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City of God: Faith in the Streets

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  228 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Paradise is a garden...but heaven is a city.

From the acclaimed author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak comes a powerful new account of venturing beyond the borders of religion into the unpredictable territory of faith.

On Ash Wednesday, 2012, Sara Miles and her friends left their church buildings and carried ashes to the buzzing city streets: the crowded dollar stores

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Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Jericho Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Christie
Apr 06, 2014 Christie rated it liked it
I appreciate what I think Sara Miles was going for in this book, but I did find it hard to follow at times. Like some other reviews I've read on this site, I found that the author jumped around from past to present quite frequently, without clear transitions many times. There were points where I wondered why she even told the story from the past that she chose. I found myself craving more of what I thought the book would be about from the description - her experiences on one Ash Wednesday, ...more
Art
Oct 30, 2014 Art rated it it was amazing
I liked Jesus Freak in places, but this book really hit home. Anyone who has gotten to minister Ashes To Go out on the street will relate to this book. I found it refreshing, it's raw, there's cursing, there's love anger and frustration. It's one day behind the scenes in a Episcopal church as a lay employee on Ash Wednesday, and as a lay employee in the Episcopal Church myself I have to say location and regional differences aside- I work in a small parish in a small town, not a major city, ...more
Peggy
Mar 10, 2014 Peggy rated it really liked it
Sara Miles' powerful, moving account of one Ash Wednesday in the Mission District of San Francisco is exactly what Pope Francis is talking about when he says he "prefers a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets."
Kari
Dec 11, 2013 Kari rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this. I love the way that Sara Miles lives out her faith in such physical ways. Perfect for people who want something to read during Lent.
Jason Lilly
Apr 09, 2014 Jason Lilly rated it liked it
Is wish it were possible to give a book 3.5 stars.

Let me begin with the writing. Sara Miles is a talented storyteller, comparable to similar memoir writers like Anne Lamott and Augusten Burroughs. And her love for her city and the people in it is evident on every page of the book... mostly, anyway.

There is something beautiful going on here. I commend Sara Miles for her candor and her courage, and especially for her love for people of all kinds, all walks of life. There is much of the work of Chr
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Cathy Sweeney
Jul 29, 2016 Cathy Sweeney rated it really liked it
For those who are looking for a combination of Anglican and cultural approach to Ash Wednesday, Sarah Miles brings us City of God: Faith on the Streets.

Miles, Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, shares experiences from Ash Wednesday services over the years, as she and others share the experience on the streets of the Mission neighborhood.

Miles writes in similar ways to Anne Lamott, as she almost talks to herself in the pages. At times questioning the e
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John
Aug 05, 2015 John rated it liked it
I have a fair amount of fondness for this book, particularly the open and engaging faith that Miles displays as she writes about her community and the Ash Wednesday service at the heart of the book's narrative. Miles has a clear affection for her community, having grown to become an integral part of it in her long years there. And as she recounts the various personalities, shops, and locales in her Mission community, the reader is introduced to her willingness to be present in (and to) the world ...more
Brenda
Mar 20, 2014 Brenda rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith, memoir, for-review
I loved Sara Miles’ memoir of unexpected conversion, Take This Bread, so I was excited to get her latest, City of God: Faith in the Streets from Netgalley. The central narrative of City of God is set on Ash Wednesday 2012, when Miles and other local Episcopal ministers take to the streets of their neighborhood – the Mission area of San Francisco – to impart ashes to anyone who wants them. Along the way, she tells backstories of her relationships with the other residents of the Mission and people ...more
Kristin
May 30, 2015 Kristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
City of god is Sara Miles' proclamation of love for God, God’s people, and the Mission District of San Francisco, “a place so mixed, so layered, and apparently impure that it proclaims a love vaster than humans can come up with on our own.” In beautiful poetic language, she tells the story of bringing Christianity out of church buildings by marking friends, neighbors and strangers with the sign of the cross on Ash Wednesday. I love how Sara Miles doesn’t run from the sad and difficult parts of C ...more
Julie
Apr 21, 2014 Julie rated it liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Byron Borger
The book explores the author's experience of taking faith to the streets of San Francisco's Mission District and connecting with the diverse people there. Personally, I've never chosen to receive ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, so I was surprised to learn how many people on the streets welcomed the mark for themselves and their loved ones. Do people really want to be reminded of their mortality? "Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return." One woman even asked for ashes for her ...more
Mary
Mar 26, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
I recently read the perfect book for the Lenten season, The City of God. It’s a warm, human and uplifting encounter with the author and her neighborhood in San Francisco over a forty eight hour or so period preceding and including Ash Wednesday. If you’re looking for a walk on the other side to deepen your understanding of the world we live in and our calling as our brother’s keeper this is a book you’ll enjoy.

