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Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace

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In the highly praised memoir Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher reflected on a year of spiritual renewal and the fact of mortality with uncommon wisdom and grace. We rejoin her in Practicing Resurrection as Gallagher searches for direction in the wake of her brother’s death. A desire to reclaim her own “wild life” and a sense of the sacred in the world compels her to a In the highly praised memoir Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher reflected on a year of spiritual renewal and the fact of mortality with uncommon wisdom and grace. We rejoin her in Practicing Resurrection as Gallagher searches for direction in the wake of her brother’s death. A desire to reclaim her own “wild life” and a sense of the sacred in the world compels her to assess everything: her marriage, her writing career, and her commitment to parish life. A profound testimony to the urgency of living with meaning, to the natural world’s solace and sacredness and a beautiful and often harrowing account of the search for vocation. Gallagher bears witness to the way death yields new life.


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In the highly praised memoir Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher reflected on a year of spiritual renewal and the fact of mortality with uncommon wisdom and grace. We rejoin her in Practicing Resurrection as Gallagher searches for direction in the wake of her brother’s death. A desire to reclaim her own “wild life” and a sense of the sacred in the world compels her to a In the highly praised memoir Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher reflected on a year of spiritual renewal and the fact of mortality with uncommon wisdom and grace. We rejoin her in Practicing Resurrection as Gallagher searches for direction in the wake of her brother’s death. A desire to reclaim her own “wild life” and a sense of the sacred in the world compels her to assess everything: her marriage, her writing career, and her commitment to parish life. A profound testimony to the urgency of living with meaning, to the natural world’s solace and sacredness and a beautiful and often harrowing account of the search for vocation. Gallagher bears witness to the way death yields new life.

30 review for Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jean Marie Angelo

    I read this book at the urging of my spiritual director, an Episcopal priest who usually ends each session by handing me a bag or a pile of books. I especially gleaned much from Nora Gallagher. Like me, she had been a journalist. I toiled away for several business to business magazines and websites, and sometimes for small, local newspapers. She wrote for Time and other national magazines. Nora is obviously in another league. Still, I could relate to her all consuming writing career that never p I read this book at the urging of my spiritual director, an Episcopal priest who usually ends each session by handing me a bag or a pile of books. I especially gleaned much from Nora Gallagher. Like me, she had been a journalist. I toiled away for several business to business magazines and websites, and sometimes for small, local newspapers. She wrote for Time and other national magazines. Nora is obviously in another league. Still, I could relate to her all consuming writing career that never provided any "real money." She writes about being a young woman who drank too much and dated all the wrong people. One morning she was snorting a drug to give her a lift for the day and caught her image in the mirror. She did not like what she saw and decided to visit a church after years of being away. One visit eventually led to worship, and service, and being a lay leader. This book is about her discernment to possibly become a priest. Anyone who knows the Episcopal Church knows there are many years and many layers to the discernment process. As I possibly consider my next move toward discernment to be a deacon, it was important for me to read about her three-year odyssey of discernment. In the end, Gallagher finds that her ministry is the "word," basically her writing. She embraces lay leadership and underscores that each member of the laity is a minister, each with unique gifts. I came away with utmost respect for those who eventually become ordained, and for those who realize that their lay ministries are just as vital. Here are a few passages that stood out for me: A vocation. From the Latin vocare, to call. This call or whatever it was had disruppted my marriage, confused my friends, and forced to the surface most of my hidden neuroses. Sometimes a marriage has to die, or the unconscious agreements in that marriage have to die, for another marriage, with the same partners, to come into being. In its first two hundred years of live, Christianity was practiced in house churches. Because women often administered households (including overseeing large stars of servants and slaves), they became leaders in those churches.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

    Wow, Nora Gallagher was a hot mess before she found her way back to church and God. In her previous book, Things Seen and Unseen, she mentions spending many worship services in tears and not really understanding why. But as someone who also took a several-year hiatus from church, I understand why because I, too, lived it. Practicing Resurrection is as much about her discernment process and what she felt was a call to the Episcopal priesthood as much as it is about her coming to terms with the ot Wow, Nora Gallagher was a hot mess before she found her way back to church and God. In her previous book, Things Seen and Unseen, she mentions spending many worship services in tears and not really understanding why. But as someone who also took a several-year hiatus from church, I understand why because I, too, lived it. Practicing Resurrection is as much about her discernment process and what she felt was a call to the Episcopal priesthood as much as it is about her coming to terms with the other relationships in her life such as the death of her brother and her tempestuous marriage. A very human and real self-depiction, and quite touching overall. Two thumbs up.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kimberlie

