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Take This Bread: A Radical Conversionby Sara Miles
Synopses & Reviews
"Mine is a personal story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion, told by a very unlikely convert." — Sara Miles
Raised as an atheist, Sara Miles lived an enthusiastically secular life as a restaurant cook and a writer. Then early one winter 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 she ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine, and found herself radically transformed.
The mysterious sacrament of communion has sustained Miles ever since, in a faith she'd scorned, in work she'd never imagined. In this astonishing story, she tells how the seeds of her conversion were sown, and what her life has been like since she took that bread.
A lesbian left-wing journalist who covered revolutions around the world, Miles was not the woman her friends expected to see suddenly praising Jesus. She was certainly not the kind of person the government had in mind to run a "faith-based charity." Religion for her was not about angels or good behavior or piety; it was about 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. The first food pantry she established provided hundreds of poor, elderly, sick, deranged, and marginalized people with lifesaving food and a sense of belonging. Within a few years, the loaves had multiplied, and she and the people she served had started nearly a dozen more pantries.
Take This Bread is rich with real-life Dickensian characters — church ladies, child abusers, millionaires, schizophrenics, bishops, and thieves — all blown into Miles's life by the relentless force of her newfound calling. She recounts stories about trudging through the rain in housing projects, wiping the runny nose of a psychotic man, storing a battered woman's .375 Magnum in a cookie tin. She writes about the economy of hunger and the ugly politics of food; the meaning of prayer and the physicality of faith. Here, in this achingly beautiful, passionate book, is the living communion of Christ.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A love song to the feast at the altar and the feast of a food pantry written with grit, authority and integrity." Nora Gallagher, author of Changing Light
"Sara Miles's joy, confusion, and passion for the Christian life, together with her skill as a professional journalist and the fullness of her own humanity, have produced what has to be the finest confession of faith I've read in years. Take This Bread is a good, tight, absorbing read." Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours and former Religion Editor for Publishers Weekly
"This book is a stunner. Beautifully and simply written, it is a wonderfully straightforward account of a life and a conversion which will leave many readers, as it left me, tingling with longing that such signs and wonders might emerge in and through our own stories. Sara has come by the great truths of the Christian faith honestly. The story of how people grow through becoming empowered to be givers, and not mere receivers of handouts is a wonderful glimpse at a true emergence of Church." James Alison, Catholic theologian, priest, and author of Faith Beyond Resentment
"Some books you can't put down, some you shouldn't — this one's both. Sara Miles's story of spiritual nourishment recalls Patch Adams, but she's also a writer like John Muir or Jane Addams, a gifted stylist whose passion translates to vivid storytelling. Take This Bread is necessary reading, I would think, for anyone who's ever taken a bite out of anything." J. C. Hallman, author of The Devil is a Gentleman
"Rigorously honest, Take This Bread demonstrates how hard...it is to welcome everyone to the table, without exception." San Francisco Chronicle
Miles has produced a provocative and witty spiritual memoir from an atheist-turned-religious activist. "Take This Bread" is the story of her journey to faith and how she took Jesus' call to feed others by establishing food pantries that feed thousands of people.
About the Author
Sara Miles is the author of How to Hack a Party Line: The Democrats and Silicon Valley and co-editor of Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan and the anthology Opposite Sex: Gay Men on Lesbians, Lesbians on Gay Men. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Progressive, La Jornada, and Salon, among others. She has written extensively on military affairs, politics, and culture. She lives in San Francisco with her family.
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