A Brief History of Rainbow Hill Baptist Church
Until the nineteenth century Worcester was still a fairly small city. Expansion was inevitable though, and following the development of the railways from the 1850s, and other industrial development around Shrub Hill, the Baptist Church at Sansome Walk started a Mission among the new housing on Rainbow Hill. In 1874 a School Room was hired in Belmont Street, under the leadership of Mr George Crisp. The Baptist Mission was controlled from Sansome Walk, and this continued until 1992—although there was a local committee and local leaders too.
From 1877 fund-raising began in order to purchase some land for a new Mission building. This was purchased in 1879 as a new section of Astwood Road was developed, enabling planning and building to commence. The Rainbow Hill Baptist Mission Hall was completed and opened in October 1881, costing £700!
There was at this time no Anglican place of worship. At the stone-laying service, Mr G A Bird spoke on behalf of the Church of England: “he had been trying to raise funds to build a schoolroom in the Rainbow Hill district, but had not met with the same encouragement as his friends the Baptists seemed to have done. Although his parish was a very rich one, he had failed to induce people to open their hearts.”
Immediately the building became home to a range of activities for children and young people in the community, centred around a Sunday School and later Christian Endeavour too. Among the popular activities in the early years were the temperance meetings, gatherings for adults of all ages, and there were also regular special events. The building was extended in 1928, to provide two additional rooms, a kitchen and inside toilets.
Services of worship were regularly held, although for most of its history Rainbow Hill was not a separate church. There were occasional visits from the minister at Sansome Walk, and local people were given opportunities to lead worship, preach and engage in other leadership roles.
In the late twentieth century the time was ripe for considering independence. Affairs at Rainbow Hill were managed by local deacons and a lay Superintendent but final authority still lay with the Sansome Walk church. After much prayer and discussion, in October 1992 Rainbow Hill Baptist Church finally became an independent Baptist church, a member of the Baptist Union and the Worcestershire Baptist Association in its own right. Rev David Urwin moved from Sansome Walk to become the first minister, until 1997. From 1999 to 2004 Rev David Laskey was minister, followed by Rev Kerry Birch from 2004 to 2012 during which time considerable structural redevelopment has taken place.
It had already been decided to redevelop the building’s kitchen and toilets. Plans were developed to include a new hall and a kitchen capable of providing for lunch clubs and other functions. The new building was opened in 2007, and renamed “Rainbow Hill Centre”. Rainbow Hill Centre is the home of Rainbow Hill Baptist Church, and also a growing number of other activities and groups, as the Christian community continues in their original Mission to reach out and serve the people of Rainbow Hill. Rev Rachel and Rev Ian Spence are currently ministers at Rainbow Hill Baptist Church with a focus on developing the Rainbow Hill Centre further within the community.