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City of God: Faith in the Streets Hardcover – February 4, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Miles, the founder and director of the Food Pantry and director of ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, offers this heartfelt memoir as homage to her faith community. But it is also a testament to the concept of faith itself as Miles, an atheist when she first came to St. Gregory’s, accepts communion for the first time, ironically in the place with the lowest rates of church attendance of any major U.S. city. She began discovering faith in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill and Mission neighborhoods, especially through the Ash Wednesday liturgies with their recognition, she writes, of common mortality and the call for repentance and change. Even as mainline Protestant congregations decline, she notes there is a growing network of unhoused congregations that meet outdoors to serve people living on the streets. Their stories are a big part of this, as is her discussion of the importance of finding the common good, a notion that is under siege as the Mission becomes more gentrified. An informative, luminous memoir of faith and community. --June Sawyers

Review

"Joyous and touching...An intriguing read, Miles' account will resonate most with those who live in and love the inner city."―Kirkus Reviews

"An informative, luminous memoir of faith and community."―Booklist

"This is a convincing Lenten adventure into a dynamic Christian view of faith in the streets, of repentance and blessing, life and death, in the cracked sidewalks and fractured realities of the city of God."―Publishers Weekly

"CITY OF GOD is another gorgeous, gritty, profound work of art from Sara Miles...I love everything she writes, but there is something special about this new book."―Anne Lamott

"Miles makes a convincing case for taking worship outside and provokes the churched reader to join her on the asphalt."―Sojourners

"Once again Sara Miles has given us a great read about...how every moment of our lives is liturgy, and each and every liturgy we do is for the whole world which God loves so dearly."―Nedi Rivera, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon

"A wondrous new book...[Sara] is a fantastic writer."―Spirituality & Heath Magazine

"Sara is so inspiring...Where most aim for the clouds, she's focused on the dirt and sweat and blood and struggle of this world and the presence here in it with us-which is, of course, the best news of all."―Rob Bell, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God and Love Wins

"Gorgeously written, City of God takes Jesus from the walls of the church to the streets of the city, showing us that where two or more Anglicans or prostitutes or head-injured junkies or housewives are gathered, He is with us. I cannot recommend this book highly enough."―Nadia Bolz-Weber, New York Times bestselling author of Pastrix

"There's a refreshing honesty to City of God; her actions on Ash Wednesday take on greater significance in light of her questioning."―Los Angeles Review of Books

"Sara Miles is a spiritual pioneer...Now she has taken us into the streets of the city where the very hope of heaven intersects the very the heart of life, where we might discover anew that God is truly with us."―Bishop Michael Curry, Episcopal Diocese of North Carolin

"Rarely, if ever, have I heard or read or experienced a more poignant or persuasive presentation of the city as metaphor and prototype for the Kingdom of God. Miles's panorama is lived theology, and its result is a kind of holy magnificence."―Phyllis Tickle, author, The Great Emergence

"Sara Miles gives us much more than a beautiful love song to her neighborhood...she offers us a glimpse of how living Christian faith can re-enchant the world."―James Alison, Catholic priest, theologian, and author
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jericho Books; First Edition edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145554731X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455547319
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #826,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book in airports on a flight from Houston to Dallas, TX. I am sure any number of people wondered why this flannel-wearing guy reading City of God kept crying in his seat. I am certain the man sitting next to me on my flight when I got to page 185 thought I was having a breakdown.

There's this line: "I don't even know what 'this' is,' said Kelsey, 'but I could do this forever." She's talking about offering ashes to people in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. The book has built emotionally to such a high level when this sentence is spoken, I burst not just into tears but into sobs.

Miles' book is, on the surface, quite simple. It's about offering ashes in public one day in San Francisco in 2012. But a good chunk of the book is devoted to the years building up to 2012 when Ashes to Go or Taking Ashes to the Street was a developing habit around the country.

Miles is adept at describing the beauty of the liturgies they offer in her church. She is also adept at describing her city, her neighborhood. She loves her place, and is committed to it. So this is not just a story of imposing ashes, but a story of the people who deeply need and desire them.

It is about the beauty of public liturgy and a world in need of "more forgiveness."

Reading this just a few days after Ash Wednesday 2014, the book resonates on so many levels. I plan to share it with others widely and wildly.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sara Miles' newest book is a great read. Though I'm somewhat uncomfortable with some of her profanity it is refreshing to see Christians actually taking their faith out of the four walls of the church (as unique as St. Gregory's is) into the grittiness of downtown San Francisco. Her list of characters can only be appreciated if someone has spent some time in S.F or any other major city where the lifestyles are not exactly our of the Victorian Age. But the concern Sara and her cast of characters who take the ashes of Lent to those who come by is delightfully encouraging and gives hope that Christianity still has something to say to those who may never darken the doors of a traditional church. Recommend it highly
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Format: Hardcover
If reading about God/religion makes you uncomfortable, don’t read this book. If reading about gay people makes you nervous, don’t read this book. If you don’t like reading about people of color, especially Hispanics, don’t read this book. If you prefer that your church experience stays in the building labeled “church” don’t read this book. If, the other hand, you are looking for a book that will challenge your preconceived notions of Lent and where you may find and experience God, this might be the book for you.

Author Sara Miles is a surprisingly provocative for a middle-aged, married home owner who is the Director of Ministry at the Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Her book, “city of god: faith in the streets” is not her first book and it shows. It shows in how she explains complicated thoughts in short, pithy sentences. For example, regarding misconceptions about “repentance” she quotes a colleague who says that “Jesus doesn’t care if you feel guilty. Jesus wants you to change.” She goes on to quote the same colleague who says that “Neither is repentance about simply saying you’re sorry, ‘That’s just apology … which is about etiquette. Repentance is about rebirth. It means putting on your big-girl panties and facing the world to do things differently.”

Simple words in a simple sentence that are simply unforgettable.

At this point I need to confess that until reading this book, I never really understood what this “putting a cross on your forehead” business meant. I am embarrassed to admit that I always felt it somehow identified Catholics and, at some level, was proselytizing. Reading this book inform not only informed my ignorance its elegant explanation motivated me to get “ashes” this Lenten season (at my Methodist church!).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the third of her books that I have read, and a really good insight into the place of God in the streets. I really was moved by the stories of street imposition of ashes, and her description of the neighbors she knows in her community. Another must read book if you have ever touched any of her books. She was the keynote speaker at the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane's annual convention in October 2013. I was privileged to sit on the first row. She is low key, but delivers a powerful message,
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sara Miles is not the person you would expect to be a messenger of Christ. But her life work of serving the people of the Mission District of San Francisco has made her a spokesperson for the unheard, the unseen, the unwanted. This book hangs on one Ash Wednesday of Ashes on Street, wherein ashes are imposed on passersby on the streets instead of requiring them to come to a church service. The actual liturgy is interspersed with observations of her neighbors, the struggle to save the Mission District from gentrification (and subsequent removal of the present population), the passionate plea for an open church, and her own faith journey. This is a thoroughly fascinating and inspiring book.
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