Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion

by Sara Miles

Paperback, 2008



Call number




Ballantine Books (2008), Edition: Later Printing, 320 pages


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MarthaHuntley
A profoundly Christian book, the description of receiving Christ in communion leading to a changed life that changes other lives, I found to be riveting and moving. Maybe the best description I've ever read of what Communion is or can be.
LibraryThing member nancyewhite
An unlikely Christian (lesbian, single mother, political radical, atheist) has a dramatic conversion experience when she walks into an Episcopal church out of reporter's curiousity, takes communion and finds her soul completely overwhelmed. Soon enough, she has a vision of a truly open table that
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serves food to all and convinces her parish to allow her to open a food pantry which turns away no one. This memoir describes the religious, spiritual, financial and tangible challenges she faced as well as her conviction that doing something useful (feeding people in her case) is communion. Her tone is often irreverant in a traditional sense, observing at her pantry "Jesus didn't have to deal with the f***ing Russians" for example but is never irreverant in the deeper sense. Her story could be read by many Christians engaged in long discussions about "right" and "wrong" and process as a useful reminder of Jesus's radical ministry of loving the outcast and his call to "feed my sheep". This memoir, in the end, is about how one unlikely person found a way to create Beloved Community with other unlikely people in a very real way.
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LibraryThing member morningrob
An interesting book though difficult to pinpoint what kind of book it is. Part memoir, part theology, part social analysis- this book can engage the reader on a number of levels. Therefore, what a person might find interesting in this book is determined by their own social location. For example, a
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person who is finds the various liberal/conservative controversies interesting would find her take on this issue to be most important. Same for poverty issues and theological analysis.
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LibraryThing member debnance
This is certain to be one of my favorite reads of the year. Sara Miles is a woman who has never visited a church in her life, whose parents are acknowledged atheists. Yet, suddenly and unexpectedly, Miles eats a bite of the Lord’s Supper and becomes a Christian. Her life completely changes and
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she becomes the founder of a food bank at her church. The food bank brings in the poor, the desolate, the sick, the crazed, and these, in turn, become changed and, in addition, act to change those in the church. Delightful.
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LibraryThing member KeithAkers
Yes, there IS such a thing as liberal Christianity! Thanks! She's not vegetarian, though, and doesn't seem to have any consciousness of this issue.
LibraryThing member DubiousDisciple
Inspiring, honest, and deeply moving, by the end of Sara's story you'll love this lesbian, left-wing atheist as much as any of the other Christians of God's flock. It's hard to remember a book I enjoyed more.

On a whim one day, Sara walked into a church, ate a bit of bread, sipped a bit of wine, and
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underwent "a radical conversion." While never overcoming her skepticism about God, she nevertheless embraced the church ... but the Christianity she embraced had no use for angels or worship or dreams of eternity. It quickly came to mean real concern about real people. Take This Bread is about real hunger, and Sara's struggles to establish a food pantry to care for the poor, elderly, sick, deranged, and marginalized of San Francisco.

Both light-hearted and deeply meaningful, this is a book that will toy with the full range of your emotions.
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LibraryThing member nmele
Sara Miles wrote a book that speaks to the graces and insights I have received during the years of my involvement in feeding hungry people in a different context from hers. This book is Miles's story of her discovery of what it means to be Christ for others and see Christ in others. I am deeply
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moved by her stories and reflections, by her concrete experience of the body of Christ, blessed and broken.
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LibraryThing member jandm
A fascinating and thought-provoking account of Sara Miles' journey to Christ, mediated through food, feeding, and the Eucharist. If ever someone was pre-disposed to ignore Jesus and his church, it was Miles, with a devoutly atheistic upbringing, complicated sexuality and relationships, and knowing
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know Christians. But God drew her to himself, and her faith found expression in the most direct way, following Jesus' command to the disciples to "feed my sheep", starting nine food pantries around poor neighbourhoods of San Francisco.

As a journalist for many years, she writes beautifully, weaving her many experiences together. Through them you can see God moving to draw her to him, and then draw her deeper into a discipleship often with cost.

Recommended for anyone interested in the spiritual life, including to those sensing a call from God to new vocations.
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LibraryThing member bness2
I just loved this book. Sara Miles describes an approach to church that is very refreshing. Connecting food and eating with he Gospel is so much what Jesus Himself seemed to be about. He ate with the roughest elements of his society, no one was excluded from His table and the food was free. I have
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always felt that the church needs to be much more inclusive. Where a lesbian, worldly, atheist can find God, we need more places like that, more churches that make such people feel welcome.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
This is the story of unlikely conversion: A radical lesbian activist, who spend much of her youth involved in people's uprisings in Mexico & Central America, one day walks into a church, receives communion, and is transformed. She becomes filled with the idea of "sharing the body," which for her
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becomes a command to feed the people. Which leads her to setting up a weekly food bank in the church, and then to helping others in the city start new food banks as well, challenging her congregation, those in her neighborhood, and even those who visit the food bank to expand their ideas of community, service, and comfort.

What I appreciated most about this book was the author's meditations on what it means to "be the body of Christ," and sharing in that call with those whose religious beliefs differed significantly from hers. (And vice versa!) It's a thought that I've been mulling over all summer, and it's helping me be less reticent expressing my beliefs around those with more conservative views (Pretty much everyone.)
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LibraryThing member Skybalon
Couldn't finish this. I think that everyone's spiritual journey has unique elements, but sometimes people maybe overgeneralize their experience into everyone's life lessons.
LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
A powerful look at what it means to accept the body of Christ in our churches and in our lives.
LibraryThing member goosecap
In lieu of not judging my neighbor or myself, I will judge first my neighbor, and then myself; but keep in mind, it’s all nonsense; it’s all merely formal.

