Alumna Sarah Scharbrough Mclaughlin returned to AU for a Valentine’s Day show last Thursday.
The show drew a crowd ranging from professors to old friends to current students. Mclaughlin, along with her husband Jeff Mclaughlin and two friends, performed originals as well as some cover songs relating to love. Some of the originals performed she wrote during her time here as a student.
Mclaughlin said that she came back for an AU chapel service last semester, and she found that it really doesn’t feel that different coming back.
“It doesn’t feel as long as it has been,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s been 22 years since I started there.”
She also said that the atmosphere of AU hasn’t changed much since she left.
“I feel like there’s still a love of community and a love of music,” she said. “Those are really big pillars there.”
Since leaving, Mclaughlin has released five albums including “So Many Reasons” and “Draw Me Back.” She most recently released “Sit With Me,” which was co-produced by AU alumnus Jon Mclaughlin.
She has worked with Grammy-award winning musicians including Bill and Gloria Gaither, Sandi Patty, Alanna Story and Dierks Bentley. She has also been a voice in commercial jingles for companies like New Balance, the Indianapolis Colts and Cedar Point theme parks.
Some occasions upon which she has performed in include women’s retreats and conferences, house concerts, leading worship in church and guest artist events.
Mclaughlin is staring to work on her sixth album while being a mom of five children. She also co-hosts a podcast about the life of being a mom called “Momnesia.”
“The album is going to be love songs and lullabies for my family,” she said. “I’m actually recording that as part of a partnership with Butler University. They are helping to make the album, and I am helping to mentor them through the process.”
She reaches out to other families by offering a subscription for a box containing devotionals, online music worship session access and seasonally-themed items. She calls this form of ministry “Everyday Sanctuary,” and she hopes that it will bring families “meaningful faith experiences woven into everyday life.”
Mclaughlin said that she credits AU for helping faith be such a huge part of her life and come out in her writing.
“AU made a safe and sacred space to ask questions about faith and about life,” she said. “Life has changed so much, and in all my different life stages, I have needed to be able to have room to question.”
Because of the way she was nurtured in her faith at AU, Mclaughlin was able to grow and learn more about herself.
“Being somewhere where that process was really valued and nurtured has made it safe for me to allow even the questioning to come out in my writing,” Mclaughlin said.
“It’s not just the faith that’s there, but it’s the struggle of life. I don’t feel like I have to write just happy songs about faith. I feel like I can write out of where I am, and that it’s okay to do that.”
She has been told by Christian labels to “tidy up” the gospel and include the name of Jesus more in her writing. More mainstream labels have told her that her music isn’t “pop” enough.
Despite the adversity, she has kept her trust in God and continues to touch people with her genre-crossing and honest writing.
Mclaughlin will be at East Side Church of God as a guest worship leader on Sunday, March 24.