When you meet Sharron Stroud, you immediately see the light that surrounds her: It’s not just the light blonde hair, but a radiance that shines from within.
Stroud, 74, a 17-year resident of Palm Springs, is minister at the Innerfaith New Thought Spiritual Center, which meets Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at Temple Isaiah.
“I was always spiritual,” says Stroud, “from the time when I was young. A neighbor used to take me to church, where I always found a sense of community that I didn’t have at home.”
Born in Oklahoma, Stroud arrived in California at 3 months old and grew up in the San Fernando Valley.
“It was a home filled with alcoholism and domestic violence,” she recalls. “My dad was a World War II vet who worked as an artist at Disney. But he had problems. He used to say, ‘You’ll never amount to anything.’ My mom, on the other hand, was a pretty amazing person. She worked at Douglas Aircraft Company, and she was also an artist. She always said, ‘You can do anything!’”
By the 10th-grade, Stroud was named the most influential person by her speech instructor, who said she would be a great orator someday. She also participated in debate leagues at UCLA. “I always won,” she laughs, proudly.
“As a result of my home environment,” says Stroud, “I wanted to end it all when I was 19. I took some pills, but I just woke up groggy and with a terrible headache. My mom had a book called The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, and I read it through. I felt literally transformed. I couldn’t believe it years later when I actually found myself sitting next to Peale at a dinner party, and I was able to tell him that at 19, he had changed my life.
“I became an overachiever, to prove my dad wrong,” says Stroud. “Unfortunately, my younger sister did commit suicide.”
A communications major at Cal State Northridge, Stroud began teaching self-image psychology to college students; others who had heard her speak told her she had a gift and should share what she believed in. She ultimately received a doctor of divinity degree from Holmes Institute, and later became the first female president of their School of Ministry.
“Dr. Ernest Holmes’ Science of Mind philosophy was a big influence to my ministry,” she says.
Stroud came to the desert in December 2001.
“There’s such an energy here,” she says. “I came to take over the group that had been meeting with Terry Cole-Whittaker (a strong supporter of self-realization, affiliated with the United Church of Religious Science). I’ve also been influenced by Joseph Campbell (author and coiner of “follow your bliss”), who maintains that religion can actually stand in the way of spiritual experience. Our group is not about religion; it’s about spirituality.”
Stroud adds: “Jesus was about loving one another; Buddha believed in a heart of compassion; Muhammad said there is one God in the name of peace; and Judaism is all about shalom (peace). ‘Oneness’ is the key to all of that. It’s about drawing the larger circle.”
Stroud has lectured in South Africa, Korea, Canada, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Scotland and Germany.
“My greatest commitment is in activism for peace. When one is at peace with oneself, then one can be of service to others,” she says. “I learned that based on my own background, and I’m so pleased to be able to share it with others. People tell their ministers what they will never tell anyone else. We all need to see that we are worthy, and that we have the power of choice regarding our lives.”
Stroud and her husband discovered he had Stage 4 cancer when their daughter, Tricia, was only 3 days old.
“He was with us for another seven years,” recalls Stroud. “I now have a 9-year-old grandson, Tyler Neil, and I am constantly reminded that joy is a manifestation of God.”
During an interview I did with Stroud on my radio show, I found that a conversation with her is rife with quotable lines based on her many sermon topics.
On non-resistance: “What you resist persists, and when you surrender what you want to achieve, you can find that it’s already there.”
On giving and receiving: “It’s all part of the law of circulation. If I meet a man without a smile, I give him mine. When you receive, pay it forward.”
On forgiveness: “It is always a gift to resolve conflicts. Amazing things happen when you don’t become embittered.”
On spiritual unfoldment: “The difference between confidence and conceit is humility. Where your thought goes, energy flows.”
With all Stroud has achieved, one unfinished goal is to publish her book, A Long Day’s Journey Into Light: The Path to Self-Healing and Enlightenment. “I’d also like to get to Spain and Bali, and,” a gleam comes into her eye, “speak at Carnegie Hall!”
Stroud puts her ministry above all else, and is quick to say that the only true doctrine of the Innerfaith community is the Golden Rule.
“I believe we get back what we give out. Right now, somewhere in the world, there is a Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, a soul somewhere in the jungle pursuing the many pathways up to the mountaintop,” she says. “The view is the same from the summit.”
Sharron Stroud is living her truth and sharing it. If you’re lucky enough to be in her company, it radiates from within.
Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Email her at Anita@LovableLiberal.com. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.