    This book beautifully describes in unsentimental language Nora's three year process of deciding whether to become a priest or not. Key to her decision is a small group of trusted church friends who serve as her discernment committee. The group's intimacy, honesty and support are to be longed for. In the process of discernment, Nora's beloved brother dies and her marriage is challenged. This is a reality-based memoir of what it's like to be called, to respond, to question and to live in the margi This book beautifully describes in unsentimental language Nora's three year process of deciding whether to become a priest or not. Key to her decision is a small group of trusted church friends who serve as her discernment committee. The group's intimacy, honesty and support are to be longed for. In the process of discernment, Nora's beloved brother dies and her marriage is challenged. This is a reality-based memoir of what it's like to be called, to respond, to question and to live in the margins.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    I had hoped that I would get to hear Nora Gallagher last year at the WomanKind conference that I went to. She was supposed to be the keynote speaker. Unfortunately, she was sick and we got Anne Lamott instead. I love Anne, but she had spoken two years before. I did take the opportunity to buy Gallagher's book. A year later, I finally sat down to read it. Timing is everything. I wonder about the ordination process occasionally but I believe my role in the church is as laity. Gallagher's story was I had hoped that I would get to hear Nora Gallagher last year at the WomanKind conference that I went to. She was supposed to be the keynote speaker. Unfortunately, she was sick and we got Anne Lamott instead. I love Anne, but she had spoken two years before. I did take the opportunity to buy Gallagher's book. A year later, I finally sat down to read it. Timing is everything. I wonder about the ordination process occasionally but I believe my role in the church is as laity. Gallagher's story was fitting for my concerns. This is the story of her discernment. She wants parts of the priesthood, however, she is worried about the changes that come about with ordination. Gallagher is an excellent writer. In this she shares parts of her life that I would have found difficult to share. I felt like I was involved in her discernment process. She left me with lots to think about - for which I am grateful. I recommend this book to those who are in the discernment process; to people interested in church and those who may want to know more about the episcopal church.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Beautiful stories. Frequently made me cry. Gallagher is discerning a vocation from the priesthood in the context of the Episcopal church, so some of it is strange to me whose church home is a radical queer Methodist church (and whose secondary church home is a UCC church) -- reading the book I sometimes retort, "You don't have to be ordained to do that! _I_'ve done that!" I feel confident that I'm not Called to ordained ministry (at least not right now -- I'm allowing for the possibility that thi Beautiful stories. Frequently made me cry. Gallagher is discerning a vocation from the priesthood in the context of the Episcopal church, so some of it is strange to me whose church home is a radical queer Methodist church (and whose secondary church home is a UCC church) -- reading the book I sometimes retort, "You don't have to be ordained to do that! _I_'ve done that!" I feel confident that I'm not Called to ordained ministry (at least not right now -- I'm allowing for the possibility that this will change at some later point in my life), but I like the stuff she says about discernment -- the reminder of the value of practicing silent contemplation, active listening for the Spirit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kasey Jueds

    While I didn't love this book quite as much as Things Seen and Unseen, it's still smart and moving and wonderful. It's a sequel memoir that deals with both the death of the author's brother, and her struggle to figure out whether or not she wants to become a priest. Again, I loved rediscovering it--both her books are worth reading and rereading, they are so full of depth. While I didn't love this book quite as much as Things Seen and Unseen, it's still smart and moving and wonderful. It's a sequel memoir that deals with both the death of the author's brother, and her struggle to figure out whether or not she wants to become a priest. Again, I loved rediscovering it--both her books are worth reading and rereading, they are so full of depth.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janet Daniels

