THINGS SEEN AND UNSEEN: A Year Lived in Faith by Nora Gallagher

THINGS SEEN AND UNSEEN: A Year Lived in Faith

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A reflective, honest journey through the liturgical year with essayist Gallagher, whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, Mother Jones, and elsewhere. Her autobiographical musings stand out from among the spiritual introspections of other Baby Boomers. Like them, Gallagher's concerned with issues of authority and social justice, but her journey is far less solipsistic. Her refreshingly communal approach is guided by the rhythms and cadences of something larger than herself: the liturgical calendar. (In this, the author follows precedents set by fellow liturgical Protestants Madeleine L'Engle and Kathleen Norris. Her work is worthy of their legacy.) Beginning with Advent, Gallagher reflects on a single year in her life and in the life of Trinity Episcopal, her Santa Barbara parish. Quotidian concerns--such as parish fund-raising and the soup kitchen where Gallagher works--are interspersed with larger theological questions about sin, redemption, and the Incarnation. Through the year, she grapples with her brother's cancer while her temporary priest, who has revealed to the church's vestry, or board of directors (of which she is a member), that he is gay, struggles with the question of whether he should come out to the congregation. At Easter, the joy of resurrection is tempered by the death of a homeless man in the congregation and a stillborn birth to a parish couple. Gallagher juxtaposes personal sagas brilliantly with the church year; she recounts her own conversion (still in process) during Epiphany and her priest's early battles to overcome the ""sin"" of his sexual orientation during Lent (having previously spent ten years away from the ministry, he decided that God accepted him the way he was). At Pentecost, the church's celebration of the Holy Spirit, Gallagher claims that the spirit descended on their vestry meeting as they decided to hire their beloved interim priest as their permanent rector. Upon learning the news, the usually staid congregation leapt to its feet, applauded, and shouted affirmation--""entirely un-Anglican"" behavior, Gallagher notes. A beautifully rendered fusion of the transcendent and the day-to-day.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0679775498
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf