People and Places

CATHERINE BOLDEAU – MAKING BIBLES STORIES RELEVANT FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

There are countless films and books that take their blockbuster themes from the Bible. Author of ‘Too Proud To Beg, Too Dumb To Steal,’ Catherine Boldeau, adopts the same approach. Creating a collection of stories that are loosely similar to biblical narratives, Catherine has written what she calls, “Bible stories for grown ups”.

Falling in love with storytelling at the age of four, Catherine Boldeau would sit at her grandmother’s feet and attentively listen to her read chapters from the Bible and tales from the Janet and John stories. At seven, she discovered that she wanted to be a writer after her family TV broke down and wasn’t replaced, leaving her to entertain herself with a simple pen and paper.

Fast forward to the future, and Catherine is now a writer, lecturer and author of ‘Too Proud To Beg, Too Dumb To Steal.’ When asked how she came up with the name, she recalls “It’s from the song ‘It’s Probably Me‘ by Sting. I heard the lyrics years ago and they seemed to fit in nicely with (the mindset of) Job’s wife.”

The collection includes stories such as ‘The Assassin‘, a narrative about warrior and wife, Jael; ‘Too Proud To Beg, Too Dumb To Steal‘, written from the perspective of Job’s ambivalent wife, and ‘Dubious Reputation‘, which is based on the story of Gomer, Hosea’s notorious spouse.

Written for women aged 35-55, Catherine wants her stories to encourage readers to explore their lives and personal challenges. Describing her writing as “spiritual fiction” that is “beyond reality”, Catherine’s faith is discreetly woven into her stories, as each carries the theme of salvation. When asked how she uses her writing to spread the Gospel, she states, “Ralph Waldorf Emmerson said, ‘Fiction reveals what reality obscures.’ This is my motto for writing. We can spread the Gospel in a more effective way, by using spiritual fiction instead of what is often seen by many as religious propaganda.”

A lover of literature and theatre, Catherine co-wrote ‘Pause‘, which explores the Sabbath for non-believers. In 2010, she wrote and performed her play, ‘Praying Women (The Monologue)‘ at the Watford Palace Theatre, which addressed prayer and death, with the intention of provoking unbelievers to think about spiritual matters.

Inquiring where her inspiration and influences come from, Catherine responds, “Everything. Lyrics of a song, my family, nature, big issues, my father, the late Maya Angelou… the way she used words blows my mind.”

Believing that writing is a powerful tool in communicating a message in today’s western society, Catherine is currently writing three new books, and will be running creative writing classes in London, Berkshire and Hertfordshire. Like many other Christians making an impact in society, Catherine is a prime example that our gifts are not only for the Church, but for the marketplace, too.   Tamala Ceasar

Visit www.thestoryroom.org.uk for more details.

Connect with Catherine on Twitter @cathyboldeau

Tamala Ceasar is a journalist, blogger and author of children’s book, ‘Spaghetti and Cheese, Please!‘ Visit www.spaghettiandcheeseplease.co.uk for more details. Follow on Twitter @Mz_Positivi_T

KAREN GIBSON – TEACHING THE WORLD TO SING GOSPEL

Christmas is going to be a good one for Karen Gibson. Not just because she’ll be spending it with family and friends, but because she’ll most probably be reflecting on and thanking God for making 2014 a great year for her – one which has culminated with Lewes Sings Gospel, one of the many choirs she directs, winning the BBC 1 Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition in September.

Karen Gibson

The competition, filmed in front of a packed audience at Hackney Empire, east London, was screen in September. Karen’s face was a dream, when Lewes Sings Gospel were announced the winners. She recalled, “We were over the moon! We seriously didn’t expect the reaction that we received from the audience, nor the comments from the judges. I remember that, after the first song, we received such an extended, rapturous applause that some of the choir were in tears. One of them said to me: ‘If that’s all we got by coming here, I could go home now…’!  The win was the totally unexpected icing on the cake.”

