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'Singing came naturally to me'

Singer, songwriter and author Ruthie Thomas gives an insight into her faith and music ...

Ruthie Thomas began her career as a gospel singer and composer. Her work has been published by Stainer & Bell, in various collections of songs and hymns for children and adults, and she is the first black hymnwriter to be published in a mainstream hymn book in the UK.

Glamorgan-based, Ruthie also studied children’s fiction within the School of English Studies at King Alfred’s University College, where she achieved an MA, and has published two novels for children: Ruby Tucker (2008) and Different (2010).

Inspire asked Ruthie a few questions about her faith and music ...

How did you become a Christian?

I felt the tangible warmth of Jesus’ love when I was around 10 years old, whilst singing a gospel chorus. At 21 I faced the question on who Jesus was and whether the Crucifixion and redemption story was true and applied to me. I believed and that was my crossroad.

When did you discover you had musical gifts?

When I was quite young I found that singing came naturally to me.  My voice was quite powerful and it was encouraged in our church – especially as the congregational singing area needed a boost.  

My Mom used to say the first song I wrote was called God is Good So Good To Me. I would probably have been around 12 years old although at that time singing was like an everyday companion and appeared more prominent than the writing.

How do you get inspiration for your hymns and songs?

In different ways – often from an experience. From the early days there could be opposition and closed doors to my songs and hymns and a response was the writing of the song You Can’t Keep A Good Song Down which my publishers surprised me with as the title song for the songbook.

What do you think are the key ingredients for a good worship song?

A wide question – though certainly a song that sweeps one away heavenward like that forever song The Love of God by Frederick Leham.  The song shows the contribution of the right words and melody combined. The third verse is taken from a poem by Meir Ben Isaac Nehoria which was written a few hundred years earlier than the composing of the melody and other verses.  

The impact of the use of words in this verse to describe how big the love of God is breathtaking – and the melody fits the words perfectly like a shoe measured for the right foot.

You’ve also written a couple of children’s books – how did you get the idea for these?

The character for Ruby Tucker was based on a friend’s daughter of the same name. The idea for the book came from the concept of the temptation of the church collection plate with all those coins and little brown envelopes – to a girl who’s spent all her pocket money and is desperate to buy her favourite treats in the sweet shop across the road.

It’s about one heaven of a ride for one girl who’s stolen God’s money – and thinks she’s gotten away with it.    

My second novel Different, against a backdrop of characters within and outside the Black Pentecostal church and written for older children and adults – came from the idea that there was and is a great deal of drama, hilarity, hypocrisy and the supernatural going on inside the church – which could be spun into as intriguing a read as any of the dark supernatural novels available for young adults.  

My hope was for a well written novel to entertain as well as to make sense and give place to the goings-on in the church in this context. Different intended to be insightful as well as being salted with tongue-in-cheek moments.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were 18?

Just an inkling of how much Jesus cares.

* Ruthie's latest collection of 11 songs You Can't Keep A Good Song Down is published by Stainer & Bell at £4.95

Watch out for copies up for grabs in our May magazine Giveaways section! We'll also be giving two copies of Ruthie's children's book Different away in our March newsletter giveaways - sign up here if you don't already receive it.

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