Reverend Sharon Washington Risher was catapulted into the limelight after the Charleston, South Carolina shooting at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. Her beloved mother — the church’s sexton — Ethel Lee Lance, was killed along with eight others, including two cousins and a childhood friend.

Since that horrific tragedy, Sharon has been very outspoken about the nation’s gun laws and is one of the national spokespersons for the grassroots advocacy groups Everytown and Moms Demand Gun Sense.

Audiences nationwide are saying that Reverend Risher’s talks are incredibly powerful, emotional, riveting, raw and authentic, and each of her talks cover her personal experience losing loved ones to gun violence, race, racism and hate in America, as well as the path to forgiveness and an offering of hope for tomorrow.

She has appeared multiple times on CNN, and was interviewed by Time Magazine, Marie-Claire, Essence, Guardian- BCC radio, among others. She visited President Barak Obama at the White House on several occasions, and has been a guest speaker for several Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial events.

The Charleston, South Carolina native was graduated from Charles A. Brown High School and from Johnson C. Smith University, in Charlotte, North Carolina. After 

discerning a call to vocational ordained ministry in 2002 while attending St. Paul Presbyterian Church in North Carolina she relocated to Austin, TX where she later received a Master of Divinity Degree in 2007 from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas.

Reverend Risher worked in hospital chaplaincy for several years, most recently as a staff chaplain and trauma specialist, with Parkland Hospital of Dallas, TX.  Today, Sharon is traveling the country as an activist and a speaker.

For Such a Time as This

Sharon’s book, For Such a Time as This, Hope and Forgiveness after the Charleston Massacre was released in June 2019, coinciding with the four year anniversary of the shooting.   In this powerful testimony and memoir of faith, family, loss, and forgiveness, 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.



Awe-inspiring…We had more questions than I have seen in the years past and they would have kept coming if we had the time.” – Melissa DellaRusso McSweeney, Assistant to the Deans – The Governor’s Academy

“Sharon’s talk was wonderful. It resonated and was impactful with our entire student and adult community. She was also such a lovely and easygoing person to host. We will be using your agency in the future.” – Zara-Marie Spooner, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development – Pingree School

“Sharon is absolutely amazing! My client was thrilled with her keynote. Sharon was nice enough to join us for lunch and dinner yesterday and got a chance to interact with our guests. It was perfect.” – Tara Chen, Global Project Manager – VIP Incentives

“Sharon’s presentations went very well! It was very timely given the school walkouts that occurred yesterday. We had a great turnout for both of her talks and have received a lot of positive feedback. After each her presentations, several people stayed around to speak to her and thank her for sharing. A small group of us had a nice dinner with her on Tuesday night and appreciated the time to talk with her on a more personal level. She is very interesting and engaging and easy to talk to. We really enjoyed having her visit Owens!” – James S. Katzner, Manager of Student Life – Owens Community College

“Sharon was fantastic. I really enjoyed having her and the crowd absolutely loved her. We continued to get lots of positive complements through the night and even after when we ran into people in town. It was a great event. Very powerful and timely. “ – Zack Rubinstein, Assistant Director, Center for Diversity and Inclusion – Michigan Technological University

“Sharon gave a moving presentation on our campus. Students wanted to meet and talk with her long after her presentation. Her message of forgiveness and activism is timely. She spoke to students that both acting to make change and forgiving can happen for survivors. She was genuine and I think the students knew she spoke from a place of deep sadness and great hope.” – Mary-Alice Ozechoski, Vice President of Student Affairs – Cedar Crest College

“Reverend Sharon Washington Risher’s speech was both personal and empowering. Rev. Risher did not hold back her emotions as she illustrated the importance of resilience, even when faced with unsettling and unexpected adversity. Her personal narrative was a call to action for everyone in the audience. Rev. Risher highlighted that through love we can evoke positive social change. “ – Christopher J. Ciarcia, Associate Director, Center for Civic Engagement – College of Charleston

“We were so blessed at the College of Charleston to have Reverend Risher speak to us about loss, pain, forgiveness and love last evening. We were transported to another place and time through her honesty and her raw emotion. I was moved by her powerful message.” – Evie Nadel, Senior Director of Community Relations, Special Assistant to the President – College of Charleston

“Rev. Risher was incredible, and made a significant impact on both the students she talked with and the larger group she presented to… it was an incredibly moving and meaningful set of presentations which, remarkably, did leave folks with a sense of hope and a call to action.” – Alane Varga, Dean for Diversity & Inclusion – Utica College

“…We had a full house. Sharon got a standing ovation after she spoke. She is indeed one of the best speakers we brought on campus. So many people complimented how wonderful she was. Many people attended cried with her, hugged her afterward. Her message was on point, moving, raw emotions and challenges us to think about what role we can play to advocate for social justice and being an advocate. Thanks again for another wonderful speaker!” – Christa Grant, Director, Damietta Cross-Cultural Center – Siena College

“Wow, hearing her story, told with such raw emotion and authenticity, was really powerful and moving. She received a standing ovation from our students at the end of her talk. What a wonderful woman, I had such a good time getting to know her…Thank you for your part in making this event happen. It was a bright moment on our campus.” – R. Deborah Weithers, M.A., Dean for Student Life – Andrew University

“Sharon did an awesome job for us.  Everyone at the presentation was moved by her words and her delivery. She is a special person who definitely did an outstanding job…” – Diane Jefferson, Director, Multicultural Student Affairs – Shippensburg University

“…Sharon’s story touched our hearts and souls and is one that will never be forgotten. Sharon is one incredible woman and I can only hope that she continues to share her story over and over again.” – Judy Gothelf, Living Lessons Program Coordinator – Robert Lazar Middle School

“Rev. Risher was wonderful! She has a down-to-earth style, and is very emotional/passionate about her experiences and those yet to come. I would highly recommend her to other institutions if you need a reference. Thanks for recommending her!!” – Dr. L. Jay Burlingame, Associate Director, Division of Student Affairs – Penn State Altoona, Altoona College

“Your remarkable lecture reminded each and every one of us about the value of life and the power of love.” – Cassandra Davis, SGA President – Temple University

“Sharon was excellent last night….the audience loved her…” – Dr. Wanda Lewis-Campbell, Assistant Dean for Student Life – Temple University Ambler

“WOW! Sharon was absolutely amazing. She was truly a gift to our campus community. We had about 200 people attend her talk and it was a fully engaged crowd. You could truly hear a pin drop. She was thoughtful, gracious, and a joy to work with. She was flexible with us and did her best to talk and hug every person that wanted to meet her! Everything was perfect… ” – Constanza A. Cabello, Director of Intercultural Affairs – Stonehill College

“Reverend Sharon Risher was the featured speaker for our 2016 MLK observance at Limestone College. Her mother, Ethel Lance, was one of the victims of the Charleston church shooting. She gave a remarkably honest and very moving presentation about her own grief. She told of having seen and heard Dr. King when she was a young girl growing up in Charleston; and simply by telling her story allowed the listeners to realize the obvious connection between Dr. King’s work and this horrific manifestation of racial hatred.” – Ron Singleton, Chaplain – Limestone College

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