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Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion [Paperback]

By Sara Miles (Author)
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Item description for Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles...

Raised as an atheist, Sara Miles lived an enthusiastically secular life. 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 she ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine, and found herself radically transformed. The sacrament of communion has sustained Miles ever since, in a faith she'd scorned, in work she'd never imagined. Here she tells how the seeds of her conversion were sown, and what her life has been like since she took that bread: as a lesbian left-wing journalist, religion for her was not about angels or good behavior or piety. 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 passionate book, is the living communion of Christ.--From publisher description.

Publishers Description
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."
"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.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christianity Today - 07/01/2010 page 51
  • Christian Century - 05/05/2009 page 28

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Ballantine Books
Pages   294
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 5, 2008
Publisher   Ballantine Books
ISBN  0345495799  
ISBN13  9780345495792  

Availability  59 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 06:04.
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More About Sara Miles

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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. Visit the her website at

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion?

A testimony of grace...  Dec 31, 2007
I friend handed me this book and said I might enjoy it because of my Anglican background. I took it home and read it. My response to the story of this woman's conversion and following growth into a very active ministry was convicting and sometimes infuriating. From other reviews on this page I find I am not alone. I would recommend this book because it is important to know how people view the church (and evangelicals, watch out - she's quite scathing in her opinions) and where one can find grace. I think that her life story is one of grace and no matter how much I agree or disagree with what she says about life issues and doctrines and those of other christian denominations, that is the main issue. The Grace of God is far more amazing than any of us realize. And her life is a great catalyst to continue the conversation of one of the most important of faith issues - loving others.

Funny. Troubling. Highly Recommended.  Oct 31, 2007
Sara Miles, a life-long foodie, is hungry. She wanders the bowels of kitchens, war, and politics in search of sustenance. She finds it finally in the cesspool that is the church, and in those banging at its doors. The place Jesus came to be with the lepers, the outcast, and the possessed. And they are all still there. Sara tells her story with funny and troubling anecdotes about both the nonsense and the overwhelming presence of God found in the players and places of organized religion. The fact is, there are loads of people wandering around longing for meaning, or to be a part of the healing of this planet. But the last place they would expect to find it is the church, which seems so embattled with itself it is essentially worthless: filled with hypocrites, snobs, holier-than-thou's, and exceedingly needy people. This memoir takes us into such a place, recognizes the players for what they are, but then generously asks - So what? Aren't we all a little mad? Come to the table anyway. It will fill you, empty you, and fill you again. I bought ten copies of this book for friends who are living on the edge, not knowing where to look for what it is they are missing. I recommend it highly.

Anne Lamott loves this book  Oct 3, 2007
Time magazine asked various writers to reveal their guilty summer reading pleasures. Anne Lamott wrote: The third summer book I've already read is Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles, a memoir that blew me away although I am a nice Protestant girl not normally drawn to book-length writing on the Eucharist. I am going to foist this on every single hard-core left-wing religious nut I know. And make no mistake: there are many of us.
Shocking. . .and that's a good thing  Oct 2, 2007
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.
A Conversion to Action  Sep 24, 2007
Sara Miles shares her story pre-conversion, which is exciting but not necessarily a tragedy. The conversion moment is better described as a process.

Miles tells of her life before converting to Christianity. Raised in an atheist home, she finds little to no sympathy for religious causes. She hints that this is, at least for her mother, a rebellion against her own religious upbringing. There is not much of an overtone that her household was an "active atheist" home...that is, one that taught her to go out of her way to disprove God, join the fight against public faith, and sign petitions against the pledge. She tells more of an upbringing of avoidance....that religion was best ignored.

This is followed by two chapters of her job life, first as a cook in New York City and then as a reporter in Nicaragua around the time of the cartels. She describes the people she meets and the sights and sounds of her experiences in the kitchen and in war, and in both instances very careful to describe the food: how it is prepared, how it is served, how it tastes. She's obviously building to something as she learns cooking shortcuts from her restaurant co-worker and the meals she ate alongside revolutionaries and murderers in Central America. In both cases, it is food prepared generously, earnestly, and with feeling, and shared with much the same intentions. She is always in mixed company, and she wants to emphasize that point as well.

Next begins her life in San Francisco. Everything else serves as background for what she is about to do in this place. If her chief memories up to this point center around food, then it makes sense that her conversion happens because of food as well. For reasons unclear to her, she wanders into a liberal creative Episcopalian Church and receives communion, and there is something about that moment for her that makes sense. It is in the offering, the chewing, the drinking, that the act of receiving Jesus becomes real to her. It takes place in this way, rather than in an evangelist sharing a tract or by someone accosting her with their most carefully crafted arguments. She is welcomed and she is offered bread, and that is when she begins wondering how to follow Jesus.

What she comes up with is forever tied to that first experience. As Sara becomes more involved with her church, she seeks to share this experience with others, and finds that the best way to do that is to organize a food pantry. Usually, when we think of food pantries, we may picture a closet or a section of the church basement set aside with rows of canned goods. When St. Gregory offers their pantry, they set the food--which includes fresh produce--right around the communion table in the sanctuary. The theology of communion is always front and center for Miles and for what she wants to organize. She finds no other way to properly offer food to others than to state it's because Jesus offered it first.

This project is undertaken not without some setbacks and roadblocks. Sara notes the mixed crowd that shows up: the homeless, the addicts, the schemers...she has plenty of stories to tell about them all. More than one person expresses thankfulness; even eventually volunteers to help. But for every one of these, there is the man who tries to take advantage of a timid girl's hospitality, there is a rude Russian with a sense of entitlement, there is the uneasy feeling that Miles gets at points when she delivers food to shut-ins. She sugarcoats none of it; she doesn't romanticize the people she helps or lament when they don't immediately change upon entering the doors of the church.

Perhaps Miles' most biting critique is reserved for the Church itself. One may actually be surprised that, while more conservative churches are mentioned from time to time, she's hardest on the liberals. She openly wonders about the dissonance between their wanting to welcome all people and then her need to fight to offer the pantry a second day. She frequently compares the uniquely creative and vibrant liturgy she experiences at St. Gregory's with the dry traditionalism at a denominational leaders' retreat ("If these are the people who want to hear about experimental liturgy, what are the conservatives like?"). She critiques "limosine liberal" activism-at-a-distance, and at almost every turn it's the white educated middle-class who bear the brunt of what she says.

Miles' story and advocacy comes in the form of experiencing Jesus in sharing bread and then turning right around and experiencing it with others. In many churches, we point to Jesus' preferred crowd of prostitutes and tax collectors, but Miles' story is one of witness to what this actually looks like in a particular place, and the underlying question always concerns why more churches aren't doing the same thing. One of her strongest themes to this effect is how simple it really is to feed others, and how needlessly complicated the church makes it either out of its own institutionalism or avoidance. This is as challenging a book as it is encouraging.

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