An introduction from Julie

Julie has been a trustee of CHIPS since 2018 and, in January 2021, additionally assumed the role of Chair of Trustees. We asked her to share a little of her background and experience with CHIPS so far.

I am delighted and honoured to take over from Elfrida as Chair of Trustees, and even more delighted she has agreed to stay as Spiritual Advisor.

Like many of you, I have really appreciated Elfrida’s wisdom and her ability to patiently and prayerfully explain the scriptural basis to CHIPS’ work. She has also provided invaluable mentorship to me in my role as a CHIPS Trustee. Elfrida’s new role will enable her to continue to share her gifts with us and this also maintains our close connection to the Calvocoressi family and to the founding ideals of Elfrida’s late husband, Roy.

To tell you a little about who I am – I am wife to Pat and mum to Jonathan and Erin and step mum to Matthew. My early Christian experiences were attending our local Baptist church and the influence of my Methodist maternal grandparents. During my 20’s and 30’s, I had a more nomadic relationship with the church, including Anglican, Methodist, a Methodist and Anglican ecumenical project and even the Scottish Brethren.

I am now happily settled in the Catholic church; I ‘converted’ when Pat and I married, I am a Reader and for the last 3 years have supported our young people’s confirmation programme as a Catechist. At heart, though, I remain an ecumenist.

My professional background is in human resources and in 2016, I set up my own business – Cornerstone HR Consultancy Ltd – providing interim HR project leadership, HR consultancy and coaching, focusing on transition and transformation.

My interest in peacemaking was sparked many, many years ago. My ‘O’ level history syllabus included what was known as ‘The Irish Question’ and we studied the historical origin of the conflict between the English and Irish and between Protestant and Catholic right up to the 1970s. Our course ended on a hopeful note, with the birth of the ‘Women for Peace’ movement, which later became known as ‘Community of Peace People, or simply ‘Peace People’. Aged 15, I was inspired by these women who put aside their political and religious differences to work together for peace.

Fast forward to 2000: I moved to Guildford and joined our local Catholic church. I spotted a short article in the Parish magazine, inviting people interested in peace and peacemaking to a CHIPS seminar. I telephoned the contact number, spoke to Margaret Davies and having encountered Margaret’s warmth, enthusiasm and friendliness found myself signing up not just for the seminar but also joining the local Guildford CHIPS supporters group – comprising Margaret, Mike Rigby, John Harrap and me.

Roy initially (and ironically) dubbed us ‘The Guildford Four’! We outgrew the nickname, as we have two other permanent members – Tine Jaeger and Carole Eady – and we have welcomed various visitors along the way! We continue to meet to this day, and our friendship and fellowship around our common goal of supporting CHIPS has been a great blessing in my life. If you live in the Guildford area and would like to join us, please do get in touch!

I became a Trustee of CHIPS in 2018, working with my fellow trustees – Elfrida, Zac Egau, Stuart Murray Williams and, until last year Eric Read, as well as our Co-Directors, Paul Maxwell-Rose and Andrew Jackson. It has been a real privilege to work with this team, discussing strategy, overseeing our finances, ensuring good governance and supporting the team on HR-related tasks such as recruitment.

As I take on the role of Chair, I am also delighted to welcome Dee Spurdle as our newly appointed Trustee. I know she will bring tremendous knowledge, experience, and energy to our board. I also very much look forward to meeting many more of you, our supporters, partners, volunteers and advisors. As Chair I am so thankful for your generous and much-valued support that has enabled the continuation and development of our Ghana and Brixton projects.

2020 has been dominated by Covid-19, the awful suffering and loss of life, the trauma of separation and loneliness and the fear of economic disaster. Thankfully, as we enter 2021, we can now be optimistic that the new vaccines will bring an element of closure to the pandemic.

However, vaccines cannot rebuild communities nor can they heal the division, inequality, and violent polarisation of views so present in our societies. At this pivotal moment in our history, we must look to the Prince of Peace to guard our hearts and minds, and to guide us in this work of peacemaking to which we have all been called.

Read or download our latest impact report here!

