Founded in 1635 and a member of the United Church of Christ, the has held an Open & Affirming (O&A) stance for the past several years, but this has never been quite as visible as it is today.
“They voted to become O&A in 2007, but hadn’t really lived into it,” Rev. Jane Ann Groom, interim pastor at the First Congregational Church, said. “I said, have you ever thought of displaying a rainbow flag and that started a lot of conversation.”
This is the second church where Groom has been part of displaying a rainbow flag, a symbol that she hopes will welcome LGBTQ individuals and their loved ones by providing a safe and welcoming environment. While there were questions and conversations after the suggestion, the decision to display the flag happened quickly.
The flag was hung on the tower of the church last Wednesday and, even in the first few days, had caught the attention of many in Stamford Downtown.
“A young high school boy saw it, he came in and talked to me. The other day, a post office truck stopped, the mailman jumped out and said, “Does that mean what I think it does?” He came in and prayed,” Groom said. “Some folks think the flag is exclusionary, but it’s totally inclusive, it’s a corrective to a church culture that has kept LGB folks out.”
Groom has a special connection to the rainbow flag, she knew Gilbert Baker who designed the flag in 1978.
“He wrote a beautiful thing, he said, “That flag is about love,”” Groom said. “We do tell the story of Noah here, the rainbow was God’s covenant, a symbol of the promise."
While the last church where Groom displayed the rainbow flag saw some vandalism, she does not expect this to happen in Stamford and is prepared to replace the flag if anything should happen.
“There are some people who will say that it’s not Biblical, but this is about creating a world that is loving for all people,” Groom said.
Located on the corner of Bedford Street and Walton Place, the First Congregational Church is visible far down Bedford Street, but in the past, the large stone building hasn’t drawn the eye quite like the large flag.
“There needs to be a bold statement,” Groom said. “I hope that even the people who will never come through these doors can see it and say, “Maybe not all churches condemn me.” God loves all of us and love will win.”