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Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion [Paperback]

Sara Miles
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 5 2008
Early one morning, for no earthly reason, Sara Miles, raised an atheist, wandered into a church, received communion, and found herself transformed–embracing a faith she’d once scorned. A lesbian left-wing journalist who’d covered revolutions around the world, Miles didn’t discover a religion that was about angels or good behavior or piety; her faith centered on real hunger, real food, and real bodies. Before long, she turned the bread she ate at communion into tons of groceries, piled on the church’s altar to be given away. Within a few years, she and the people she served had started nearly a dozen food pantries in the poorest parts of their city.

Take This Bread is rich with real-life Dickensian characters–church ladies, millionaires, schizophrenics, bishops, and thieves–all blown into Miles’s life by the relentless force of her newfound calling. Here, in this achingly beautiful, passionate book, is the living communion of Christ.

“The most amazing book.”
–Anne Lamott

“Engaging, funny, and highly entertaining . . . 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.”
–Booklist

“Powerful . . . This book is a gem [and] will remain with you forever.”
–The Decatur Daily

“What Miles learns about faith, about herself and about the gift of giving and receiving graciously are wonderful gifts for the reader.”
–National Public Radio

“[A] joyful memoir . . . advocates big-tent Christianity in the truest sense . . . a story of finding sustenance and passing it on.”
–National Catholic Reporter

“Rigorously honest, Take This Bread demonstrates how hard–and how necessary–it is to welcome everyone to the table, without exception.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

“Moving, delightful and significant.”
–The Christian Century

Don’t miss the reading group guide in the back of the book.

Frequently Bought Together

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion + Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead + City of God: Faith in the Streets
Price For All Three: CDN$ 45.86


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Product Description

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational Dec 3 2011
By Nomo
Format:Paperback
Challenging, moving, well written. This is testimony to the meaning of life. Needs are met. Love heals. Cuts through all the 'stuff' and gets to real relationships between real people. Love your neighbour. Love God. Love heals.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking & inspirational May 4 2011
By RCH
Format:Paperback
A book that any Christian who is open to debating common practice in traditional churches would enjoy. This tells a story of a lesbian unbeliever who finds faith in an Episcopalian church and starts a grocery program for those less fortunate. Her story is inspirational and a wonderful read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars My wife enjoyed this book Oct. 16 2010
Format:Paperback
My wife asked me to order this book for her. She found it inspirational, well-written, and a good portrayal of the Christian message. It is a testament to the power of an individual to do good in society.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  113 reviews
95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hunger and holiness May 14 2007
By Daniel B. Clendenin - Published on Amazon.com
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. If you have spent any time in church you will especially appreciate Miles' candid descriptions of the disruptions and divisions that the food pantries caused at Saint Gregory's. At one point more homeless, schizophrenic, and drug-crazed hungry people came to the food pantry than artsy, proper worshippers to the church services. While Miles saw this as a blessing, others saw it as a curse of sorts.

With her story of radical Christian conversion and the incarnation of daily discipleship Miles will join other feminist authors who have earned a broad readership because of the authenticity with which they have written about loving Christ, the church, and the world--Joan Chittister, Nora Gallagher, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Marilynne Robinson, and Barbara Brown Taylor come to mind. When I finished her book my mind kept returning to Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 4:21, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power," and in Galatians 5:6, "The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love."
73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Kind of Christianity April 8 2007
By O. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
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.

*****
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feed your soul with this message March 30 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
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.

Through her good work, Sara Miles has set up a number of similar food pantries in San Francisco, helping hundreds of people. This heartwarming, sometimes funny and sometimes sad, story of one woman's plight to bring the church to the people should be an inspiration to all of us to reach out to those around us, and embrace God's children, as he embraces us all.

Armchair Interviews says: One woman's good work is making a huge difference
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking. . .and that's a good thing Oct. 2 2007
By D. Whitmarsh - Published on Amazon.com
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." She gets that feeding the poor is one of the essentials of following Christ. And she gets the fact that Christ is for the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the hungry. She understands that the Kingdom of God is right here, right now, right under our noses, if we would only open our eyes to see it. She hammers home the idea that community is core to Christianity - but not the community we choose; it's the community God calls to us, and calls us to. She gets the Modern Church. "My suspicion was that committees in churches served the same purpose as committees in other institutions: They were holding tanks for people who professed interest in an issue but didn't always want to act." And, I've got to tell you, the story of her conversion, of how she walked into church, received Communion, and was overcome by God, is breathtakingly powerful. I wish all could read her story.

In the end, a lot of Christians will be scandalized by much of who she is and what she says There are certainly parts that make me uncomfortable. And yet there is so much to learn here, so much the Church needs to wrestle with, to understand, to hear - it ought to shock Christians right out of their complacency, into a place where they take Jesus' mandate seriously.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take this Bread...and this book! July 20 2007
By The Inveterate Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book came recommended by Anne Lamott from the Sun Valley Writer's Conference newsletter. I am so glad I took her up on her suggestion. Sara Miles' conversion story is one of the best books of biblical exegeses I have had the pleasure to read.

Her childhood was liberal and void of relgion. But the hunger to be spiritually fed was always present. In her thirties she stumbles across an episcopal church in San Francisco and for the first time takes the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Her feeling of being fed by Christ - being welcome to sit at His table - is profound and life changing. She passionately shows us how we are all welcome to Christ's table to be nourished and fed despite our brokenness, weakness, intolerance, and just plain humanness. And we are called to nourish and feed others, those that are easy to love and those that are not. She makes her experience of being fed and feeding others visceral and real - all are welcome, no questions asked. I found this book insightful, funny, and inspiring.
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