For Such a Time as This
Sharon Risher with Sherri Wood Emmons
Published June 11, 2019
The instant her phone rang, Reverend Sharon Risher sensed something was horribly wrong. Something had happened at Emanuel AME Church, the church of her youth in Charleston, South Carolina, and she knew her mother was likely in the church at Bible study. Even before she heard the news, her chaplain’s instinct told her the awful truth: her mother was dead, along with two cousins. What she couldn’t imagine was that they had been murdered by a white supremacist.
Plunged into the depths of mourning and anger and shock, Sharon could have wallowed in the pain. Instead, she chose the path of forgiveness and hope – eventually forgiving the convicted killer for his crime. In this powerful memoir of faith, family, and loss, Sharon begins the story with her mother, Ethel Lee Lance, seeking refuge in the church from poverty and scorn and raising her family despite unfathomable violence that rattled Sharon to her core years later; how Sharon overcame her own struggles and answered the call to ministry; and how, in the loss of her dear mother,
Sharon has become a nationally known speaker as she shares her raw, riveting, story of losing loved ones to gun violence and racism. Sharon’s story is a story of transformation: How an anonymous hospital chaplain was thrust into the national spotlight, joining survivors of other gun-related horrors as reluctant speakers for a heartbroken social-justice movement. As she recounts her grief and the struggle to forgive the killer, Risher learns to trust God’s timing and lean on God’s loving presence to guide her steps.
Where her faith journey leads her is surprising and inspiring, as she finds a renewed purpose to her life in the company of other survivors. Risher has been interviewed by Time Magazine, Marie-Claire, Essence, Guardian-BCC Radio, CNN, and other media sources. She regularly shares her story on American college campuses and racial-reconciliation events. “To Forgive a Killer,” her essay as told to Abigail Pesta published in Notre Dame Magazine, won the 2018 Front Page Award for Essay published in a Magazine, awarded by the Newswomen’s Club of New York .
When I heard about FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS, I knew I needed to read it. I remember hearing about the shooting in Charleston and feeling deeply disturbed at the boldness and actions of the killer. Rev. Risher tells the story of her family and her journey through grief toward healing with courage and very straight talk. This isn’t a flowery, feel-good story. It’s raw and real, full of struggle, humanity, and faith.
Risher wades into political waters as she describes her personal evolution into an advocate for sensible gun laws and for racial equality in the United States. Hearing her perspective on why she travels the country speaking and how she developed her message moved me, too. It made me think about the way I have conversations with people.
She suggests beginning with a common ground. What is something that both parties agree on? Find that common ground and then build on it. I’m hoping to put this into practice in my own life as I have conversations about social issues with people I care about.
Risher’s frank discussion of racism in America left me with chills. Her calls to action to learn to have difficult conversations, to keep talking about racial issues even when we’re uncomfortable, stick with me even after the pages of the book are closed. I agree with her, and I want to find appropriate ways to be part of those conversations, too.
All in all, I think FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS is a must-read for anyone in America. This shooting happened here, perpetrated by a man with abhorrent ideas, ones shared by too many other people. After an event like that, I find myself wondering what to do, or how to respond. I think this book does a lot toward equipping people to do those very things.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Sharon Risher’s mother, two cousins, and a childhood friend, who are all black, were killed by a white supremacist at their church in Charleston.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used near a dozen times throughout the book.
Brief recollection of falling in love and getting married.
Risher herself is a chaplain and calls on her faith to help herself and others through deep grief and anger.
Some brief descriptions of the mass shooting at the AME church in Charleston.
Simon and his friends drink alcohol, which is legal at eighteen in Australia.
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