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Open and Affirming Progress for LGBT Worshippers

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There's a church near my home that in the spring of 2014 unfurled a rainbow flag on the building. There's also a sign posted nearby that says "God is still speaking".


As I drove by one day, I spotted on the front lawn two quite noticeable rainbow flags. Not long after, I spied an article in the local newspaper, announcing that the First Congregational Church of Bloomfield had become "Open and Affirming".

I took this as a clear sign that the church was now welcoming the LGBT community in for worship. As a gay man, I was thrilled to learn of their stance.

 

Yet, I still had little knowledge of just what ONA meant in the overall scheme of things. My next instinct was to contact the pastor of the church to learn more about this new, welcoming spirit and to see if it made sense to author an article about the new ONA outlook to share much good news to the LGBT community as a whole. In my curiosity, I called and asked to speak with Pastor Deborah Blood.

When we first spoke, I let her know my interest, advised her that I'm a gay man who is intrigued and thrilled with the news of their decision to reach out to the LGBT community. She suggested that we get together with her Board of Trustees so that I'd be able to get a better understanding of this new stance the church had taken.

While waiting to arrange a new meeting, I took to the internet so as to learn more about the Open and Affirming practice in churches. I was delighted to learn that there are hundreds of church congregations around the United States that are Open and Affirming. I was most pleased to learn that many churches in the State of Connecticut were, indeed, ONA. In fact, the church that I had attended (on and off) as a child was on that list (First Congregational Church in Middletown, CT). Clearly, we have come a long way in seeking acceptance in this society.

The Open and Affirming Statement of the First Congregational Church in Bloomfield: "We engage and support all people through worship, fellowship, learning, and service. In this spirit, we declare that this church is Open and Affirming. We welcome persons of every age, gender, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, race, national origin, faith background, marital status and family structure, mental and physical ability, economic and social status and educational background. We invite all into the sanctuary of our fellowship and the full life and ministry of our church".

In speaking with Pastor Blood, I learned that 95 percent of the congregation had voted in favor of the ONA designation. In fact, she noted that the congregants had begun the process several years earlier. The impetus for the affirmation of the LGBT members within the congregation resulted from congregants' personal experiences and knowledge.

Several church members have relatives – sons, daughters, brothers, sisters – who are members of the LGBT community. Undoubtedly, these members recognized the need for inclusion and a welcoming to the LGBT community. Clearly, there was a feeling of inclusivity and acceptance for this congregation. As Pastor Blood also noted, "we already are" open and affirming, prior to the decision being made to present the proposal to the church. They've taken to heart the precepts of Open and Affirming.

Open and Affirming churches, continuing to grow throughout the country, are at the forefront when it comes to seeking equality for the LBGT community and in recognizing the validity of marriage equality. At the First Congregational Church in Bloomfield, Connecticut, all are afforded an Extravagant Welcome. In their public announcement, it is rampantly clear that all people are welcome, that the church indeed provides a safe sanctuary for all people.

Often, within the confines of a church service, the question is asked, "Is there more to be said?" Clearly, in this instance, there is a great deal more to be said.

 

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Last modified on Saturday, 25 February 2017 17:54
George Akerley

I'll have something more to say soon - once I can determine what it is that I want to say. At this point, suffice to say that I'm gay. I've just posted information concerning my business, Word of Excellence. It is an editing/writing/proofreading business that sprang up in 2007. I have an extensive background in writing and editing. I'd be pleased to correspond with anyone who's interested as we enjoy these latter years. I am located in Connecticut. You can see some of my writing here, as I will be submitting what I hope will be beneficial articles, stories, etc. for my fellow Prime Timers.

By way of introduction, I recognized that I was gay at about age 50, but it's been a struggle to deal with it, as many of you may know. I've only come out to a fairly small circle of friends, and it's still a process for me. I've dated and fallen in love with one man, and I love the romance. I'm 65 now and I am proud to acknowledge my true sexuality.

Coming out isn't easy, as we all know; but at some point we have to take control of ourselves and let others know who we truly are. It's been a struggle for me for a variety of reasons, but I'm proud that I'm gay and glad to say that I finally accepted it.

 

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