    Nora Gallagher chronicles her "year of discernment" for the Episcopal priesthood. Reflecting on her personal experiences, she describes her choice, once she has been approved to attend seminary to be ordained. This is a great illustration of the discernment process at work. Listening for call and discerning where it leads is no simple procedure. Nora Gallagher chronicles her "year of discernment" for the Episcopal priesthood. Reflecting on her personal experiences, she describes her choice, once she has been approved to attend seminary to be ordained. This is a great illustration of the discernment process at work. Listening for call and discerning where it leads is no simple procedure.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    Perhaps I have let my feelings get in the way on this book. I have always been somewhat sceptical, but mostly jealous, of others who claim to have "gotten the call." I have never delved further into inquiring about their discernment process. This book tells the story of one person's process, and while Nora Gallagher does posess writing skills, her story doesn't explore the depths of her discernment. Instead, it remains on the surface - much like the life that she describes for her readers. She s Perhaps I have let my feelings get in the way on this book. I have always been somewhat sceptical, but mostly jealous, of others who claim to have "gotten the call." I have never delved further into inquiring about their discernment process. This book tells the story of one person's process, and while Nora Gallagher does posess writing skills, her story doesn't explore the depths of her discernment. Instead, it remains on the surface - much like the life that she describes for her readers. She seems to know the right way to live, befriend the right mix of friends, and stand up for the right causes. She and her discernment committee question life, themselves, and their church. They go from peaceful to anxious very fluidly. Nora makes her choices and I felt they weren't exactly based on what the Lord wanted for her but on what she wanted for her lifestyle. Please don't get me wrong here because I do believe that Nora did feel a call to priesthood in the Episcopal Church and she invested a good deal of time and energy into discerning this call, and she eloquently speaks of her journey. I was just left with a feeling that she was writing more about living a certain "lifestyle" than a call. I am happy that she is doing what she feels she should be doing and that is writing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andy Littleton

    The author went from snorting cocaine to wake up in the morning to pursuing Episcopal priesthood. She has a story to tell! This, her second book, chronicles her process of ordination and weaves in and out of her life story. Though I can’t join her in many of her doctrines and practices, I still found the journey to worth the read. I especially appreciated the glimpse into the liberal Episcopalian world and her thinking about vocation, creativity, ministry and how the three at times intersect and The author went from snorting cocaine to wake up in the morning to pursuing Episcopal priesthood. She has a story to tell! This, her second book, chronicles her process of ordination and weaves in and out of her life story. Though I can’t join her in many of her doctrines and practices, I still found the journey to worth the read. I especially appreciated the glimpse into the liberal Episcopalian world and her thinking about vocation, creativity, ministry and how the three at times intersect and collide.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Nora Gallagher's memoir takes us on her spiritual journey of resurrection. Her reflections convey the tidal wave of emotions that grief hit her with; and how it eventually led her to a new, unexpected, and rewarding life. The book is a slow read--moving back and forth chronologically in a series of flashbacks. Thought provoking at times; a little too esoteric at times. Would not recommend. Nora Gallagher's memoir takes us on her spiritual journey of resurrection. Her reflections convey the tidal wave of emotions that grief hit her with; and how it eventually led her to a new, unexpected, and rewarding life. The book is a slow read--moving back and forth chronologically in a series of flashbacks. Thought provoking at times; a little too esoteric at times. Would not recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Landry

    Wonderful memoir about the author's process of discernment as she considered a call to ordained ministry. Gallagher opens up her life to the reader, the uplifting moments as well as the challenges that she was facing in her marriage, the loss of her brother, and her examination of her faith and vocation. Very enlightening and illuminating. Wonderful memoir about the author's process of discernment as she considered a call to ordained ministry. Gallagher opens up her life to the reader, the uplifting moments as well as the challenges that she was facing in her marriage, the loss of her brother, and her examination of her faith and vocation. Very enlightening and illuminating.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Brill

    A lovely honest memoir about a period in Nora Gallagher's life when she was simultaneously mourning the loss of her brother and contemplating a call to priesthood. I especially appreciated her generous assessment of "church folk" and her descriptions of her own unique spirituality. A lovely honest memoir about a period in Nora Gallagher's life when she was simultaneously mourning the loss of her brother and contemplating a call to priesthood. I especially appreciated her generous assessment of "church folk" and her descriptions of her own unique spirituality.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Reading this for a book group. It was ok but really nothing out of the ordinary.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matt Ely

