The following statements attempt to give an idea where we are now. Hay Hill Baptist Church has been in Bath since 1869 and we have made a big move by becoming a church-led Oasis Community Hub.
We are open and inclusive, flexible, creative and willing to experiment. We are currently fairly small in number, with 40 adult members and a significant number of children, but we are a core group ready to move into new territory. We passionately believe that, just as Abraham was, so we too are called and blessed by God to be a blessing to those around us.
We have recognised that the love of God is inclusive and incarnational. We try to welcome any who want to join us, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, disability, etc. We know we have a long way to go, but our aim is for radical inclusion. We do our best to avoid traditional church jargon and talk about the Bible and our faith in language that is as normal as possible.
We are motivated by engagement with the real world, e.g. addressing poverty, protecting the environment, running businesses, discussing ethics. We regard real and practical outworkings of love for people and planet as being absolutely central to following Jesus, not peripheral. Our focus on poverty inspired people in the church to set up a Make Lunch franchise, feeding hungry kids at fun holiday clubs. From this there are many ideas on what further needs could be met.
We have members with a range of backgrounds, experiences and beliefs, and regard this as a strength of the church that these can be allowed to coexist. However, as a leadership, we are moving towards a progressive theology and want to pass on to the next generation a much better way of understanding what the Bible is and what it says than we inherited. We actively value questioning and discussion of any and every aspect of faith and how it applies to our lives today.
In the leadership team, we have pursued joining with Oasis due to a desire to do church differently and a recognition of values that match our own and initiatives that are just what we want to be doing in Bath. What we are aiming for is a totally integrated and well-balanced model of church that has a worshipping community at its core, is welcoming to all, and looks outward to take action.
I believe we are at a time in the history of the world where a new strong voice is desperately needed from the church: a voice of life and love, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, rebuilding what was devastated, tackling the causes of huge problems in the world. An Oasis value that we at Hay Hill share is a deep sense of hope that things can be transformed. This is belief in resurrection. We want to see that put into practice in our locality.
Mark Shearman, September 2018 (on behalf of the Hay Hill leadership team)
In case you want to dig deeper, about a year ago we had a Sunday morning talk about the history of what led to our proposed partnership with Oasis: http://www.hayhill.org/podcasts/2017/10/joining-the-dots
Recent history mentions references that have shaped us as a community:
• Isaiah 61: and Jesus quoting from this book in Luke 4
• Overflow: three linked passages from the Psalms, Ezekiel and John: http://www.hayhill.org/overflow
• The Dream: a series of statements from 2009 on what a church community could and should be, shortened in 2014 to its essential components: ‘We are called to be a community of disciples, living in the power of the Spirit … where all are welcome and no-one stands alone … recognising that we are blessed to be a blessing.’