Teresa L. Fry Brown’s book begins with an introduction. Here, Brown relates her story of how she came to be a minister. She details the supportive male minister and the sexism she faced from church members. According to Brown, some disapproving older women would leave when Brown read scripture or prayed. Despite the bias, Brown flourished and felt empowered as she delivered sermons that touched on the themes of liberation, individual transformation, and social change.
In the first official chapter, “Weary Throats,” Brown lists reasons why women have historically been prevented from becoming preachers. She writes that women were supposed to be religious in private spaces while men could dominate the private and the public realm.
Even with the discrimination, Black women managed to become preachers. Brown recounts the story of Elizabeth, who became a preacher in 1808. She also mentions Julia Foote and Maria Stewart. Each of these women struggled with the burden of having to deliver the Lord’s message.
In the next chapter, “Singing in the Key of G-O-D,” Brown mentions Dr. Dorothy Allen Peck, who’s been preaching since she was a teen. She talks about Ernestine Mathis, who, after serving in her church for years, eventually became an ordained minister.
She then gets into the big-chair mythology and the undue pressure that such symbolism creates. She tries to take apart the idea that the pulpit is the only place that has God's power.
In the “Slight-Reading” chapter, Brown goes into the process of selecting texts. She interviews women preachers who prefer passages from the Old Testament because they tend to cover themes of gender and family.
In “Resting but Remaining in Tune,” Brown delves further into preachers and their themes. Arlene Churn says she purposely avoids preaching specifically about women. Churn focuses on souls and the problems all people face. Other themes mentioned by preachers include grace, justice, and mercy.
In “Singing the Song in a Strange Land,” Brown gets into how preachers structure their sermons. She connects Black preaching to “establishing Black identity as God’s people.” Brown also details the many duties of a preacher. She says people will want to talk to the preacher “before, during, and after the service.” She wraps up this chapter by giving some advice on how to deliver a captivating sermon.
In the penultimate chapter, Brown discusses how the preacher’s clothes and movements symbolize certain things. Sister Darlene Smith, for instance, says that she always wears a robe when she preaches because of how it symbolizes authenticity.
In the final chapter, Brown argues that it’s “time to sing new songs.” She thinks the messages from the pulpit should stress inclusivity.