Here is a very insightful and experiential account of a personal encounter with humani
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Craig Werner
Oct 09, 2014 Craig Werner rated it really liked it
I've got a weak spot for Sara Miles, my favorite half-crazy half-inspired self-proclaimed lesbian Episcopalian Jesus Freak. None of which would matter a lot if she wasn't also a good writer with a nice eye for urban (in her case San Franciscan) detail. City of God chronicles her experience on Ash Wednesday (2012, I think, maybe 2011) when she accompanies a band of folks who go out onto the streets of the city to offer ashes and blessings. The core theme concerns the reminder of mortality, which ...more
Cel
Aug 02, 2014 Cel rated it really liked it
I am smitten with Sara Miles writing. If you let her, she'll be your guide in trying to love the messy, pain-filled, glorious world and its less than perfect people.
The book is about taking ashes out into the street on Ash Wednesday 2012 in the Mission District of San Francisco where she's lived for about 20 years. She's a convert, attends St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church where she started a food pantry. She's somewhat surprised to be a convert.
One of the best things about the book is how s
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Benjamin Schaeffer
Feb 06, 2014 Benjamin Schaeffer rated it it was ok
I won this book on a giveaway from this site. I was under the impression that this was going to be more of a Cristian commentary book. But it turned out to be more of a novel, I didn't mind too much. I like novels. But it turned out to be some other religion that I haven't even heard of that sounds like Christian, but they do all of these orthodox chants and songs. Which is weird. THEN, it sais that there is a man that goes to a Lutheran church with a lesbian pastor. A Lutheran church will not ...more
Marisa Gonzalez
Apr 09, 2015 Marisa Gonzalez rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, religion
True story of a member of the Episcopalian Church distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday on the streets of San Francisco. I have mixed feelings about this book. I read it during Lent hoping for some inspiration but it sort of fell flat. I liked how it showed how the Church doesn't exist only in a building but throughout our communities and how churches need to reach out to those who will not go into a church. I didn't like how those receiving ashes seemed to treat it as a novelty. Ashes are not ...more
Melanie
Think I saw these folks giving ashes at the corner of 18th and Valencia earlier this year on Ash Wednesday. Community (in the Mission) was such an important part of this book that I wished she had talked about gentrification more.

"God forgives you...but pay attention" (p. 105).

"And I believed in mercy because I knew how quickly even my stupidest, most ordinary sins could drag me into a spiral of misery. I'd be mean, or lazy, or selfish, and feel bad about it, and so I'd become meaner, less able
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Krista
Feb 04, 2016 Krista rated it it was amazing
Quotes I want to remember:

My whole neighborhood is God's City. How do I manage to not pay attention for so long, when God is sending out signs as unsubtly as a popsicle vendor ringing the bells on his pushcart and screeching paleeeetttas to announce his presence. (61)

When you receive ashes in a church Vera said You have to work a little to connect it to the world, to suffering, loss and absence out on the street, there are still distractions but the scars are going to be visable everyone's life
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Jeanne Grunert
Mar 17, 2014 Jeanne Grunert rated it liked it
Liked this book, but wished it focused solely on the single Ash Wednesday. The problem for me was the flashbacks and stories weaving stories of various people into the main theme, of giving Ashes on the street. Although meeting these people and learning their stories was interesting, it slowed down the main narrative, which I thought had enough power to carry the story. It was a microscopic view of one day, Ash Wednesday, and of the people the author meets as she distributes ashes throughout the ...more
Rob Skirving
Jul 27, 2014 Rob Skirving rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!

At one level, this is the story of Ash Wednesday as some Christians practice it in the Mission in San Francisco. At another level it is about faith getting out of church and into the neighborhood. Most powerfully, perhaps, it is about the author's journey into deeper relationship with those with whom she shares life in her chosen communities.

