Staff

At Oakhurst Baptist we believe in creating relationships that are based on authenticity, mutuality, and cooperation.  Our Pastoral Team strives to do so by dismantling hierarchy and sharing pastoral responsibilities. Our roles and job descriptions are specific, but our leadership is as a team.
Meet the staff members of Oakhurst Baptist Church – click a name to learn more.
  • Melanie Vaughn-West


    The Reverend Melanie Vaughn-West grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. Melanie received her Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. After ordination by Oakhurst Baptist Church in 2001, Melanie served as Pastor of Broadneck Baptist Church in Annapolis, Maryland, from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2007. She holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Prior to attending seminary, she was employed in public relations for the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and as a TV news reporter in Denison, Texas.

    Melanie and her husband, Paul West, live in Decatur, Georgia, with their dogs, Donovan and Mirabelle. Paul, a graduate of Georgia Tech, is a civil engineer working in the water industry.

    Melanie loves talking about Family Systems Theory, the Enneagram, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. She loves to explore the subtle and surprising ways that God communicates with God’s children, especially through animals, trees, and dreams. She also knows almost every “Seinfeld” episode by heart.

  • Lauren Colwell


    The Reverend Lauren Colwell is a Rome, Georgia, native who served as Associate Minister for Spiritual Formation and Families at First Baptist Church of Savannah for eight years. She has been at Oakhurst for almost two years now and brought to Oakhurst her twin passions of working for social justice and ministering to children and youth.

    Lauren grew up at the First Baptist Church of Rome, Georgia, where she was involved and active from a very young age. She sensed a call to the ministry while serving as a leader in her youth group and shared this calling with her church community before leaving for college. Lauren attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Honors. She received the John C. Pittman Leadership Award and graduated summa cum laude. She graduated from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia with a Master of Divinity degree, receiving the Scholarly Achievement Award for the class of 2009. After graduation, she was ordained by her home church, the First Baptist Church of Rome, Georgia.

    Lauren has a cat named Isaac, a name chosen because of her love of the Hebrew language. She also loves movies, Braves baseball, the outdoors, and Jimmy Buffett, and will be happy to challenge anyone to a round of Jeopardy.

  • Karen Bryant Shipp


    Karen Bryant Shipp was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and, as the daughter of a Baptist preacher, grew up in the church. Since the age of six, when she began piano lessons, music has been an important—even crucial—part of her life. In 1976 she graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Music in Applied Organ. Four years later, she completed her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at University of Kentucky—and promptly moved to New York City to study singing and perform as an opera singer. Meanwhile, she continued to work in the church as organist and/or choir director in a variety of settings; among them, Dutch Reformed, American Baptist, Catholic, and Episcopal churches. She studied singing with Mahon Bishop and sang opera and concerts; she taught, both as an adjunct professor in the music department of Kean College and privately as a voice teacher.

    After 21 years of living and working as a musician in NYC, in 2001 Karen accepted the position of Minister of Music at Oakhurst. The wide range of musical styles and traditions that she has been privileged to experience in her life so far has enriched her understanding of her work as church musician and world citizen. Diversity of music, including classical, gospel, and world music, is one of her great loves—and Oakhurst provides ample opportunity for exploring and learning even more about the various ways human beings around the world express themselves through notes and rhythms.

  • Ash Hawkins


    Ash Hawkins is the most recent addition to the OBC staff team. He was born and raised in metro Atlanta.

    After college, he spent an enriching two years in Japan, and then returned to the city with an expanded worldview. He loves being out in nature, reading and writing, learning about other cultures, and spending time with friends.

    Ash grew up in a conservative theological and political environment and appreciates the welcoming atmosphere of Oakhurst Baptist Church.