Account of an unusual urban Ash Wednesday.
San Francisco Food Pantry founder and director Miles (Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead, 2010, etc.) shares her experiences and musings from Ash Wednesday in 2012. A resident of San Francisco’s Mission District, the author encounters a level of diversity within a few blocks of her home and church that rivals almost any other urban neighborhood in America. It is within such a setting that she goes about the job of ministering, under the auspices of an Episcopal church, to the larger community. Much of her story is a lead-up to her journey outside the confines of church walls, when she took the ashes of Ash Wednesday out into the neighborhood, offering ashes on the street corners throughout her neighborhood. Despite her anxieties about this very public celebration of liturgy, the event turned out to be a joyous and touching experience. Miles is deeply committed to her urban neighborhood and toward radical involvement in the life of the city. In fact, everywhere she looks, she is reminded of “the movement,” a waning countercultural thrust spawning everything from socialist bookstores to gay street patrols. Given the nontraditional backdrop of the Mission, Miles’ Episcopal chants and rituals seem out of place and even jarring, yet everywhere she went on this Ash Wednesday, she was met by people eager to partake in the ceremony. Along the way, she introduces colorful characters, both from the fringes of society and from the depths of San Francisco activism. An intriguing read, Miles’ account will resonate most with those who live in and love the inner city. Though the author recognizes that religious experiences are global and varied, she is unapologetic in proclaiming, “for me, it’s cities that make the presence of God most real.”
Poignant and passionate look at the city church, inside the walls and out.