Man raises Pride Flag in front of St. Paul's Chapel

A Symbol of Pride, Acceptance, and Welcome

When Sovannary Tan and her wife, Shek Lam, returned to New York City in 2014 with their two young sons, they began looking for a church that would welcome them as a same-sex couple and provide a nurturing space for the children.

The couple noticed there was no Pride Flag at Trinity Church, the church closest to their home, so they tried another congregation farther away. That church was friendly but there weren’t many children or families.

Several months later, Tan, Lam, and their children visited a new 9am family service at St. Paul’s Chapel. They met a number of friendly people, liked the opportunities for the children, and were pleased when the Pride flag was raised at Trinity and St. Paul’s for the first time in June 2017.

The Pride flag has symbolized acceptance, diversity, freedom, hope, and yes, pride, for the LGBTQ+ community since it was first flown in 1978. Over the years colors and design have changed — with many institutions now adopting the Progress Pride flag, which includes additional bars in representation of LGBTQ+ people of color and transgender pride. Throughout its evolution, the flag has remained an important symbol of allyship and acceptance.

As LGBTQ+ people have become targets for increasing violence and other abuses over the last several years, especially by some churches, it’s become increasingly important for affirming churches to signal their acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community by flying or otherwise displaying the Pride flag.

“Each week we gather around the table with outward signs of an inward grace — in water, bread, wine, oil, touch,” said Mother Kristin Kaulbach Miles. “Raising the Pride Progress Flag is an outward sign of the grace of God in community and the grace we receive when our community reflects the belovedness of all people.”

Franck Fleury returned to New York in 2012 after 10 years living in Europe. On the second Sunday of Easter that year he discovered Trinity Church only two blocks from his home and enjoyed the “bold and ambitious and modern” preaching.

The preaching “challenged us as parishioners without ever offending us. It was an encouragement for us to search the means of living our Christianity in an active way, sticking to the core values of Christ’s message,” Fleury said. “It denounced abuses and embraced us all, inviting us to experience these core values in their essence as well as in the context of today’s world.”

Fleury became a parishioner, “finding each week serenity in the sanctuary our church offers, and experiencing for the first time the drive to apply and share these sacred values, as well as reintroducing spirituality in my life.”

In 2017, Fleury met Santiago Lopez, and the couple married in St. Paul’s Chapel in 2019.

“While both baptized, my husband and I never actively practiced our faith before,” Fleury said. “Our discovery of Trinity Church changed completely our spiritual life. The decision by the congregation to select inclusiveness as one of the church’s core values was in itself a most welcoming sign. The congregation as well the clergy of Trinity made us feel part of a new community from the outset, and Trinity quickly became a spiritual sanctuary for us. We feel today that our differences as a LGBTQ+ couple have become a constituting element of that community where diversity contributes positively to the togetherness of its members.”

“The pride flag in front of the church during the month of June is important to us because it provides a clear signal to all those passing by that this church can offer the same spiritual sanctuary which we both today enjoy so much to anyone else who may seek such a place,” Fleury said. “The flag is a tangible reaffirmation that Christ welcomes us all if we seek his love and are willing to strive towards becoming his messengers in our daily lives.”

He continued, “It is a message which unfortunately is still not universal among all churches of Christian faith, but the courage of these churches willing to affirm it through the exhibition of the Pride flag is a bold step which, we are certain, can only help others see the shining path towards the true Christian love.”

Like Fleury and Santiago, Tan and Lam continue to be active members of the Trinity community and are comforted to see the flag flying during Pride month.

“Every year I saw the flag in the churchyard, I remembered the time when it was not there,” Sovannary Tan said. “Never take it for granted especially in this ‘still’ controversial time...unfortunately.”

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