46 years in CHIPS! A reflection by Elfrida Calvocoressi

As Elfrida retires from the board and passes the baton to Julie Finn as our new Chair of Trustees, we asked her to tell us about some of her experiences and highlights from 46 years of service to CHIPS and to peacemaking around the world.

All of us at CHIPS wish Elfrida a blessed and fulfilled retirement – and we’re delighted that she will continue her close connection to the charity as Spiritual Advisor.

Other than your personal connection with your late husband Roy, the founder of the charity, what drew you to the work of CHIPS?

My first introduction after our marriage was providing hospitality for the many different people and groups who visited our home at 31 Green Street, London – a CHIPS project in itself.

A whole new world opened up for me, beyond the boundaries of my previous experience of nursing in England and Uganda: I found myself in the place where different nationalities, cultures, denominations and social customs would have collided. However, I witnessed that through the catalyst of meeting, listening, praying, worshipping and eating together, disparate opinions were changed and began to harmonise creatively.

Everything we did grew out of Roy’s years of forensic Bible study, searching for the principles by which Jesus had entered and lived on earth, and how we could apply them in the context of peacemaking, mainly between opposing groups. This was even more exciting!

After a while, a Green Street team gradually formed, helping with hospitality for meetings and overnight stays, as by that time our daughter Caroline was born. A young Northern Irish man, a young American woman, an English couple, an Australian lumberjack, a Southern Irish nun and a Dutch South African couple joined the team over the years, as we welcomed friends from Cyprus, Uganda, Nigeria, India, Singapore, the Philippines and America. I loved the diversity, learning so much from them, and the joy of giving hospitality together with Roy.

How did your understanding of the work evolve, and what are some of the highlights of your time with CHIPS?


I think it was a growing understanding, as I studied more deeply the relevant New Testament passages, their application to the various CHIPS projects as they came along and I saw how adaptable they were to each situation while retaining the underlying principles.

I have seen at first hand the spiritual forces of evil that militate against peacemaking, because it is God’s work and we, his agents, are but fallible human beings! The eventual failure of one of our projects can be traced back to jealousy and selfish ambition, instead of that loving humility that “seeks the highest good of the other.”

However, the seeds of peace sown in the hearts of the communities during each CHIPS project continue to germinate and bear fruit, perhaps many years later. In Cyprus, just after the CHIPS team had to leave, the island was divided in 1974 by a “wall of partition” but the seeds sown there from 1964 to ’72 never died. Since 2016 many friends from the two communities meet annually for a picnic, alternating between one side of the partition and the
other. It was the greatest joy for me to join them there in 2017.

In Uganda, after the destruction by the army in 2001 of one of our project bases – a devastating, heart-searching time for everyone – the team’s resilience and their desire to sow the seeds in the “soil of conflict” spurred them on to a further ten years of expansion. God made the seeds grow, and those who had asked us to come said, at the handover of our 25-year Uganda project in 2011, “This peace is irreversible.”

Which CHIPS project was the most personal to you?

The Uganda project was very special to me. I had many friends in the area to which we were invited, and knew the language of one of the two groups involved, through my nursing years with CMS in the early 70’s. 

Riding pillion on a motorbike through thorny scrubland, or sitting round the campfire under a vast starry sky was wonderful. However, it was more amazing to watch the development of the project, and how the principles worked – of going in with nothing, relying on the local people, learning both languages, living as they did, facilitating practical projects, and bearing the aggression from both sides quite often, when perceived as traitors by one side or the other. Gradually the enmity was being borne away through the actions and prayers of the team.

In 2009, on one of my regular visits to help the Uganda team in their understanding of the CHIPS Bible studies, I suddenly had a deeper insight into the possibilities when all the elements of reconciliation – between human beings and God, between individual human beings or groups, as well as the “reconciliation of all things” – had come together in one place. It was a most thrilling moment for me and for the CHIPS team.

What thoughts would you like to leave with CHIPS as you retire?

After ten projects across seven different countries over 56 years, five directors and six chairs of trustees, it seems clear that the work is the Lord’s, and we are but stewards and workers in his world.

However, for CHIPS to continue, we have to have that balance of practical, high-quality competence and financial acumen combined with an ever-growing understanding of the Biblical principles on which we are founded.

