In her best-selling spiritual memoir, "Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith," Nora Gallagher wrote about her experiences at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, Calif., as a lay Eucharistic minister, a soup kitchen worker, a participant in a Thursday evening base community, and a member of the vestry. In this sequel, her Christian faith is challenged and stretched over a three-year period. The death of her brother of cancer is very difficult to handle, and her grief is deep. Gallagher writes: "The life of faith was amorphous, ephemeral, a glimpse, a moment. Trusting it was like my early swimming lessons in learning how to float."
When a zealous priest friend tells another woman, "I don't take care of myself, I spend myself," the author ponders what she wants to dedicate her life to. She feels she might be called to the priesthood and begins work with a discernment committee to clarify her feelings. The Eucharist anchors her practice and confirms her belief that she must act on behalf of others in all that she does.
Gallagher is approved by the Commission on Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and is sent to a parish for a study year. But while working there, she misses the cutting-edge social and healing ministries at Trinity. Gallagher wonders whether she would be willing to serve in "some place slow and steady, an island for the shipwrecked." After all of her wonderful experiences as an active layperson at Trinity, she worries about the rift that still exists between clergy and laity. The professional club aspect of the priesthood does not appeal to her.
The thought-provoking title, "Practicing Resurrection," comes from a poem by the inimitable Wendell Berry, who likes to stir things up. Gallagher comes to see that new life is rising out of the ashes of her grief, in her deliberations about becoming a priest, and in her marriage, which is floundering during a period of dryness and instability. In the midst of all this, she is practicing resurrection by recognizing the transformations that are afoot in her life and in the lives of those she loves. Best of all for us, Gallagher comes to see afresh the healing and holistic powers in her writing vocation.