On Wednesday, March 5, in a building near you, someone you know was told that they are going to die. It might even have been you. Some knelt while others stood, but each was told a variation on the following sentence: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
This string of ten simple words are at once disconcerting, utterly lacking in pretense, and profoundly liberating in their simple and unvarnished declaration of the truth.
Those who attended an Ash Wednesday service most likely received their ashes and heard these disquieting words in a church, which is to say, in a building. But for author Sara Miles and other adventurous people in San Francisco’s Mission district (as well as West Asheville, Lexington Avenue, and the UNC Asheville campus), Ash Wednesday is a day in which the church flees the building.
In her lovely new book City of God: Faith in the Streets, Sara describes the adventure of doing church in the streets, taking the Ash Wednesday service out into the actual City of God. In often lyrical terms, Sara describes the people she encounters on the streets of her city, reminding us along the way that she and her colleagues are not “taking” God to the streets; God is already there waiting.
“While God is remarkably flexible about showing up anywhere–in the desert, in a manger, in a burning bush, or in a prison cell–the eyes of my own faith see the most on urban streets. For me, paradise is a garden, but heaven is a city,” writes Miles.
Sara Miles also sees God in the act of feeding the stranger. In her earlier memoir Take This Bread, Sara chronicles her conversion to Christianity after receiving communion at the altar of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, and her subsequent founding of The Food Pantry around that same altar.
On Thursday, March 20, the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, in partnership with the Wild Goose Festival and the Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church will host Sara Miles in a discussion of her work and a reading from her latest book. The event will take place at 7:00 pm in the Church and College Chapel on the campus of Warren Wilson College. The event is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase.
The mission of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity is to renew theological education for the 21st century by equipping religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.
The Wild Goose Festival is a community at the intersection of spirituality, justice, music and the arts which gathers annually in Hot Springs, NC. The 2014 festival will take place on June 26-29, and Sara Miles will be a featured speaker.
Located in the heart of the Warren Wilson College campus, Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church is an open and welcoming faith community for all who seek one.