March 17, 2009 by Reader's Connection
Of all the Spirit and Place events that I’m sorry to have missed, I’m most sorry about missing Nora Gallagher’s visit in 1999. She spoke at Christ Church Cathedral downtown, and read from Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith.
That book and its sequel, Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace traced her involvement with an Episcopal church in Santa Barbara, California.
Her refreshingly communal approach is guided by the rhythms and cadences of something larger than herself: the liturgical calendar. . . 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 . . . Gallagher juxtaposes personal sagas brilliantly with the church year . . . A beautifully rendered fusion of the transcendent and the day-to-day. — Kirkus Reviews
Gallagher’s harrowing memoir of loss and hope recalls a time when everything seemed unreal and fragmented to her. She had learned her brother had little chance of recovering from cancer; she was working in a soup kitchen; she often prayed with great difficulty; and she planned liturgies for her church . . . Through her inner and outer turmoil, she miraculously found a vocation to the ministry. Following it proved life-altering in the highest degree, disrupting her marriage, confusing family and friends, and even making her shake her head at times in ironic disbelief. In recounting her attempt to make sense of the life that was “given” her after her brother’s passing, Practicing Resurrection reflects one woman’s sincere desire to understand her place in the world, to find purpose and meaning after devastating loss. — Booklist
So I’m waiting for the third installment of her memoir, and–shazmam!–Gallagher writes a novel instead. Her 2007 title, Changing Light, is set in the summer of 1945 and involves the creation of the first atomic bomb.
There are raves on the book jacket, even if other reviews–available if you open our catalog record–are mixed. But I don’t care about the reviews. I’ll probably read the book.
I’m still wondering, though, if Gallagher became an Episcopal priest. At least one Hoosier was against it. The young woman lawyer who drove her to the airport after Gallagher spoke at Christ Church in 1999 spoke up on the subject: “I don’t want you to be a priest . . . I don’t mean you wouldn’t be a good priest. But I am a layperson, trying to find my way in the church, and I need all the role models I can get.”
Perhaps the answer can be found on a website, somewhere, if I keep searching. For the moment, it would appear that writing this novel is the only way Gallagher felt that she could continue telling her own story.