She has been directing Lewes Sings Gospel since its inception in 2009, and they rehearse up to 28 weeks in the year. They didn’t have much time to rehearse for the Songs of Praise Gospel Choir competition, but obviously did enough, because they won, and highlights Karen’s ability to assist choirs in producing a winning sound.

Karen’s talent was honed in the denomination that she has been part of since childhood: the Church of God of Prophecy, where she served as National Choir Director. She recalled, “I grew up in church, so gospel music was all around me. However, my sister and I are classically trained, so our first musical group was a gospel wind quintet, featuring one oboe, three clarinets and a bassoon. We were called Windsong. Not long after, we all sang together and were called New Dawn. We got into choirs through Noel Robinson, who got us to help him teach. He was a mentor to us.”

As Karen’s skill and confidence grew, directing choirs at major church events, she formed her own choir, Kingdom Choir, and then went on to be booked to run gospel seminars and direct choirs in places as diverse as Germany, Denmark, France, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Poland, Japan, Nigeria, the USA, Japan, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. She has also directed choirs in front of world figures, including Nelson Mandela, and is no stranger to winning competitions. In 2010, she directed the Maria Fidelis Convent School Gospel Choir, who won the Songs of Praise Senior Schools of the Year competition.

The next few months seem set to be busy ones for Karen, which will include performing and touring, as well as launching a course for choir conductors and, of course, thanking God for His manifold blessings.

PASTOR ALEX GYASI – PROVIDING LOVE AND SUPPORT TO THE HOMELESS

Whilst most Christian leaders only allow services and special events to take place on their church premises, Pastor Alex Gyasi has gone one step further, and has allowed his church, the Highway of Holiness, in Tottenham, north London, to double up as a shelter for the homeless.

For the past five years, the Highway of Holiness has provided shelter for 600 people, representing 50 nationalities. Not only does the church provide spiritual support and pastoral care to the homeless that pass through their doors, they also help them apply for jobs and benefits using the church address, and provide food, internet access, shower facilities and GP referrals.

People and Places 1

Pastor Gyasi says he was inspired by God to start working with the homeless. He recalled, “When our evangelism team went out one Saturday afternoon, my wife came across two homeless men and directed them to our church for help. They came, and we began to help them with a daily meal and then with an opportunity to shower, when we later converted one of our toilets into a shower.”

He continued, “One day, there were 13 of them eating, and one came to me – very suicidal – saying that he wanted to kill himself due to so many things that were going on in his life at the time. The Holy Spirit told me that if I let him go I would not see him again! It was since that moment I realised I was called to work with the homeless.”

Working in this ministry has not been easy. The church has had to use its own resources, and the team have learnt the ropes about working with homeless as they’ve gone along. Furthermore, whilst many they help are grateful for the support they’ve received, some aren’t. It’s one of the key lessons Pastor Gyasi has learnt on his unique journey. He shared, “Not everybody will appreciate what you do, and you have to learn to be what God wants you to be, in spite of criticisms or ingratitude. God has proven Himself faithful through it all, and has been able to sustain the shelter, supernaturally providing, as we have no substantial source of funding.”

You can read about the experiences of the Highway of Holiness in The Test Room, written by Pastor Gyasi, which chronicles the history of his work with the homeless.

With Christmas approaching, the church is set to host a special dinner for the 50 people it currently houses; distribute gifts that have been donated by a local church, and host a visit from the Mayor of Haringey, Councillor Kaushika Amin, who has heard about Highway of Holiness’ work with the homeless.

And this minister, with 20 years’ pastoral experience behind him, has exciting but simple expectations for 2015. “My plans for the homeless project are to raise funds to be able to purchase a hostel, in which our residents can live, and to attract more professional help in the areas of fundraising, property acquisition and volunteers.”

Thankfully, with God, all things are possible.

Visit www.highwayofholiness.co.uk for more details. Like on Facebook @Highway of Holiness Christian Love Centre; follow on Twitter @highwayofholine

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