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Church deserted widow: “I felt humiliated, embarrassed"

LEFT BEHIND: Tonya Joy Bolton turned to social media to take up the cause of her aunt when the 55-year-old New York resident was faced with eviction after her husband’s death

TONYA JOY BOLTON, an award-winning Christian film-maker and playwright based in the UK, has utilised the power of social media to support her American aunt.

Her relative Paula Scarlett Brown was recently given just 10 days to leave her New York home, which is owned by the church of which she had been a member for 28 years.

Paula had been married for 22 years to Archbishop Roy E Brown, founder of Pilgrim Assemblies International, owner of the home she lived in.


He died in June following a long illness. Paula, 55, had given up work and became his main carer for 13 years until his death. She was aware that she would have to leave the property at some point, but was surprised to be given such short notice.

The church’s action left Paula bewildered. She told Soul Stirrings: “I felt humiliated, embarrassed, devastated and shocked. It was so traumatising.

“I felt completely abandoned and disrespected. It broke my heart because never in my life have I ever received a notice to quit my home within 10 days.

“It never entered my mind that the church that I served at for 28 years would do such a thing to me. I am still heartbroken.”

Paula believes the church could have shown compassion and given her more time to grieve and sort things out.

She said: “I would have greatly appreciated the church’s support in helping me transition to a new chapter of my life in which I am independent and healthy again and living in new place of residence that is safe and comparable to my current home.”

COMPASSION: Paula Scarlett-Brown with the late Archbishop

Since receiving the news of notice to quit, Tonya has given her aunt full support.

She wrote a Facebook post detailing the church’s treatment of her aunt, which has been shared by hundreds.

Tonya also set up a GoFundMe page, to cover her aunt’s legal fees and medical insurance until she gets back on her feet. She is particularly grieved by the treatment her aunt has received due to the fact she was recently widowed.

Speaking to Soul Stirrings, Tonya said: “Although my aunt understands that if the church wants her to leave she’ll have to leave, what shocked her was that they never mentioned how long she could live there, even though she’s been asking.

“If they want her out, fair enough – but to give a widow 10 days, never mind the widow of the founding father and a member for 28 years, to stick a notice, on the front door for all to see, is a nasty thing to do.”

Paula Scarlett-Brown, a quietly spoken Christian, has been deeply touched by her niece’s actions.

She said: “I believe that my niece Tonya is a champion with great spiritual insight and her love and concern for me has moved her to ensure that justice is done. I feel very honoured and thankful because I have never had someone think so highly of me to publicly fight for me in this way.”

Since starting the campaign, Tonya has learnt of the plight of other widows who were formerly married to church leaders, but were left to fend for themselves as widows. As a result, Tonya is planning to make a documentary on the subject.

To prepare for her future, Pauline is looking for a new property, a lawyer and work so that she can rebuild her life.

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