Dangerous Women: Cathy Hemsley

August’s Dangerous Woman
Name: Cathy Hemsley
Age: 50
Occupation: Senior Software Engineer (working part-time)

Introduced and interviewed by Sheila Bridge: Cathy is one of my long-standing close friends. Our friendship goes back to the days when we stood in the same playground collecting our kids. Cathy was a founder member of my monthly book/film group and remains a loyal contributor to our discussions. She runs a women’s regular breakfast called ‘Dangerous Women’ so I began by asking her about that.

Why ‘Dangerous Women’?
The idea came to me whilst on a retreat. I wanted to provide an opportunity for connection to the many women I know from different local churches who are all passionate about faith-sharing opportunities. Lots of us beaver away at Alpha courses or run Ladies events or coffee mornings for neighbours and we can sometimes feel quite alone. So all I do is arrange a regular breakfast and invite lots of these friends to come. Sometimes it’s been in my home and recently we’ve begun to use a local café run by one of the churches. All we do is share our encouragements and challenges and offer to pray for each other during the following months.

Where did the title for these breakfasts come from?
From a talk at New Wine that referenced the book by Lynne Hybels ‘Nice Girls Don’t change the World’ which encourages us to make a difference where we are and in a way that’s in line with our passions and personalities. For a while I used an image of a sword-wielding female and then for my birthday my husband even gave me a sword!

Isn’t the word ‘dangerous’ a bit off-putting?
I don’t think so. I don’t mean that you have to be involved in something dramatic, something as simple as inviting your neighbours round for coffee can be a ‘dangerous’ thing to do, maybe it’s about stepping out of your comfort zone.

What else are you passionate about?
Lots of things. I love literature (Cathy champions the classics at book group) and I love churches that are open and actively seeking outsiders. I like helping people connect. Social justice issues get me really angry, I feel very provoked by issues such as homelessness or alcoholism. On the up side I really like feeding people, I’m a keen cook.

So have you found an outlet for this combination of passions and talents?
I guess my involvement with our local project for the homeless and badly housed has tapped into many of my skills and passions. I have been involved more or less from the outset, beginning as an administrator for the soup kitchen which began in a local church, and now I am a director and trustee. The charity Hope 4 (http://www.hope4.org.uk/) has gone from being only a soup kitchen to now renting premises and being open to clients every day of the week and employing two support workers. The centre provides hot showers, food, laundry facilities and signposts individuals to work and housing opportunities.

What has this journey been like? Have you always been sure of God’s leading?
Gosh, no! Sometimes it’s been terrifying, sometimes depressing and very often frustrating. We have experienced huge set-backs along the way but finally now it feels like it is expanding into a positive future.

How do you account for this turn around?
It’s definitely a team effort and the whole thing really began to take off when all the right people came together at the right time. In many ways God has been showing me that we are always better when we work together.

What else do you do in your spare time?
I love cycling. I recently completed a solo ride from Edinburgh to Rugby. Everything went fine but it was another way in which I learnt I’m better taking on challenges with others rather than on my own. However I do love to write and get a lot of pleasure from doing that on my own! So far I’ve written two novels (as yet unpublished) and some short stories. Even though writing is a solitary activity, I’ve found it really helpful to have other people read my work and make comments. My husband and I have set up a website to promote our writing (http://www.paddoxwriters.org.uk/)

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