As one who has lived with questions about the "Ashes to Go" movement (a parallel development to the practices described in this book) I now
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Dana
Mar 30, 2014 Dana rated it really liked it
In this book, the author, an Episcopal minister, focuses on an ash Wednesday during which she and some ministers from other churches take their ashes to the streets of their neighborhood, the Mission area of San Fransisco. However, that day is just the basis and from there she meanders around and tells the story of her life in that neighborhood. I found that to be a bit jumpy and rambley. She shares her realization that her entire neighborhood is, to her, God's city, with it's mestiza mix of ...more
Alice
Jul 23, 2016 Alice rated it liked it
I keep going back and forth on how I feel about this one. I'm really into her message, and some of the writing is heart-wrenchingly vivid. On the other hand, I'm not sure there was a whole book's worth of material here. It reads more like, "A Love Letter to the Mission, with Assorted Insights on Faith." The assorted insights on faith are womderful, but the love letter to the Mission isn't something I'd read on purpose. (Not, to be clear, because I disagree with it, but because I have my own ...more
Michael
Jun 02, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a lot. It’s not so much the writing - which is good and easy to follow. It’s not even the sensibilities or the theology that undergirds what is written here - all of which, I would say, I like. It is the action, the innovative, thoughtful, inspired, clumsy, amazing work of seeing the presence of God in the city around here - and opening her own eyes’ and others’ to it through the practices/liturgies of the church brought into the street (from whence they came after all). That ...more
Sandy
Mar 02, 2014 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
I'd actually make this a 3.5 on the 4 side (3.75?). I like it but it didn't grab me the way Take This Bread or Jesus Freak did. I think it's a good read before Ash Wednesday to put you in the frame of mind for it.
Betsy
Feb 04, 2016 Betsy rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
I love Sara Miles' writing - so descriptive, so emotionally present and real. This book was a little hard to follow because the narrative goes from one event (taking the sacrament of ashes for Ash Wednesday out to the people) and then backwards to other events and stories. It is a little confusing, and would have benefitted from a date reference before these sections. But, this is how life is - it isn't linear. Our memories of the past influence the present.
Joy Matteson
Feb 18, 2014 Joy Matteson rated it really liked it
Such a powerful book that jolts the reader out of complacency and a realistic understanding of what faith looks like in the urban streets. Sara takes to the streets of San Francisco and anoints passersby with ashes, and reflects on the awkwardness of the every-day holiness that most of us would rather forget about. Recommended for those who want more out of their Lenten season than just giving up chocolate.
Kitty Hotles
May 30, 2015 Kitty Hotles rated it liked it
I liked this book, but wish the author would have spent more time giving greater details about the people who received ashes in the streets on Ash Wednesday. I guess I was looking for more in-depth accounts of the people she encountered. I think there is something very powerful about going out into the streets to offer ashes & how it effects those that do receive them. I believe it's a great idea to reach those that may not otherwise receive ashes & great way to begin the Lenten journey.
Will Hocker
Mar 10, 2014 Will Hocker rated it it was amazing
Truly a modern day gospel written by an author in love with her city of San Francisco, and attuned to the spiritual depths of everyday people in her Mission neighborhood. Sara Miles once again entertains us and lets us run into our biases. Ms. Miles truly follows Jesus's call to freedom: for others and for herself. Read this book to rediscover the depths of your own compassion and drive of your faith.
Richard Brand
Dec 19, 2014 Richard Brand rated it really liked it
There was a lot in here that was interesting but not why I got the book. I wanted to hear what happened when they held Ash Wednesday services out side in the plaza. That part was fascinating to me, and I think it was a very exciting thing to do. Miles and Bolz-Weber both have some very exciting creative acts for worship.
Bryan
Sep 16, 2015 Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as "Take This Bread," but still well worth reading. Gives Sara's insights into how God works within the complex of people found in the market district of San Francisco. The central these of the book is the celebration of Ash Wednesday and its meaning to herself and the people she administers ashes to on the street.
Cynthia
Apr 24, 2014 Cynthia rated it liked it
If you've read Sara Miles' earlier books, you'll find much of this repetitive, albeit with a spin focusing on Ash Wednesday and ministry in the streets of the mission district of San Francisco. I found the last quarter of the book fresher, deeper and more meaningful and do recommend it for those inspired by Miles' life, ministry and writing.
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Sara Miles is the founder and director of The Food Pantry, and serves as Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Her other books include "Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion," and her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Salon, and on National Public Radio.
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“Repentance means turning toward other human beings, our own flesh and blood, whenever they’re oppressed, hungry, or imprisoned; it means acting with compassion instead of indifference.” 4 likes
“Heavenly comfort, rather, is truth, which blows away human fantasies that we can live forever, control everything, or fake our lives before God.” 1 likes
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