“One thing I know is that through everything, the good and the bad in even the real ugly [things] that transpired in my life and on my journey in 2013 -  I never lost my Praise.” -Minister BobbyJean Baker

It was a joyful evening at the City of Refuge United Church of Christ, with a diverse gathering of LGBT people gathered to bring in the new year with song, prayer, praise and exhortations of hope. Among those gathered was Minister Bobby Jean Baker, the head of the Transgender Ministries, at City of Refuge and the Fellowship of Affirming Ministered both founded by Bishop Yvette Flunder. “BobbyJean” as she was affectionately known, was looking forward to a future filled with hope, while thoughtfully reflecting on the year 2013.

In what would be her last Facebook post, on December 31, 2013 at 11:51 PM she wrote,

“What a year 2013 has been in the last hours of this year. I've been reflecting and talking to those close and dear to me around ministry,...One thing I know is that through everything, the good and the bad in even the real ugly [things] that transpired in my life and on my journey in 2013 I never lost my Praise...I can't comprehend it but I didn't...it's my hope and prayer that 2014 is my year of blessings in super natural movement for the advancement of the Divine. No more delay. No more distractions. No more descent. No more diversions. No more doubt. No More. To my families, of blood, extended and chosen, Tribe Members, church associations, Trans community connections, I those of you connected to me through my journey, if in 2013 I offended you or hurt your spirit - know that I'm sorry and that I'm striving to be a better vessel on this walk we call life.”  

At the conclusion of service, after hugging nearly everyone in the sanctuary, she offered her dear friend, Deacon Bobby Weismann a ride home. Within a matter of moments, Minister Bobby Jean was killed in a vehicular accident by a hit and run driver. Her passenger, Bobby Weisman was able to crawl out of the car and survived the ordeal. Within the first hour January 1, 2014, Minister Bobby Jean Baker, we lost our sister in this earth realm; a fierce transgender rights activist, someone whose life was committed to liberation theology through her ministry and daily praxis. We lost a beloved praise and worship leader, and one of the founding members of the Transgender Choir, who perform nationally.

BobbyJean passions ran deep, willingly sharing the many challenges she endured. She remained undaunted by her challenges, and instead used them as fodder for ministry to encourage others speaking courageously and authentically from her life experience. Hers was a heart that beat for those marginalized: people affected by homelessness, survival sex workers, the incarcerated and, most importantly, anyone needing to be restored to faith, having been wounded by toxic and damnatory theologies, ministers and ministries.  

In keeping with liberation theology, her life’s work was to inspire, and deeply engage people “from the margins of the larger community” who needed someone who would treat them with mutual respect and love them unconditionally. Minister BobbyJean Baker’s life and ministry was the embodiment of restoration, hope, bold humility and resilience.

Truthfully, Bobby Jean Baker was my friend for nearly twenty years. When I learned of her death, I froze. It’s when I read her last post that I sensed in my spirit that she had prepared herself for ascent. Yes, we have loss the living presence of this incredible transgender woman. What we are left with is a living example of the dignity that come with the courage to live in one’s own truth; we have witnessed that those on the margin of the margins needn’t ever remain there if we present ourselves as authentic and meet people just where they are; and perhaps most significantly, we have learned that as we all make mistakes and go through the lessons & foibles of life, everything can be used as a lesson to lead us to into our Divine Destiny.

On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, we recognize, value and honor the work of Minister Bobby Jean Baker whose work touched thousands. In each and every community there are those unsung heroes whose work brings about transformation. BobbyJean transformed the lives of many for the better.

May we all find the grace and love to intentionally reach out to those on the margins of our respective communities, and invite them to the table with sincerity and authenticity.

Filed under: Religion & Faith, Community

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