Above all, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, as we seek to follow his example; to let Christian love be our motivation in everything – in humility putting the highest good of the other person before our own. I have proved for myself that, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways, we can grow in wisdom and understanding if we are open to His promptings – even outside our comfort zone.

I pray for that same exciting experience for those who come after, and I have full confidence in those who will take CHIPS into the next era. May the God of peace bless you mightily!

Read or download our latest impact report here!

Elfrida and a young helper baking for the CHIPS 2020 Peace Sunday Challenge!

Christmas prayer for peace

Heavenly Father, during this time of uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances, we thank you that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus or take away the peace he brings.

We pray for those who are mourning or sick this Christmas. We ask that they would feel your presence and know your peace.

We pray for families whose plans have been disrupted and for the many who face Christmas alone. We ask that you would draw near and comfort them.

We pray for those who are currently suffering from the effects of violence around the world and we ask you to heal their pain.

We pray for those who follow paths of violence, in the UK and in Ghana, and around the world. May your Spirit work in hearts, challenge prejudices and change attitudes.

We pray that the New Year ahead will see divisions torn down and broken relationships mended, and we ask you to help us each fulfil our personal calling as peacemakers.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus, who is our peace.

Amen

An Advent Word of Peace

Lockdown has affected all of us who are unable to be with those we love. We have discovered more intensely than ever, how physical presence is essential to each of us. When that is removed, the loss and loneliness can be unbearable. The presence of a loved one or friend, however, makes all the difference. 

Advent – or “coming” – is usually a time of joyful anticipation, as we prepare to join with others and celebrate again the visible coming of Christ into our world. Even though, for Christians, this inner sense of joy is not removed by outward circumstances, we are deeply conscious of those whose Christmas festivity will be very different this year.

One of the names that Jesus was given at his birth is Emmanuel – “God with us.”  Perhaps these three words will take on a new relevance now – and indeed will make all the difference. God IS with us, and His overwhelming love can be witnessed in the sum of all who show the compassion and “presence” that we have witnessed this year. This Christmas we really can celebrate the “comfort and joy” that – supremely – Jesus’s coming brings to us.

In sharing our human life –  locked down in a body, a refugee at a young age, experiencing all the human emotions and situations of life, He “engaged deeply and wholeheartedly with (the) reality” of our world of conflict as our Patron Archbishop Justin wrote recently.

As he also says – “true peacemaking…. cannot be hurried.”  Jesus spent many of his thirty years as a carpenter engaging with every kind of human being who came to Him for His expertise and trade. Only over the last three years did He gradually reveal His true identity, before He fulfilled the prophecies that promised He would bring peace on earth.                   

Before setting out, CHIPS teams take time to understand the history and culture of the conflict areas to which we are called. However, it is only by settling down there that the “complexity” of the situation can be fully appreciated, and the work of peacemaking begun.

For communities who receive a CHIPS team, the fact that there are people who bother to leave their homes and come to live with those who are in conflict, builds trust. Spending time listening and living with each side in turn, sharing in the difficulties night and day, enables both sides to discover a ‘new vision of reality’ – the reality of the transformative Peace of Jesus Christ in their lives.

Elfrida Calvocoressi, Chair of Trustees

Archbishop of Canterbury becomes CHIPS Patron

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury becomes Patron of CHIPS

LONDON, 22 September 2020 – CHIPS, the international Christian peacemaking charity, today announced that The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has become Patron in recognition of its work around the world. He succeeds The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu in this role.

CHIPS is a charity of peacemaking teams who have lived at the heart of conflict for over 50 years, in locations as diverse as Cyprus and Uganda, the Philippines and London. Inspired by the life of Jesus, CHIPS believes that the best way to bring about lasting peace is to ‘take both sides’ in a conflict situation. The charity goes where it is invited, living simply among communities and facilitating a wide range of practical, grassroots projects that encourage a change in attitude and help to build a sustainable future together, free from violence.

Currently, the charity’s two main projects are based in South London, where it partners with communities to tackle the root causes of knife crime and other serious youth violence; and Northern Ghana, where its team lives and works among tribes who have been enemies for many decades, helping them build new, positive relationships across the ethnic divide.