    A bit reliant on the short anecdote where someone says something particularly profound based on very little context. It's a bit tough jumping in, possibly my fault, because this is a second memoir, though that's not initially apparent. So several settings and persons manifest without introduction. As a reader, you can feel out of the loop when a little exposition would quickly alleviate that sense. Ultimately I think there are too many scene changes, too many characters, and too many life events A bit reliant on the short anecdote where someone says something particularly profound based on very little context. It's a bit tough jumping in, possibly my fault, because this is a second memoir, though that's not initially apparent. So several settings and persons manifest without introduction. As a reader, you can feel out of the loop when a little exposition would quickly alleviate that sense. Ultimately I think there are too many scene changes, too many characters, and too many life events in too few pages. I will acknowledge that it's silly for me to criticize a memoir for being too eventful; they were real events after all, not something that happened to a character. All of our lives, even mid-COVID, are too eventful to be sufficiently described in book form. I think either going deeper on fewer key matters or giving the events described more room to breathe would have made this feel less frenetic and its conclusions more earned. As it is, the book has some interesting things to say, but not quite enough space to say them well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Di

    I really struggled with the first half of this book. Someone I like recommended the author, and I ordered the book from the library, not knowing that a significant part of the book focuses on her discernment of call to Episcopal priesthood. I cringed in some places, nodded in others, and by about page 160, was glad I'd held on. So much of her book is more about Church than about God-- and she wrestles with the way priesthood can often be about profession and power, rather than about God. I respe I really struggled with the first half of this book. Someone I like recommended the author, and I ordered the book from the library, not knowing that a significant part of the book focuses on her discernment of call to Episcopal priesthood. I cringed in some places, nodded in others, and by about page 160, was glad I'd held on. So much of her book is more about Church than about God-- and she wrestles with the way priesthood can often be about profession and power, rather than about God. I respected her struggles, having shared many of them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I found this book surprisingly accessible to someone who knows little about the Episcopalian discernment process. Nora Gallagher managers to write about her experience in the church without sounding too Jesus-y, and her candor--about everything from her use of cocaine to the fact that she froze when asked to answer the question "I have never engaged in any unusual sexual practices"--was refreshing. I found this book surprisingly accessible to someone who knows little about the Episcopalian discernment process. Nora Gallagher managers to write about her experience in the church without sounding too Jesus-y, and her candor--about everything from her use of cocaine to the fact that she froze when asked to answer the question "I have never engaged in any unusual sexual practices"--was refreshing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Moving at times, this book details Gallagher's year of discernment around her sense of call to the priesthood. There are some deeply profound moments in here as she describes her understanding of the Eucharist and her emotion around her brother's death. There are also some moments that fall very flat. Gallagher struggles with vulnerability and the sensitive reader will feel her holding back, when you most want exposure. How much truth does a reader have the right to ask of a writer? Moving at times, this book details Gallagher's year of discernment around her sense of call to the priesthood. There are some deeply profound moments in here as she describes her understanding of the Eucharist and her emotion around her brother's death. There are also some moments that fall very flat. Gallagher struggles with vulnerability and the sensitive reader will feel her holding back, when you most want exposure. How much truth does a reader have the right to ask of a writer?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    I love Nora Gallagher. This is a book about grief and discernment. The first half felt familiar, like I had perhaps read it before, but the second half felt wholly new to me. A beautiful story about how life continues after loss, about participating in the work of God and the church, and the renewal of a marriage. Recommended for: people who like to think about vocation (whether that’s explicitly in church work or not).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I loved this book, but I can see that it takes a particular type of reader. Although the author is an Episcopalian woman on a journey of discernment as to her role as an ordained minister, I think that it would be appropriate for someone of any religious background, but I do think that in order to truly appreciate it, one would need to be on some type of spiritual quest. So much wisdom here, and it definitely helps me on my discernment journey.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    This is the second time I read this book and I loved it just as much as I did the first time. I enjoyed Nora Gallagher's process of discernment as she tried to figure out whether she was called to be a priest in the Episcopal church. I loved the idea of vocation, or calling, as a broader experience that we all might have. This is the second time I read this book and I loved it just as much as I did the first time. I enjoyed Nora Gallagher's process of discernment as she tried to figure out whether she was called to be a priest in the Episcopal church. I loved the idea of vocation, or calling, as a broader experience that we all might have.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I gave this book to my brother as he was embarking on a cross country trip, and he said he read it aloud to his partner and cried all the way to Canada. This is a book about the spiritual path, about family,place, vocation. New Mexico. Death of a beloved sibling. Discernment and call. Nice writing. Highly recommended