It is instructive I guess to learn why people oppose certain things, like gay marriage; I didn’t strictly read this book to learn about
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them, but naturally it comes up because Sara is queer (and charitable). People say it’s ultimately about “whether the Bible is trust-worthy”. At least that’s not a Trump tweet, right. The Bible can “equip you for good works”, as Paul said, and trust is a good thing to have, especially for the trust-worthy. I just wonder how much trust anti-gay people really have, you know. —(I go to church in San Francisco!) —GASP, (the porn! the porn!). Not even. Not even, Hi I’m gay, but Hi I’m from San Francisco!…. As though Jesus were a pagan god, a local god, whose writ doesn’t run in San Francisco. Someone says they’re from San Francisco, don’t even talk to him—Don’t let the wizard speak!—but turn around and spit over your left shoulder three times, right.

But I also have issues with trust, at times.

I’m certainly aware that I have fears, which I guess is the opposite of trust. I mean, sometimes it’s okay. I certainly don’t fear being unimportant, or even, sometimes being imperfect. When I was eating with my brother and his family for Christmas, we went to a place that supposedly had that one vegetarian option, but it didn’t, it turns out you had to order something non-vegetarian and then specify for them to hold the meat, which I did, and then I got pasta with chicken anyway. It was fine. What’s saving the environment got to do with Christmas, absolutely nothin’, nuh. Of course, intellectually, you know, they probably just threw out the chicken meal, (hopefully some dishwasher ate it, but maybe not), and therefore my brothers’ dollars probably paid for another chicken’s death because of my meal, just as surely as if I had put the flesh in my mouth. But, what are you gonna do. Christmas is the festival of sin, and I’m just some HomeGoods cashier, not someone who designs holidays, right. It’s not important what I think.

But then—and I won’t go into this fully, because people who are outsiders to the life in my head won’t understand; you’ll just think I’m a nut, because I got very unconscious—in my head I dealt very poorly with being told, I don’t know, implicitly this and that, Stop making noise stop dragging me down, don’t be a burden. It triggered my fear of abandonment and sin, you know—lots of childhood regression going on. (I can kinda see it happening with my nephew, too. “You’re not a good little boy if you don’t sit still! If you’re not a good little boy you’ll be punished like the slaves!”, but nobody is seriously concerned with, Look At Me, I’m Important, because that’s what his parents do. They would just rather he say, Look at YOU; YOU are important!! Lol 😆…. And there was certainly a time when I thought I was important, you know; maybe there’s a vestige of that in not wanting to be called bad, you know. “But I love you! YOU are important!” —Please. Get a better job; then you can flatter me.)

Anyway…. I don’t know, it’s like, Go to the dentist! Find your own way to fry there! Sheesh! [I wrote, Go there, but fry kinda says it lol.] And then I’m like, I’m being abandoned; I’m becoming sin…. And certainly not a lot of trust going on inside me.

Maybe I too think that Jesus is limited by time or place, like he takes the bad days off, you know. 🥺

…. Of course, she mostly talks about the poor, and maybe a bit about doubt or unconventional liturgy, but not as much about queer people, the way her friend the famous Rachel does—who I in turn picked up once upon a time thinking I was going to get girl pastors stories, not thinking that some her peeps might be queer and not worried about all the things I was, you know.

And I guess I’m like that, too. I’m diagnosed, but I wouldn’t talk about mental health sociology and stigma if you paid me. (I’m an Aquarius; there are a lot of things you couldn’t pay me to do, though I’m happy to do anonymous random person work.) I don’t know whether that—ally-ship over self/own community promotion/advocacy—is culture is some kind of attainment, so, yeah; I dunno 🤷.

…. Personally I sometimes, if not always, feel a comfort with the churchy old guard, (even if maybe I don’t represent the whole demographic they need to win, or whatever), even if I do also want them to change. Sara talks about Jesus not “caring” about “church”. Some people, when Jesus starts to sound too much like a troublemaker, start looking for Paul. “I sure hope you guys go to church,” said Paul. But that apostle himself, didn’t, know what it was like to have a cushy Victorian colonial or Victorian British job—quiet years of scholarship, you know. Sometimes they would beat him up and leave him for dead. Maybe Paul would be more at home in the ghetto, in the housing projects, that Sara spent time in, right. Right on the edge of everything greater, and a punch in the mouth.

…. I mean, I guess that’s the problem I had with that conservative-Anglicans-of-North-America-breakaways girl—it’s like, Make your bed, and say your prayers for your parents and the czar, and don’t fuss over things, unless it’s fussing over tea time; and it’s like, it’s not that that has been completely wrong for me, nor even that it isn’t a sort of mixed blessing, but it is kinda crazy, and many Episcopalians aren’t so different from ACNAs, you know.

…. I guess that’s what Sidney meant in the last part of his memoir, although I confess I couldn’t understand it, really—being the GI Generation, the USA myth, and the Santa Claus myth, it built us up in our youth, at least in a way, but it was also a lie, at least in part…. So now, what do we tell our children?

…. It’s big of her to risk inadvertently getting dumped by her family—“you’re not normal like us anymore! You’re not like all the other Californians!” (although CA is great, lol—West Covina! California! (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”)—even though as a queer woman she barely even had a home life of her own to begin with. At the very least, it was much more assaulted to begin with than a straight person’s, as such. So it’s big to maybe give that up. “Baby you’re bigger, than me.” (“Backstreet Boys”—LOLZ).

…. But, you know….

Ie, just one more thing:

(review ends)
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Physical description

320 p.; 7.99 inches



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