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said:

“Reconciliation is at the heart of Christ’s call to those who follow him. It is extremely close to my heart, and one of the greatest needs in our troubled world. The current pandemic, and our conversations as a society about racial injustice, highlight the inequalities and divisions we continue to face. Hearing and responding to Jesus’ call on us to be peacemakers is urgent and vital.  

“Having known CHIPS for many years, I am greatly encouraged and inspired by their commitment to the work of reconciliation. CHIPS is a team of courageous people who approach peacemaking in a radical and innovative way: living and working in the heart of conflict for as long as it takes, striving to understand fully the views of different sides. It is a privilege to become a patron of this highly effective organisation in the UK and abroad, and I would encourage Christians to pray for and support their work.”  

 Elfrida Calvocoressi, Chair of Trustees at CHIPS, said:

“We are very thankful for the Archbishop’s commitment to reconciliation and the example he sets as a peacemaker, and we are thrilled he has agreed to become our Patron.

“We hope our co-operation together might encourage more Christians and local churches to consider their calling as peacemakers, and to partner with us as we work among communities affected by serious youth violence here in the UK and conflicts overseas. We greatly look forward to working with him as we continue and expand our work to make peace in a troubled world.

“We also want to express our sincere thanks to Archbishop John Sentamu for his patronage of CHIPS over the past 15 years. We have greatly valued his support and personal interest in our work in Uganda and around the world, and we extend our very best wishes to him in retirement.”

Photo credit: World Council of Churches 

Notes to editors

About The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013. Previously, he was Bishop of Durham, Dean of Liverpool Cathedral and he helped to lead the reconciliation ministry of the Community of the Cross of Nails at Coventry Cathedral.

Before he began training for ministry in 1989, Archbishop Justin worked in the oil industry for 11 years – five in Paris and six in London.

Archbishop Justin has three main priorities for his ministry – Evangelism and Witness; Prayer and the Renewal of Religious life; and Reconciliation. He is a member of the High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation for the United Nations. He is the author of Reimagining Britain and Dethroning Mammon, both published by Bloomsbury.

About CHIPS (Christian International Peacemaking Service)

CHIPS is a charity of Christian peacemaking teams, who have been living at the heart of conflict for over 50 years.

From Brixton to Ghana, the charity is invited to join communities and help build a sustainable future free from violence and division.

Inspired by the life of Jesus, CHIPS believes that the best way to bring about lasting peace is to take sides. Both sides. For more information, visit chipspeace.org

Follow us on facebook @chipspeace, twitter @chipspeaceorg and instagram @chipspeace

Prayers for peace!

Join us in two new prayers, written for Peace Sunday 2020 but which can be used all year round! And why not join us ‘live’ on Sunday 20 September at 6.30pm to watch our special Peace Sunday 2020 online service? You can join us using this link. We’ll also leave it available for catch up for 14 days.

A Peace Prayer from CHIPS

Heavenly Father,

We’re thankful for the peace we have with you through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We think of all those who are affected by conflict overseas. We pray that you would transform the situations which drive these conflicts, such as poverty and inequality.

We pray that you would bring an end to war, with opposing sides reconciled, hearts changed, and a willingness to do the hard work to make peace.

And we pray for an end to persecution of minorities, for people to live peacefully together, no longer forced to flee their homes and become refugees.

We think of the divisions among us that this pandemic has once again highlighted and accentuated.

We pray for your healing.

We pray for our leaders, that you would equip them to take bold decisions that help us to treat each other as equals.

And we pray that communities will find the vision and the will to make real change happen.

As lockdown restrictions lift, we think of all those caught in violent domestic and personal relationships.

We ask you to comfort them and help them find a way out. Help us to build a society in which violence and bullying is no longer tolerated.

And we pray for peace on our streets, for calm in the hearts of those caught up in disputes, and for new positive role models and changemakers to be raised up across our towns and cities.

Speak to each of us about how we can personally fulfil our calling as peacemakers.

Work in our hearts, and to help us challenge our personal prejudices.

Show us how we can make a practical difference in our own lives, our communities and around the world.

