Take This Bread
I've just finished reading Sara Miles' Take This Bread, and it's one of the best books I've read in a long while.
I am confined to bed, recovering from surgery. Naturally I decided to read for pleasure rather than plowing on with my enormous academic book list. In quick succession I read Lindsey Crittenden's The Water Will Hold You, and then this one. Strange that they are both books about Anglican ladies living in San Francisco. Miles' is the better book, probably because she is more representative of the free-wheeling and rebellious spirit that I admire.
A middle-aged, atheist lesbian, Miles found herself transformed when she took Communion at the amazing-sounding St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. I love how she finds a place for herself in her religion and maintains her own integrity in the face of a religious establishment which all too often rejects those who don't fit into the neat pigeonholes of what it is to be Christian. She has a passion for authentic spiritual experience and, like me, is genuinely bewildered by most of what passes as 'church' and 'liturgy'. Her lifelong connection with food sees her setting up a pantry for the poor right inside the church, and it is through this work that she discovers her own path of ministry.
She is just so wise, unpretentious and genuinely in love with her religion. This book is immensely valuable, and essential reading for anyone who questions the future of church in our society.
My favourite quote: "I'd been raised to reject religion, but I was finding that people often wanted more of it than the church was willing to give: more sacraments, more rites, more prayer and healing and blessings."
This is something I've observed for a long time - the modern church bemoans the lack of people willing to engage with church, but at the same time says: "We're only going to be open for a couple of hours on a Sunday, when you'll have to do everything according to our terms, and then only if we think you deserve it..."
Miles gives us a more radical vision of what church can be, and of how we can help re-introduce the sacred into everyone's lives.