An Oasis in the Lakes
Hawkshead Hill Baptist Chapel has its origins in a covenant made, in 1678, between separatist believers from the local mining community who met in Torver, near Coniston. The Baptist community developed in the Hawkshead Hill area, and in 1709 the cottage (adjoining the current Chapel) was registered as a meeting house.
Today, the chapel finds itself in a popular tourist area, due to local connections with Beatrix Potter, and it’s location near Tarn Hows. Our local community however is small and becoming smaller every year as houses transfer to the holiday industry.
Our calling in this context, we believe, is to maintain a distinctive Baptist 'presence' and to be an 'Oasis’. 'Presence' and 'Oasis' is aided by ministers Andrew and Kath Dodd (who have undertaken a bi-vocational ministry here for 22 years) together with the small group of believers drawn from the local and wider communities. Every day brings its surprises, especially Sunday when our congregation can swell from a few, to a gathering of up to 30 in moments as visitors pile in (usually late!). We are both open and structured in our form of worship. Meeting ‘in the round’ with the communion table at the centre creates an atmosphere of equality and helps us practise the long-held Baptist ethos of the 'priesthood of all believers' which many find inspirational.
Over the last 22 years the buildings have been renovated, a 'Quiet Garden' opened to the public, and the chapel is now open to all who pass by. Countless visitors call in for a warm or cold drink, depending on the weather! In particular we have developed a retreat ministry which includes Away Days, Walked Retreats, and a retreat flat (the Upper Room) which is available on a donations basis so that those who can’t afford Lake District prices can still come for that much-needed break.
Pilgrims, new and returning, sense the presence of God’s Spirit through this place and its creative prayer resources. We count as 'friends' many from around the world, and often find that chapel members can be in the minority in the congregation.
Two stories will suffice to illustrate.
Sarah (not her real name) was on a weekend away with her catholic friend, a year on from her son’s death. Andrew, working by the baptistry, entered into conversation. “We just walked up here from the village not knowing where we were going’’ (footwear left something to be desired). Sarah stood by the baptistry and began to weep. “I was baptised once” … And so began a journey towards restoration in which regular visits and stays in the Upper Room have helped. She is a precious returning pilgrim in our chapel community, and her story can be replicated many times.
Our favourite entry in the visitors’ book by a person of no faith speaks of his appreciation for a unique Christian hospitality which he has not found elsewhere. He signs himself as 'an impressed agnostic'.
So, whilst being small and vulnerable, our ministry, aided by Home Mission, 'punches beyond our own weight', and enables us to provide a special place of worship and witness to many people through this historic place of Baptist life and witness.
We are grateful for the support of the wider Baptist family over many years … Do drop in any time!
Having recently lost three members due to them leaving the area, we are praying for new folk to work with us
In particular, we need practical help with the buildings and grounds
Each year we host two main community events: a Summer Garden Party, and a New Year Party. We pray for these events, and also that we will find new and sensitive ways of showing God’s love to our neighbours and friends.
Kath and Andrew Dodd (Ministers of Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church)
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