Show us how we need to change to become effective peacemakers, and give us the courage to respond.

We ask these things in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our peace.

Amen

A Peace Prayer from the Fellowship of Reconciliation

Loving God,
Thank you for our bountiful world
And for all that dwells on it.
Help us see that there is enough,
And to challenge unjust distribution of resources.

We are truly sorry for times we stray
Into the path of violence and hatred.
For when we make judgements
About whether groups of people deserve compassion or support.
For times we fail to see long-term consequences,
Forgive our apathy, our selfishness, our inaction.

We are often quick to anger and slow to listen,
Hearing what is simple and easy,
Not what is helpful and true.

Help us to hear kindly and respond with integrity.
Lead us into righteous anger and active resistance,
To speak out against injustice,
Help us to love our neighbour,
To see past creed, colour, shape, sexuality or gender.

We pray for people in positions of power,
That they use their influence for the wellbeing of all.
Help them to act with compassion,
And to build bridges between communities.

We hold up to you those working for peace,
Who face violence with courage and love
In places where it is dangerous to do so.

Help us to be more like your son, Jesus Christ,
Who took direct action in the temple;
Who is friend of the poor and said,
“Blessed are the peacemakers”.
We pray this in your name,

Amen!

An Easter Word of Peace

Suddenly, the world changed.  Things that had been taken for granted and integral to everyday life… expectations of better things to come … the person they loved most… all of these had been torn away overnight; the shock was overwhelming.  Maybe our experience of springtime 2020? Or that of the little band of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem, AD 33?  There are striking similarities, but obvious differences too.

Even though Jesus had tried to warn his disciples about what he was going to suffer, and that this road would not be easy, they only understood it in retrospect. On the night that Jesus was taken from them, he said many encouraging things, including “Peace I leave with you, MY peace I give unto you” – that peace which enabled him to suffer voluntarily, on behalf of us all, the most agonising torture and death and yet pray for his executioners.  

Jesus has gone on giving his followers his peace ever since and – in the midst of suffering, anxiety, isolation and bewilderment – when we look to Jesus, he draws near to us and offers us his deep-down peace.

After the series of shocks and numbing grief, reality begins to dawn. Like those first followers, we wait, not knowing what the future will bring. We need each other for solace, and yet each is wrapped in their own isolation, and fear begins to take hold.

Suddenly, a light shines in the darkness of our groping questions, and the world has transformed! Jesus stands among us and says “Peace be to you.”  This is not a simple greeting of peace, but the very fulness of peace, embodied in Christ himself. Having experienced death and conquered it, he made a way for us to be at peace with God, enabling us to have his amazing peace within and with each other and banishing fear, “for He IS our Peace.”

Without the resurrection by God of His Son Jesus Christ, we would know nothing about him, and would not be able to share with others that “peace which the world cannot give.”  So as ‘Easter People,’ let us show lovingly to others, by word and action, the joyful knowledge that Jesus is alive. What’s more, he stands beside us, offering his love and peace to everyone, whatever we may face this year.

Elfrida Calvocoressi, Chair of Trustees 

7 peace prayers for 7 weeks of Lent

Penitence

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me – Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for being a merciful and forgiving God. I confess that my thoughts, my words and my actions are not always peaceful, and that I don’t always challenge the hatred around me. Take away my apathy, help me to change my attitude and behaviour, and empower me to live as the peacemaker you have called me to be.

Pardon

Leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God – Matthew 5:23-24 (GNB)

I’m sorry for holding grudges against even those close to me, for the prejudices I show to those who think differently, and for cursing those who stand against me. I forgive those who have treated me the same way. Help me to make peace with them and to show the same spirit of kindness, forbearance and patience that you have shown to me.

Piety

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord – Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)

This Lent, may your Holy Spirit challenge me to strip away the distractions, the busyness and my selfish habits. Draw me closer to you and help me to think less about myself and more about the needs of others. Give me a heart full of compassion and a desire to sow your peace and love.

Prayer for leaders

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness – 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

I pray for the leaders of my country, and those in authority where I live. May their policies, their actions and their words be motivated by peace. Help us, as a society, to work together and break down the barriers, intolerance and divisions that separate us so we may live together peaceably.

