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For Such a Time as This: Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston Massacre

SKU 9780827243231

By Sharon Risher with Sherri Wood Emmons

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As featured on the Today Show, MSNBC, and CBS This Morning

How can you forgive the unforgivable?

When she realized she’d missed several calls from her daughter, Reverend Sharon Risher sensed something was horribly wrong. News broke of violence 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.

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. 

Order 10 or more copies of For Such a Time as This for your small group or book club and get a personal video call from author Rev. Sharon Risher. 

Watch Sharon Risher's interview with Craig Melvin on the TODAY Show. 

Risher has been interviewed by the Today Show, CBS This Morning, 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.


"In this emotional memoir, hospital chaplain Risher explores her life and reaction to the 2015 massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, in which her mother, two cousins, and a friend were murdered. She begins with her reaction to learning about the massacre and follows through to the murder trial of Dylann Roof, when family members of dead were allowed to address Roof. Nadine Risher's young sister, accepted the invitation and used the moment to forgive Roof. The moment stuck with Risher, because she knew "that God commands us to forgive, but I was not ready to forgive this monster who killed my mother." Risher also recalls her upbringing in Charleston with four siblings, meeting Myra, leaving for college in North Carolina, hitting a Ricky patch with drugs, and getting help from her loving mother. At the end, Risher writes of how she eventually came to forgive Roof, which was a long and difficult process: 'I had to work hard spiritually to walk toward religion.' Frankly considering what it means to forgive, Risher provides a gripping, unflinching testimony."Publishers Weekly

“Sharon Risher is the very definition of a hero: she's taken her grief and pain and turned it into activism in an effort to prevent other families from experiencing the same anguish her family has. Sharon's passion shines through on every page, and her compelling story shows us all how to find courage and compassion in even the darkest tragedy. I've been honored to work side by side with Sharon since 2015, and I'm so grateful for her guidance and wisdom -- in real life, and in her book." ―Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

For Such a Time as This is a beautiful, but bittersweet memoir of a woman of God facing the loss of her beloved family by gun violence. Rev. Risher is truly one who has been called to rise in faith as a conduit for love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Her story will forever stand as truth and compassion in America’s shameful culture of hate and discrimination played out through gun violence.” ―Rep. Lucy McBath, member of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia's 6th congressional district, and author of Standing Our Ground: The Triumph of Faith Over Gun Violence: A Mother's Story

“Rev. Sharon Risher has inspired countless Americans with her journey from gun violence survivor to activist. With such moving honesty and raw emotion, hers is a story of resilience in the face of hatred and violence. This book will touch your heart and make you want to stand with her in the movement to end gun violence.―Christopher Kocher, director of Everytown Survivor Network

"When you read Reverend Sharon Risher's phenomenal life story, you will want to hug her, cry with her, laugh with her. She sweeps you up with her unstoppable spirit. Faith keeps her resilient in the face of tragedy, the unthinkable murder of her mother at a prayer meeting in church. She inspires you to overcome colossal hurdles and face life with gusto and humor...and forgiveness." ―Abigail Pesta, award-winning journalist, author of The Girls, coauthor of How Dare the Sun Rise

"Rev. Sharon Risher is not one to be timid in the face of injustice, suffering or controversy. Out of the anguish of her own unspeakable loss after her mother and cousins were gunned down in a church basement by an unapologetic white supremacist, Sharon takes us on the journey no one wants to go on. Her training as a minister and chaplain helps us understand the complex emotions that tormented her in the aftermath of such personal tragedy. In this “can’t-put-it-down” page-turner, the author doesn’t mince words in conveying what it means to work through such pain, anger, isolation, and fear, yet, in the end, she generously shares the hopeful lessons she learned so we can vicariously benefit from them. It takes extraordinary bravery to do what Sharon Risher has done by so candidly sharing her story—and we should all be grateful to God and to her for it! This book is a gift to humankind."―Rob Schenck, Author of Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love and subject of Abigail Disney’s Emmy Award winning documentary, The Armor of Light

"In For Such a Time as This, the Rev. Sharon Risher writes in a voice that those who know her will recognize, the authentic one of an imperfect preacher who smokes and cusses and fought addiction, and who brings to ministry the lessons lived in a real life. That includes her honest account of a long and painful journey, often at the brunt of other people's judgments, to forgive the white supremacist who murdered her mother and eight others inside Emanuel AME Church. No family is perfect, and Risher describes how her mother's violent death ripped at the fabric of hers, already torn by the loss of one sister just two years before the massacre and another sister two years after. There are lessons for us all in her story, including an important plea for America to confront the twin evils of racism and gun violence, as she is doing in her new life's role as an 'accidental activist.' That she has heeded this important calling amid such suffering is an inspiration for all of us to read her story and then go do our part."―Jennifer Berry Hawes, author of Grace Will Lead Us Home

"I consider myself incredibly lucky to count Sharon Risher as a dear friend. Reading these stories she's told me in person evokes the same tears, and the same impossible laughter that we've shared. Her authentic presence, embodying the defiant joy of our common human experience as only the utterly heartbroken can do, shines forth in For Such a Time as This: Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston Massacre as the next best thing to being with her in person. As someone who once espoused the same toxic cowardice and irresponsibility that twisted the weak mind of the suffering fool who murdered Ethel Lance and eight other wonderful souls, I say with authority that Sharon's profound voice is righteous kryptonite to the fear and ignorance that compose hate. The faith in humanity that this book inspires ensures that hate will never win in the hearts of those who read it."―Arno Arr Michaelis IV, Speaker, Author, Educator, Filmmaker, and Former White Supremacist

“To read this book is to be challenged to become a better, more aware and empathic person. Rev Risher begins with the story of her mother’s tragic death then takes deep dives into topics like growing up black, the messy realities of family, gun violence, politics, and more. The reader is in skilled hands with Rev Risher who has served as chaplain, pastor, mother, and activist. In sharing her own heart and mind she encourages us to think more deeply and to be more painfully and uncomfortably honest as we consider difficult topics like grief, the death penalty, race, faith, and forgiveness."―Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee, psychologist and author of Deviced, Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World, internationally known author and speaker, Everytown Survivor Fellow and National Trainer