By Rev. Patrick Rogers
I sit here in disbelief that I am writing this article. I want to take a nap and wake up and discover that it was all a bad dream, but it was not. Justin Flippen, a 41 year old man who was a Mayor, leader, friend, patriot, devoted son, traveler, and brother to thousands of people, has transitioned into a place where there is nothing except love. No pain, hurt, sorrow, discrimination, hate, or prejudice is found in his new home. Nothing but love.
What has happened leaves thousands of us behind in a state of shock. How could this ever be real? Why? All the questions we have will continue for a long time. Could this shake the foundation of my faith as his Pastor and a fellow Christian? Yes it could. Will it? No.
Last Sunday, the lectionary scripture was the story of Jesus being in the desert for 40 days. That is how I felt after hearing the news about Justin. Where are you God? We are crying out in the wilderness. Overall, I know that God is present.
I met with Justin’s family to plan his service, worked with both the City of Fort Lauderdale and City of Wilton Manors Police Force who helped at the service and also provided a motorcade to the cemetery. We planned a church service for his family. We worked with the City of Wilton Manors regarding the public Celebration of Life Service at the Venue. All I have seen throughout this, what we consider a tragedy, is love. We are witnessing what Justin brought into the world and shared freely. Love. Justin’s extreme and intense faith was at the center of every relationship, whether you were a friend, co-worker, fellow church member, or a stranger on the street. His ministry was public service.
So what can we do? We can carry on Justin’s dream of facilitating a community and world where we love one another and treat one another with respect – at all times. He attended United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale and was a member because we focus ministry on social justice and making a difference in this world. Social justice, diversity, and equality were his passion.
We will miss seeing your daily (and hourly) facebook posts which reflected your love of life and of the community in which you served. The joy will be missed of those thumbs up pictures when you visited 379 state parks, laughing with the children when you wore those funny outfits, riding on the top of a float during the Stonewall parade, with your family, business owners, friends, and countless other acts of love.
We will miss you, Justin, but we will carry your love within us always. Thank you for walking your faith walk. Thank you for being humble. Thank you for being an example.
Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv. – Community Activist and Senior Pastor at
United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale.