In 2008, Sharon Garlough Brown, MDiv ’94, invited women in her church to meet weekly and explore spiritual disciplines. Twelve women came forward to pray together and open their hearts. As they shared long-harbored sorrows, each woman experienced the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Garlough Brown’s first book, Sensible Shoes, was inspired by the transformations witnessed in that community. The final book in the Sensible Shoes series of four novels –The Extra Mile – was named 2019’s best work of fiction by Christianity Today.
Garlough Brown describes the women’s mutual longing for a deeper experience—a place where they could share the most difficult aspects of their lives. “Our circle was an opportunity to lament and grieve together,” she emphasizes. “Regrets and guilt, shame and sin. We saw the healing power of community, as women declared God’s grace to one another. The life changes we began to see from week to week were incredible.”
At one meeting, a woman looked around the circle and said, ““Everyone here is wearing really cute, but sensible shoes.” Garlough Brown says, “We all heard it as metaphor. If we’re going to walk with God and each other, through the breathtakingly beautiful, but also highly unpredictable, terrain of the inner life, then we need to have good shoes. Good, sturdy, sensible shoes.”
At Princeton Theological Seminary, Garlough Brown was deeply influenced by her professor of speech and preaching, Dr. G. Robert Jacks. “He taught us how to preach for the ear. What does it mean to be tuned in to the power of words spoken and heard? That so profoundly shaped not only the way I preach, but also the way I write. His teaching was absolutely formative for me.”
Sharon Garlough Brown’s latest novel, Shades of Light, was just released this summer and covers issues of mental illness and spiritual formation.