Writer and speaker on subjects of faith, doubt and conscience, and author of Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic

Things Seen and Unseen

A Year Lived in Faith

"Faith is not about belief in something irrational or about a blind connection to something unreal. It's about a gathering, an accumulation of events and experiences of a different order . . . the longing a soul has to find its shape in the world."

Nora Gallagher entered Trinity Episcopal Church as a tourist and ended up a pilgrim. What she wanted was peace, she thought. What she got was something entirely different. In this remarkable book she describes her journey from secular life into "the world of the almost known," the world of faith.

With her piercing powers of observation focused inward on herself and outward on her community, Nora Gallagher takes us into a year of her own spiritual searching and into the life of a parish church. During this year, Gallagher struggles with faith in the midst of community, a fatal illness in her family, homeless guests in the church soup kitchen, and the efforts of a priest who is a gay man and the church's vestry to decide whether he should be called as their rector.

As Gallagher sits with a friend dying of AIDS and another with cancer, serves communion wine at the altar, locates buckets for the Holy Week foot washing, and copes with homeless men and women and their critics, we learn with her that "the road to the sacred is paved with the ordinary."

Gallagher writes of faith and its meaning and the need for ritual and sacrament in the generous language of uncertainty, suffering, grace, and commitment. She continually reveals in her choice of metaphors her own emerging faith and one experiences her discovery, as it were, in real time. She gives us, as well, a beautifully rendered portrait of a community struggling with change, without ever losing sight of the cross.

Perceptive, candid, and wonderfully written, Things Seen and Unseen embodies the demands and rewards, the mysteries and realities, of both personal and communal faith.


"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

“The deep serenity that suffuses Gallagher’s work, the lyrical cadences in which she writes, do not blunt the sharp edges of what she discovered in her quest for meaning. . . .”

— Los Angeles Times

"Like Kathleen Norris in Amazing Grace, Gallagher is renewing the language of ultimate concerns."

— San Francisco Chronicle

“An ordinary year, a typical parish, a fascinating read.”

— Episcopal Life

“Gallagher juxtaposes personal sagas brilliantly with the church year...A beautifully rendered portrait of the day-to-day.”

— Kirkus

“Gallagher’s account is more than that of a woman rediscovering her faith in God. It is also a glimpse into a sort of practical mysticism.”

— Booklist

Advance Praise

"This is a wonderful book. I laughed more often than I cried, but I did both. Nora Gallagher is perfect company, both witty and deep, and she describes church life and spiritual life with absolute accuracy."

— Annie Dillard, author of “A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”

"The story of a 'thin place,' this book is itself a thin place where the boundary between the sacred and the everyday becomes soft and porous, and the veil lifts. An absorbing, compelling, insightful and poetic narration of a year in the life and lives of a mainstream congregation, it mediates 'things unseen' through The seen. A book of exceptional excellence."

— Marcus Borg, author of “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time”

“You can read Things Seen and Unseen for its great beauty, and when you have read past beauty, you can read this book for its depth of feeling. And when you have read past depth of feeling, past this book’s stunning evocation of the arc of the Christian year, you read on and on, unwilling to stop, overcome by the generosity of Nora Gallagher. Her pentrating gift o the reader is a vision of working, suffering, rejoicing faith.”

— Verlyn Klinkenborg, author of “The Last Fine Time”

“Nora Gallagher’s brave journey ignites the faith-starved, who waver between spiritual need and unwillingness to heed traditional orthodoxies or accept the frightening spectacle of info-church. She opens her own faith strand by strand, illuminating every woman’s struggle of indescribable love, unsteady hope, and a toughness we often presume to be fragile and flawed. Hers is a soul that quickens.”

— Ellen Meloy, author of “Raven’s Exile”

Things Seen and Unseen

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