Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blog Tour: The Sacred Meal (Review)

Making The Ordinary Holy
What is communion? Why is it important, let alone sacred?

Those are just two of the questions examined in Nora Gallagher's contribution to the Ancient Practice Series - The Sacred Meal.

Mixing memoir and prose, Gallagher examines the practice of communion and how it relates to the Christian faith.

I found Gallagher's writing to be authentic, warm and engaging.  Her writing style pulled me into the book, while her stories helped me look at communion in a new way.

"The sacred meal that is part of our faith does more than connect us to the holy. It connects us to each other."

I think what I enjoyed most about this book is that Gallagher really dives into why communion is truly an invitation to a deeper relationship with God.

Reading this piece of the Ancient Practice series has made me want to explore further titles - if they are all as inviting as this offering, it is a series that breathes new life into " old" practices of faith - thus truly making them new again.

An additional bonus: The study guide at the back of the book, would allow a small group to use this book to dive into the "holy mystery" known as communion.

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
Unlike every other Christian practice, communion is meant to be done together—as the Gospel of Matthew tells us, where two or three “gathered in my name.” You simply can’t do it by yourself. You can pray alone and fast alone. You can even go on pilgrimage alone. Communion, on the other hand, forces us to be with others.

But like these other practices, communion has the same intention: to gradually move us out of one place and into another. Author Nora Gallagher says it’s like taking a journey to a foreign land, and she divides the trip into three parts: waiting, receiving, and afterward. While we wait, we sort through our baggage, filled with worry, guilt, anxiety, and pain. Communion teaches us how to receive—that God’s gift of grace comes to us by doing nothing. Finally, we surrender our invisible baggage and, now lightened, are free to reflect upon and understand the journey we have shared.

Gallagher writes,“Every time it is the same, and every time it is different.” This is your family, your table, and act of community—the gathering of the body of Christ.

About The Series
The Ancient Practices
There is a hunger in every human heart for connection, primitive and raw, to God. To satisfy it, many are beginning to explore traditional spiritual disciplines used for centuries . . . everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. Compelling and readable, the Ancient Practices series is for every spiritual sojourner, for every Christian seeker who wants more.

More About The Author
Nora Gallagher was born in New Mexico, the daughter of Julie Walcott Gallagher, who taught herself architecture, and David Gallagher, who learned the law at Yale Law School and in practice. (He favored bow ties.) She grew up catching crawfish on the irrigation ditch that ran past her house, riding horseback in the desert, and smoking illegal substances in high school which she subsequently quit to attend St. John’s College, a place one studied the Great Books of the Western World. At St. John’s, she read the Iliad in Greek, Plato in English and made lifelong friends.

She learned writing on the ground, first in San Francisco, where she was hired as a stringer for TIME Magazine. (Later, she asked her boss at the time why he allowed her in the door and he replied, “You were a good writer. I figured I could teach you reporting.”) Later, she free-lanced with the idea of travel: she went anywhere on someone’s dime. Prague, Nicaragua, Texas. Her essays, book reviews and journalism have appeared in many publications including The New York Times Magazine, DoubleTake, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Utne Reader, The Village Voice, Mother Jones, and The Los Angeles Times.

Recently, Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department at Publisher’s Weekly, asked Gallagher to write a book about communion for a series on Christian practices. Not knowing that taking communion was a practice, and not having been successful at any other religious practice, the idea intrigued her. The result is a book rather like a memoir about taking communion: The Sacred Meal, 2009.

A few more items: She is the editor of the award-winning Notes from the Field, published by Chronicle Books, 1999. A sermon is collected in Sermons that Work and a poem in the anthology, September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond. She was lucky enough to be a fellow at both the MacDowell Colony and Blue Mountain Center.

She is preacher-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, and sits on the advisory board of the Yale Divinity School. She is represented by Philippa Brophy, president of Sterling Lord Literistic, New York.

She lives with her husband, novelist and poet Vincent Stanley, in Santa Barbara and New York.

Online Resources
Buy it at Amazon

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by BookSneeze's blogger program. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

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