is a book about a different kind of Christianity, one based on love and reminiscent of Jesus---authentic and moving---for all of those who are turned off by the religious right and what today passes for the "Good News". It is refreshing and eye-opening to see a secular leftist lesbian experience a radical conversion to Christianity based around feeding others' physical, spiritual and emotional hunger through food pantries. Jesus said "Feed My sheep", and the author does this, and chronicles her journey. She is the kind of Christian I want to be, not hate-based or fear-based or dogma-based, but faithful to the actual Gospel, which is violently at odds with the way faith is sometimes practiced today.

She is Episcopalian, and her sexual identiy as a lesbian (which she retains after her conversion) is peripheral to her story about feeding hungry people. She ministers to "the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely", and the book chronicles how all this comes about.

This is a great read, one that will make Christians open their eyes, and people of other faiths respect someone who has lived her life in love.

*****
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on March 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sara Miles was an unlikely candidate for a religious epiphany--a lesbian, with atheist parents and a journalistic view on life. She had been a restaurant cook and writer.

As she traveled to war-torn countries reporting on the effects of the war on the citizens, and experienced first-hand how people who are worlds apart, and don't speak the same language, can be brought together by the simple act of sharing food, she began to see food as the universal bond that ties us all together.

On her return to San Francisco, she happens upon St. Gregory's Church, a radical Episcopalian church where the founders are trying something new: Breaking down the barriers of the traditional church and inviting its members to take a greater role in the celebration of the Eucharist.

As quoted on her web site: Then early one morning, for no earthly reason, she wandered into a church. "I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian," she writes. "Or, as I thought of it rather less politely, a religious nut."

But Sara Miles ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine, and found herself radically transformed.

Sara is hooked, and is soon a full-fledged member of the church, receiving Communion on a regular basis. Her desire to share the breaking of bread with those less fortunate becomes overwhelming.

Sara sets up the St. Gregory's food pantry--a new idea, where, instead of dishing out meals like soup kitchens, the volunteers allow the poor and needy of the area to maintain their dignity by selecting their own groceries and bringing them home to cook their own meals. In no time, the news of the good work in St. Gregory's has spread among the community, and over 250 people gather outside every week for the pantry.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By D. Whitmarsh on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You know, there are those books you read and quickly forget. There are those books that give you an interesting thought or two. And then there are books that get under your skin and completely and forever change the way you look at things. This is one of the third kind. This book is powerful, it is overwhelming. You can not read this book and approach the Lord's Supper the same way again. You can not read this book and think of Christianity the same way. This book will change you.

It might also bother you, especially if you are an evangelical. Sara is raw. She's rough. She uses language and lives a lifestyle that would make many Christians furrow their brow. She throws out statements like this: "You know," Swami Jeff told me once, "God couldn't care less about the church. We don't understand the Eucharist, or that bread and wine live within us, so we ritualize the things that hold the mystery. We focus on the container and formalize the mystery. But you can't do that." Which is, of course, so wrong in so many ways. God does care about the Church. The Church is God at work in the world. The book of Ephesians rightly teaches that the greatest metaphor for Christ and the Church is a husband and wife (and the metaphor goes the other way, as well). And there are many other things about this book that are so bothersome. And offensive.

And yet, her voice is necessary, because she get so much right. She understands the radical, accepting love of Jesus Christ for this world. She gets that love for Jesus demands a love for all his children. She gets that serving Christ is more important than showing up to church and looking pretty. "Doing the Gospel rather than just quoting it was the best way I could find out what God was up to.
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