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This well written book about Nora's discernment process, not only regarding the priesthood, but of her call day-to-day, rang very true to me. She is thoughtful and passionate, serious and light hearted. Her ability to see the big picture is excellent, and I agree with much of her thoughts about the church and its process. This well written book about Nora's discernment process, not only regarding the priesthood, but of her call day-to-day, rang very true to me. She is thoughtful and passionate, serious and light hearted. Her ability to see the big picture is excellent, and I agree with much of her thoughts about the church and its process.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate Davis

    Not very well organized, and not really all that interesting. The book pretty much concludes with "and then I realized I should write something that bridges the ordained and lay ministries," but that's not a thing she actually accomplishes in this book. Is this ENTIRE BOOK a prelude to her next? Obnoxious. Not that there aren't some good gems in there. Just, as a whole, disappointing. Not very well organized, and not really all that interesting. The book pretty much concludes with "and then I realized I should write something that bridges the ordained and lay ministries," but that's not a thing she actually accomplishes in this book. Is this ENTIRE BOOK a prelude to her next? Obnoxious. Not that there aren't some good gems in there. Just, as a whole, disappointing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Josephine Ensign

    Yuck. I picked up this book at my cute little neighborhood 'pocket library' based on its very lovely cover, but not realizing how nauseatingly entitled/ navel-gazing religious it was inside that lovely cover. While I can tolerate--and even like--Madeline L'Engle's Episcopalian/spiritual writings, Gallagher's I cannot find anything remotely--well, redemptive... Don't trust a book by its cover. Yuck. I picked up this book at my cute little neighborhood 'pocket library' based on its very lovely cover, but not realizing how nauseatingly entitled/ navel-gazing religious it was inside that lovely cover. While I can tolerate--and even like--Madeline L'Engle's Episcopalian/spiritual writings, Gallagher's I cannot find anything remotely--well, redemptive... Don't trust a book by its cover.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tony Snyder

    This book forced me to look at faith in so many new, interesting ways. I had never thought of longing as a positive emotion before. Now I won't run from it. I haven't read a more vivid description of the Body of Christ before. Finally, the thought of Christ loving us as though we are dear siblings of His resonated with me so much! If you have any curiosity about faith, read this book! This book forced me to look at faith in so many new, interesting ways. I had never thought of longing as a positive emotion before. Now I won't run from it. I haven't read a more vivid description of the Body of Christ before. Finally, the thought of Christ loving us as though we are dear siblings of His resonated with me so much! If you have any curiosity about faith, read this book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chadwick

    The most powerful and unforgettable books I have read this year. Given to me unexpectedly by an extraordinary man, I connect with Nora's discernment...her exploration of personal death, resurrection, ascension and liberation. A not oft-talked about book, but it will endure for many years. The most powerful and unforgettable books I have read this year. Given to me unexpectedly by an extraordinary man, I connect with Nora's discernment...her exploration of personal death, resurrection, ascension and liberation. A not oft-talked about book, but it will endure for many years.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This book is written about an Episcopal woman trying to discern whether or not to become a priest, but her insights are far more universal and really raise questions about what vocation is for any one of us.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I give five stars to books that are well-written, and ones I will continue to think about long after I finish them. This book certainly qualifies in both categories. Questions it raised about call, discernment, and religious practice will stay with me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    One of those books they give you to read when you're "in discernment" One of those books they give you to read when you're "in discernment"

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This was okay. Really, just okay. Very well written, but she annoyed me some and I can't exactly say that it really went much of anywhere. This was okay. Really, just okay. Very well written, but she annoyed me some and I can't exactly say that it really went much of anywhere.

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