Here in South London, in the midst of one of the most diverse areas in the south of England, a new CHIPS project is slowly taking shape. We have been invited by Street Pastors and the local church to work in this area which has a backdrop of vibrant creativity, ongoing gentrification, new redevelopment, and a history of social unrest. The rise of a sub-culture of youth violence and the designation of territories makes this the ideal place for establishing a new CHIPS base.
I moved into Lambeth borough in February and began to visit members of the local church, community, local authority and civil society. I am trying to build up a picture of the situation into which we have been invited from all the varied opinions and perspectives. I am also actively seeking people passionate about urban peacemaking to join this community.
Most valuable have been the friendships and support of the local church leaders, especially the warm welcome of my new church, and organisations already doing fantastic work nearby such as XLP and Street Pastors. The more people I’ve met, the more I’ve discovered a wealth of enthusiasm for our way of working and offers of support and collaboration.
Our vision is to move into an area which has been particularly affected by urban violence. We’ll bring together a small team of people to live communally in the area, sharing our lives with one another and with the local community. We will pray, live and serve through engaging in ongoing voluntary activities alongside our existing jobs.
As we build up relationships within the community we will later employ a team leader to conduct more detailed research and planning. This will be with a view to working with the community to design a practical project that can serve needs and create a space for relationships to be built across the conflict divides which exist.
Given that there are so many great projects already operating, we may well partner with another organisation to support some existing activity or to collaboratively bring some community programme to the area if that is prioritised during the process. For now, we are keeping this practical element very open, as our priority is to establish the presence of a community focused on praying for peace and living peaceably together.
Though big challenges have been faced, we are delighted that we have now raised a huge amount of investment and have had an offer accepted on a 7 bedroom house! We are hugely grateful to our partners Mission Housing and all those who have invested in the house. We still need some more investment to finish the job, so please see the details here.
Our next challenge is find passionate urban peacemakers to come to form this community focused on peace. If you are interested, or might know someone who is, please see the details here.
A good start towards a CHIPS London team
One huge positive is that we have interviewed and confirmed our first team member, Alex Cameron, who will join the house in July after completing university in Belfast. Alex has great experience of urban communities, especially those experiencing tension and violence, having lived and worked in East London, Trenchtown in Jamaica, and in Belfast. We’re delighted to have her on board, and are now seeking more urban peacemakers to join the team.
As this formation continues and the different pieces come together, I am constantly amazed at how God is working in his great wisdom and timing to enable this vision to come to reality. Please continue to pray with us as we go through this process. I look forward to updating you with the exciting progress!