Take This Bread

by Sara Miles (2007), reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

She was a social activist, totally non-religious. Worked in Mexico and El Salvador, then taught in a Baltimore ‘free school’, worked in New York restaurants and got a job with a left wing magazine’ in San Francisco.  One morning she walked into St Gregory’s, an Episcopalian congregation.

‘I had no earthly reason to be there,’ she writes (p 57).  ‘We sat down and stood up and sat down, waited and listened.  ‘Jesus invites everyone to his table,’ a woman announced.  And then we gathered around that table … and someone was putting a piece of fresh, crumbly bread in my hands, and handing me the goblet of sweet wine, saying ‘The blood of Christ’, and then something outrageous and terrifying happened.  Jesus happened to me’ (p 58); the heart of Christianity:  communion (p 74).

‘These people opened the door to grace—not because they had good taste, not because they were rich or intelligent or even always likable.  They had let G-d in and now they were committed to letting in clueless and unprepared strangers like me because they believed in the absolute religious value of welcoming people who didn’t belong’ (p 81).

‘I got communion, whether I wanted it or not, with people I didn’t necessarily like.  People I didn’t choose.  The people G-d chose for me (p 97).  And so in response to the open table of St Gregory, she started a food pantry that brought food around the altar, ‘acknowledging our own hunger and at the same time acknowledging the amazing abundance we’re fed with by G-d … handing plastic bags of macaroni and peanut butter to strangers, in remembrance of him’ (p 116).

It’s a powerful story ‘about food and being with people who aren’t like me’ (p 277).  ‘The point of church is to feed people so they can go out and be Jesus’ (p 265).   The book closes with wonderfully incisive discussion questions to prod and probe our own responses to G-d’s invitation to the open table.