Written by Rosalind Fournier
Photography by Heather Durham
If you are in Birmingham, or maybe anywhere in the South, there’s a good chance you know the name Sherri Burgess—former news anchor turned author and public speaker as well as the wife of Rick Burgess of the nationally syndicated Rick and Bubba Radio Show. You might also remember the tragedy that struck the Burgess family nine years ago and broke the hearts of an entire community when their two-and-a-half-year-old son, Bronner, died in a swimming-pool accident. It’s the kind of unthinkable loss that becomes forever interwoven with a parent’s own story, because how could it not?
Yet Sherri has another story—one of faith and survival and seeking a deeper relationship with God, and then finding the strength to share it with others.
It was in 2007 that she first began to consider speaking to women’s groups about faith. Rick had already built a following outside the radio show as a speaker to men’s groups and youth groups about matters of faith, and Sherri felt she might have a calling to speak to women. “Then one day out of the blue a minister here in Birmingham called and said, ‘Can you speak to my women’s group? We meet here on Tuesdays, and I was just listening to Rick and felt strongly that I was to call you to speak to us.’”
She agreed—it seemed meant to be—and labored over the speech until she was satisfied. Then came the unthinkable, the loss of their son. That was three days before she was scheduled to be at the church. Instead, on that morning, she and Rick buried their own child. It would be a long time before the speech she had written ever saw the light of day.
“When the Bible tells us that God is near to the broken hearted and saves those crushed in spirit,” Sherri says today, “that was my reality.”
Their faith saw them through, but not without long, arduous searching, praying, begging for answers, studying scripture, and praying some more. The answers Sherri found were rarely easy but brought into clarity a path she felt called once again to share with others—but this time with more conviction than ever before. “I think God showed me, ‘Yes, I called you to speak to women, and now I’ve given you the words to say,’” Sherri says. “He brought me so much more deeply and more intimately into a relationship with Him through the loss of my son, because I needed Him so desperately.”
Sherri also embarked on a book about Bronner and her discovery of a deeper faith that brought her out of the abyss. Remembering Bronner: A Journey to Understand was released in January 2016 by New Hope Publishers, and she threw herself into its launch through much of last year, appearing on television and radio and receiving a tremendous response.
Meanwhile, in addition to their five children, Sherri and Rick have Burgess Ministries, through which they each do a lot of public speaking—usually separately but occasionally together. They also run the Bronner Burgess Memorial Fund, dedicated to other ministries that spread the gospel. And Sherri personally is starting the new year with a busy calendar. She writes “Sherri’s blog” and is considering another book. She’s even thinking of going to seminary one day. In the meantime, she has a full slate of speaking engagements for the spring and beyond, including large gatherings such as the Women of Joy Conferences in Branson, Mo.; Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C. She has also spoken to more intimate groups, including the Lovelady Center, a faith-based transitional center for women.
“I think that’s exciting,” she says, “to go from a woman who was completely and totally broken over the loss of her son to someone who is speaking on the joy of the Lord. We don’t just get through these hard things in life. We grow from them.”