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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sacred Meal

It's time for the free book review again. First:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The book is one by Nora Gallagher and "the sacred meal" is also known as Holy Communion. She is well qualified to write such an account given her training in the ministry (though she never finished the Episcopal ordination process, subject of a separate account), experience as a lay server and general participant. The book is for the lay reader, my version a short paperback of somewhat more than one hundred pages written in a casual fashion. Unfortunately, I did not really like it.

One review didn't like this book and noted it read like "a lot of rambling and life stories to make up for the lack of research done on the subject." I concur. The back cover has a bunch of pleasant blurbs and there is a nice introduction honoring her special "insights" on "the sacrament of the shared table" (to quote the forward). I found the book fill with rambling personal ancedotes (such as a friend's child missing in a plane crash) and musings about various subjects. If you like her style, this sort of thing might be enjoyable and touch you. I found it tedious after awhile.

A useful subject guide is provided in the back as a sort of "cheat sheet" (see also, boxes in chapters with key lessons) to remind just what we are supposed to be learning from all of this. And, mixed in with all those stories (she comes off as a down to earth sort, I can see why people like her) are some useful tidbits about Holy Communion. How it is a chance for the community of believers to come together. How it is a matter of "waiting, receiving and afterward" (the lead-up, the act itself and contemplation/meaning obtained etc.). The tactile nature of the event. The place of food and ritual in society over time. But, very little about the actual origins of the sacrament or a look at the gospel origins of the event.

The above suggests two things. The book does provide some lessons. I did not really care for the style but maybe others will. Second, the book is not (to quote a review that matches my sentiments) about the "scriptural and doctrinal" part of things. I didn't need some doctrinal thesis here. But, general boilerplate about Jesus' ministry (down to talk about him challenging the Roman Empire in some fashion; this is the guy who said "Render to Caesar" and submitted without much complaint to his death, so not sure what she meant) doesn't quite cut it. Why not a quick summary of the Last Supper or references to liturgical meals in Acts or something?

I think a quick account about "The Sacred Meal" warrants something like that. That and the rambling nature of her style turned me off. The book is of some value, but overall, it was incomplete.