Meet the writer: Victoria Byrne, Day by Day with God, 22 July - 31 August
God’s gift of peace
Victoria Byrne is the Seniors Pastor at St Stephen’s Church, Twickenham, working with older people. She is co-author of Hope & Spice, an Indian cookbook with authentic recipes and stories of transformation from Delhi’s slums.
Victoria has been a lay ministry leader for 14 years in a part-time role that allows her time for a variety of other adventures. In recent years she has enjoyed editing a Polish-Canadian friend's memoirs of a WWII childhood; a short mission trip with SOMA to help with Biblical in-service training for clergy in Uganda; a deep dive (out of the blue) into learning to cook Indian food, before being invited to co-author a cookbook for the Asha Society in Delhi, India. This charity improves conditions and opportunities for people in the city’s poorest communities. Victoria travelled there to research and write about individuals' lives and edited the subsequent recipes to present them to an international audience. The project has raised significant funds for Asha, which in the era of Covid-19 is now helping communities survive. People can find out more at www.hopeandspice.com
We asked Victoria about her latest series for Day by Day with God
What do you enjoy/value most about writing for Day by Day with God?
As a ministry leader in a large church, I lead teams of volunteers. This involves plenty of administrative work and detailed event planning, but at the heart of it is living out our Christian values: caring about other people, trying my best to follow Christ and be a culture-carrier. God and his word is my foundation in all that I aim for. I'm very conscious of the ways I don't live up to Jesus' model, but he is my model. Writing for Day by Day with God causes me to step away from my to-do list to look more closely at what God cares about and to explore the realities of our lives from his perspective. A big part of that involves empathising with Day by Day with God readers (whom I rarely meet in person). So it's a deeply meditative experience that feeds my own spiritual life.
What inspired your series on God’s gift of peace?
Honestly, it was suggested by our editor, who was clearly hearing from God since it proved to be such a timely study. Some friends say I have a calm, encouraging influence, but as usual I could see why God thought I needed to grow in the subject matter of the commission too. When we dwell on a subject for a few months to write about it, we are always changed. God's timing is also hilarious: the published dates for these reflections turn out to be ten days when I will particularly need peace through novel challenges.
What did you learn from writing it?
As I was mulling over this subject during 2020, God gently challenged me on how much I was actually letting him set my agenda. Was I merely avoiding the worst excesses of anxiety, or was I actively drawing on God's peace and passing on its benefits to others? And indeed, was I comforting others but not letting myself be comforted at a deeper level? Having been a Christian a long time, I recognised the need for a more in-depth self examination. The global challenges of coping with Covid-19 and the conflicted reactions to the virus increased my need to abide in God's peace, which was a good challenge. I was commissioned to write this in 2019, when anxiety and division surrounding Brexit still dominated the UK news; at that time I did not imagine how much more the world would need God's peace. Since 2020, peace has been an important factor in wellbeing and in relationships. For me, God's promised '20/20 vision' included a fresh appreciation of how important it is to trust God and trust in his care for us, both through the ‘sunlit uplands’ of life, and through the valleys of the shadow of death.
What is the key thing you hope your readers might take away from the series?
As they explore these thoughts, I pray most of all that God gives readers an appetite for his kind of robust, healthy peace that brings life. I am equally delighted if they feel able to draw on his peace because of something I've written, or if God inspires them in other ways as they read the suggested verses. It’s an extraordinary privilege to share my thoughts with readers and wish them peace in the Lord’s name.