Prayer for others

 Then he arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm –                    Mark 4:39 (ESV)

Help me to be more mindful of others in turmoil. For the victims and families of the violence on our streets; heal them and help us solve the root problems that lead to tragedy. For those who face hate crime or domestic abuse; help them find a way out. For the refugees who come to our shores; help them find a place of safety. For those caught up in inter-ethnic conflicts overseas; protect and comfort them. Calm their storms and give them your peace.

Prayer for enemies

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

I know that you have placed everyone in my life for a reason. Teach me how to love those I disagree with and guide me on how I can live at peace with them. I also pray for the enemies of peace. Soften their hearts, speak to their souls and steady their minds that they might change their ways.

Preparation for Easter

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross – Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)

Thank you for making peace on the cross of Calvary through the precious blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Fill me afresh this Easter with awe at his unfathomable sacrifice, and with wonder at the glorious truth of his resurrection. Help me to share his message of peace, and to be a channel of his peace!

Amen

Prince of Peace: a Christmas reflection

Prince of Peace: a Christmas reflection

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

This month, I’ve been reflecting on three ways in which Jesus is our Prince of Peace – through peace with God, peace within ourselves, and peace with others.

 Peace with God

It is significant that this beautiful verse in Isaiah, which we so often turn to at Christmas time, begins with incarnation and ends with peace.

How God can come in flesh is a glorious mystery that we will never fully grasp. However, the incarnation was neither unexpected nor unintended. It was the fulfilment of prophecy, and a vital part of God’s perfect plan to make peace with us.

The way in which he came is remarkable. Jesus was no ordinary ‘prince’. He laid aside his glory and became nothing.

We see this humility from his first moments on earth – he passed over Rome and Jerusalem to be cradled in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem. We see it throughout his life – he identified with us and lived among us, taking the form of a servant and the likeness of men. Above all, we see it in his final moments on earth through his obedience and work at Calvary (Philippians 2:8), the reason that we ultimately have ‘peace with God’.

As I look around the CHIPS team, I’m encouraged by the examples I see of people giving up well-paid jobs, secular opportunities and creature comforts in response to Jesus’s example. As we celebrate our ‘peace with God’ this Christmas, it feels timely to ask ourselves again what are we each doing to ‘live out’ the principles of his incarnation in our own lives?

Peace within ourselves

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Recently I heard someone say: “God wants us to experience the same peace that he does.” What a thought! As Christians, we never lose our ‘peace with God’ – but we don’t always feel the fullness of Jesus’s peace ‘within ourselves’.

We can lose it when we fail to confess our wrongs; when we become preoccupied by the things of a busy, stressful life; when we stop walking as closely with God in our daily lives as we should; and when we struggle to trust in his plans for us.

I know that I sometimes find myself feeling anxious as a result of all of these things. But Jesus was quite clear to his disciples – and we too need to learn to trust him fully, and leave our fear and worry aside.

Of course, Jesus never promised easy. In fact, he told us to expect tribulation (John 16:33) and trials (James 1:2). But he did promise help, whatever situation we find ourselves in.

There is something special available to us if only we will receive it. It is a peace not “as the world gives”, but a different, unique, deep-inside kind of peace that is unrelated to circumstance. This is a peace that I often see in the conviction and confidence of our CHIPS youth workers and volunteers in Brixton, and our remarkable team in Ghana, as they go about their daily work – and it inspires me.

This time of year can be difficult for people for all sorts of personal reasons. But whatever our situation, let us learn to trust fully in him and receive the peace of Jesus ‘within ourselves’ this Christmas.

Peace with others

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” Matthew 5:9

The third way in which Jesus is the Prince of Peace is that he calls us to be his peacemakers. Peace one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and, if we are growing in our faith, peace is something that others will be able to see in our lives.

We are instructed to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12: 18); to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11); and to “make every effort to do what leads to peace” (Romans 14:19).

Peace is something that we should each strive for, and it is proof of our faith. One question I’m therefore asking myself this Christmas is, when others look at my life, do they see me as a peacemaker?

The year-end provides an opportunity to review our personal role as peacemakers.

