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Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith
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Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  23 reviews
"Gracefully written and moving ... Things Seen and Unseen starts with Nora Gallagher entering the labyrinth of her life ... and ultimately it leads to the center of her being."--The Boston Globe

It started with an occasional Sunday, a "tourist's" visit to a local church. Eventually Nora Gallagher entered into a yearlong journey to discover her faith and a relationship with
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 7th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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I. loved. this. book. It's taken me quite a while to get through it, I will admit, but it really is wonderful. It is a journey through the liturgical year in an Episcopal church in California, told through the eyes and ears of a lay person. It is beautifully written, and written in such a way that you can read a little section and put it down, savor it for a while, and then pick it up a little later. I think that's probably the best way to read it. If I were to teach seminary or div school stude ...more
Kasey Jueds
I reread this book recently and loved it just as much as I did the first time, possibly more. Beautifully-written, smart, honest, perceptive, sometimes really funny. The book describes a calendar year of the author's religious life (she's a member of a liberal Episcopalian church in California) and is wonderfully forthright about her struggles and difficulties as well as times of clarity and hopefulness. Aside from obvious Christian references (God and Jesus especially), what struck me this time ...more
I closed this book and sighed. It is a fascinating read and is an apt snapshot of a time and place in the Episcopal Church. There are no strident declarations of faith here or fist shaking admonitions. It is a story about one year in the life of someone who, like the rest of us, is stumbling around in the gloaming.
What an enjoyable walk through the liturgical year with Nora. She is insightful, reflective and very likable. She leads me back along the trail to my Episcopal roots. Much like Wendell Berry’s fox, which Gallagher holds up as it “makes more tracks than necessary,” my mind was back and forth through several stages in my own spiritual journey and through several church families. I agree with Berry that we should emulate the fox, because the tracks in the wrong direction are still of value for the ...more
Nora Gallagher writes a lovely book that rambles through a liturgical year. Highlights of it surround caring for friends that are dying, working in the church soup kitchen which is populated with unusual characters, and seeing a new pastor into office, which seemed like it would be controversial because of his sexuality, but wasn't, because the church loves him.

My personal favorite part was the inclusion of this prayer:
May you walk with God
In the sharp pain of growing
In the midst of confusion
If you are a liberal or an Episcopalian, which seems to be the same thing these days, you will like this book. I am a conservative Lutheran, so I had trouble with some of the things the author and her church grappled with. But the book is well-written and thought provoking. It took me nearly a month to get through it; it's not much of a page-turner.
Aug 08, 2009 Wendy added it
A few quotes:

"If, instead of waiting for stones to be changed to bread, we share the food we have; if, rather than waiting for the fantasy job or lover, we take on the people and work of our lives; if, rather than waiting for rescue, we lay down our lives for our friends—then we depart the world of deadly illusion for a living reality in which 'every day the real caress,' as Anais Nin wrote 'replaces the ghostly lover.'"

"Simply going to church doesn't do it, but neither does not going to church.
I read Practicing Resurrection shortly before I read this book, and I like Practicing Resurrection much better.

Neither has a strong narrative arc, but Practicing Resurrection is full of beautiful heartbreaking moments, so the lack of a strong cohesive arc isn't felt as strongly, while Things Seen and Unseen feels much more stumbling. There are still plenty of bits I like, but I am both much less engaged and much less moved. (It's also somewhat ironic reading stories of her being so un-pastoral,
I started this in June and then went on vacation, so I lot had faded by the time I picked it up again. But there is an awful lot in here. Two parts I especially liked were 1) her description of the Holy Spirit as a "scatterbrained woman at a very large computer in heaven" and 2) when she feels the presence of a recently dead friend as not full of sentiment or emotion but as "detached kindness, without emotion, clarity without sentiment, the purity and refreshment of a sun-dried sheet." And a quo ...more
Dawn Meyers
Jan 14, 2015 Dawn Meyers is currently reading it
I really enjoyed this book. The way it is writing reminds me of the writings of Kathleen Norris. One of the reviews quoted on the back of the book says that she writes in "lyrical cadences" and her work is suffused with "deep serenity". This really sums it up for me. She dwells mainly on her life within her church and her relationships with the other congregants as she takes the reader through a church year, with all the attendant rituals , readings and activities and discussion of the meaning s ...more
Arlene Allen
So beautifully written. I am Jewish so I don't understannd why I am so attracted to Christian writers. I love Anne Lamott, I really enjoyed Angry Conversations with God, I am so inspired by Sue Monk Kidd, and Walking a Literary Labyrinth ws one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Nora's book is so heartfelt and moving. Most Jewish memoirs are about the Holocaust which I've been reading since age 12. So if anyone knows any modern spiritual memois by Jew, preferably a woman, please let me ...more
I read this book about 5 years ago and I was not terribly impressed. Upon giving it a second reading, I really like it. Clearly my mood and place in life affects my judgement of what I'm reading.
This is the story of one woman's faith journey. She is fortunate enough to end up in a congregation that has little money, but a big heart; a congregation actually intereted in the last, lost, least and little of the world and in supporting each other's spiritual needs.
Worth the read - even twice!
Things Seen and Unseen has the same spiritual memoir, through-the-liturgical-year style as The Close, The Cloister Walk, and The Abbey Up the Hill. It was a quick read (mostly on the train), with several quotable gems. "Ashes to fire," and "the meal is the prayer," stand out.

To my surprise, one of my co-workers makes an appearance "with a towel over his arm."

An interesting journey. Enjoy the read.
I am out of renewals so it has to go back for now. It's been an interesting and thoughtful read so far, but slow going. The slowness is good, though, because it proceeds at a contemplative pace. My only difficulty is with the vast array of people mentioned - I'm having a little trouble keeping track of everyone.
Nora Gallagher writes of her journey to and in faith in such an honest and humble way, it is touching me deeply, as I am searching in this new phase of my life for what God wants of me.. Oh, my He does work in mysterious ways. Thank you , Jill.
I believe that I will reread this with every season
The monastery I frequented in the hills of Santa Barbara, now burned and gone, had such a great bookstore. This book was one of those purchases. They also sold all of Cornell West's books, which I later found out from the monks was due to Cornell's frequent visits there.
I love Nora Gallagher. This was a glimpse into a year in her church and in her life. Her spirituality reminds me what I like about Episcopalian churches. Not just lip service, Nora Gallagher is a Christian who does works in the world, and struggles with her faith.
Daughters Of Abraham
Liturgical year as seen by a woman who returned to faith as an adult Christian in the Episcopal tradition. This books focuses on transcendence.
Joleen Richwine
Love this book, I have read it three times and helped facilite a book club discussion on it at the university where I work. Very insightful.
Peggy Lo
It's one talent to notice things, another to to be able to convey it in simple and piercing language. And she has that talent in abundance.
Kate's Reads
I really did like this book, it was an interesting way to look at life, through the church year.
A touching, insightful spiritual autobiography.
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