Sara Ann Hobbs came a long way from the days of hoeing cotton in Alabama, watching an occasional airplane fly overhead, and wondering where it might be going. She described her life as “the miracle of God impacting a life.” Her pilgrimage began years ago when, as Sara Ann said, “God created a holy unrest in me that said there is somewhere else to go except up and down cotton field rows.”
Sara Ann was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1929 and grew up in Cochran, Georgia, graduating from Munford High School, Munford, Alabama, Judson College, Marion, Alabama, and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. She taught school briefly in Alabama, and following seminary graduation, she served in ministry positions in Arkansas and Kentucky. In 1958, Sara Ann moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she held several positions with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. She was the director of Woman’s Missionary Union and director of estate planning for the North Carolina Baptist Foundation. In 1979, she became the first and only woman director of a state missions division in Southern Baptist life.
An advocate for women, Sara Ann in the 1970s successfully worked to ensure that women at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina received equal pay to that of men in similar positions. She also became a vocal advocate for women in ministry. On June 12, 1984, she spoke at the Forum, a pre-Southern Baptist Convention gathering, and told the over 2,000 in attendance that women were going to continue to respond to God’s call and were going to serve somewhere, even if it is not within the SBC. Sara Ann cited statistics to demonstrate that even though more women were attending seminaries, jobs available to female graduates were decreasing. She noted that women held many newly created church staff jobs in their embryonic stages, but when men began taking those jobs, the job title changed from director to minister and women were no longer were thought to be appropriate for the position. Sara Ann then predicted that attitudes would change again as laywomen become corporate executives and bank presidents and as those women leaders refused to be barred from decision-making positions in the church. Years later Sara Ann would become the first woman ordained as a deacon at Woodhaven Baptist Church, Apex, North Carolina. In 1994, Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina presented her with the Anne Thomas Neil Award for her outstanding contributions to the cause of women in ministry.
Sara Ann led national and local Christian leadership and motivational seminars and conferences and traveled extensively in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. She never forgot those days of watching airplanes fly over the cotton fields. She said, “I never dreamed I’d someday be in Raleigh, North Carolina, much less have the privilege of visiting Tokyo or Jakarta.”
In 1989, Sara Ann’s life changed dramatically when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that eventually led to her retirement and her move to Silver City, New Mexico in 1993. She then wrote a short book entitled Journey to Recovery, which chronicled her experience. She also spoke about her experience at the state meeting of the Hospital Auxiliary and at local senior citizen centers .
When she moved to Silver City, Sara Ann became a member of First Baptist Church and joined the Hospital Auxiliary, a volunteer work that she loved. She completed over 2,500 hours with the auxiliary.
Sara Ann died at her home on August 28. She was a extraordinary leader, a pioneer, and a friend and mentor to many. Thanks be to God for the life of Sara Ann Hobbs.
Compiled from obituaries written by Nancy Curtis and Kay Bissette.