Perhaps I’m estranged from someone, and Christmas gives me an opportunity to set things right. Maybe I’m feeling challenged by the divisions I see in our communities and our society right now and there is an opportunity for me to do something practical to help bring healing, in some small way. Or it might be that there’s a specific peacemaking cause here or abroad that God is prompting me to get more involved in – whether directly or by supporting other peacemakers.

Wherever we find ourselves this Christmas, let’s pray that we’ll understand and respond to our calling as peacemakers and work to make ‘peace with others’.

Darragh Gray, Marketing and Communications Manager

God is love

I wonder if, like me, you can still remember seeing the image from a few years ago of a little, lifeless Syrian refugee boy washed up on a beach, and of the police officer who carefully lifted and carried him away with such compassion? 

Could one suggest it is like a parable of the love of God reaching out to each of us, whatever our condition, lifting us up and taking us to himself? We know that, whatever their beliefs, most people are stirred to the depths of their being at such tragic scenes, where we can imagine Jesus “being filled with compassion.” 

God is love                                       

Sadly, encountering such scenes is not uncommon for our peacemaking teams, and it reminds me that compassion is a major driver for us in our work, and an important component of love more generally.

In the New Testament, John’s first letter tells us twice in chapter 4 that “God is Love” and that all love comes from God wherever we find it. Christians do not have a monopoly of love, as we can realise from our own behaviour.  Rather, we could say that God has the monopoly of love, since love originates in Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This great statement “God is love” says far more than ‘God loves’ or ‘God is loving’.  Love cannot be defined, otherwise we would be able to define God, who is Love: the Greek word most commonly used in the New Testament for love is agape, which has to do with the mind rather than the emotions, and which wants the very best for the other person.

This understanding of love is core to the work of any peacemaker. We receive and reciprocate love, and learn what it means to live in the love of God and in love towards others – our brothers and sisters in Christ, our neighbours and those we find difficult to get on with – some may even call them enemies.

God in creation, making human beings in His image – a major act of love – included in us a capacity to love, however spoiled that may have become. And wherever we go, from Cyprus to Uganda and from Ghana to Brixton, we find love amongst every tribe and in all different sorts of people within those countries and communities; in the lives of Christians, Muslims, humanitarians and everyone else, that love derives from God in whose image we are made.

Jesus’ love for us

But as Christians, our capacity to love does not only come from God in creation.  Loving the world so much that he gave his Son for every person in it, shows us the sacrificial nature of his love in giving himself to die for all of us, even though his love is undeserved by us.  

As we relate to Jesus and live in His love, we will increase our own capacity to love.  It is therefore fundamental to the life of any CHIPS team to pray, worship and read the Bible together. This enables us to increase in love towards those with whom we work and all those whom we serve.

We also acknowledge the transformational rôle of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised His disciples He would send, in our communal life. He produces the fruit of love and pours out love into our hearts.  Love, like peace, moves and flows from the Holy Spirit, increasing as we give and receive it.

Learning to love

God loved us so much that the experience of being loved by Him softens our hard hearts. God’s love in Christ is even able to deal with our sin, reaching the deep places within us where those bad things come from.  His love can cool our anger and remove our hate; satisfy our greed and even our lust; can distract us from jealousy and envy and make us content with what we have.  His love can undermine our pride as we become immersed in Him and the values of His kingdom.

John’s letter makes it clear that our response to God’s love for us is first of all to love others. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

We learn that one of the effects of love is to overcome fear, thereby providing a test of how our love is maturing.  If we are in love with God we will not fear judgment nor will we fear death, nor those who make us feel threatened.

We love Him not only because He first loved us, but because we have discovered that His life of love in us has transformed our lives, helped us to improve relationships, to banish our fear and even to make friends of our enemies. And when times get tough – whether in our projects in Brixton or Ghana or our own communities and personal lives wherever we are – we find great comfort in the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even human love can sometimes die, but God’s love is inseparable from us.

As we reflect on these amazing facts, our hearts are full of “wonder, love and praise.”  God is love – the heavens declare it.  God is love – let earth rejoice.

Elfrida Calvocoressi, Chair of Trustees