Trumbull church declares itself ‘open and affirming’ to all

TRUMBULL — It was about time, the Rev. Tim Hare said.

Hare, 48, is the pastor of Trumbull Congregational Church, which bills itself as the oldest established church in Trumbull. On Sept. 19, the church’s roughly 150 adult members voted on whether to become “open and affirming.” That is the term used by the United Church of Christ (which the Trumbull church is part of) to denote that a church is welcoming and inclusive of all people, specifically including members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The members approved the change, with only one dissenting vote, and posted a message on its web site declaring itself as such.

“In a way, we were overdue for this,” Hare said. “Too many people in the LGBTQ+ community have felt rejected from the church. We wanted to stand up and say that they are of sacred worth. They are made in the image of God and they are loved.”

He said he’s aware of other Congregational churches in the area that have declared themselves open and affirming, and this is a movement that seems to be growing within the greater United Church of Christ community.

According to the web site for the Open and Affirming Coalition for the United Church of Christ, more than 1,500 churches and other ministries in the United Church of Christ welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer members, and more than 350,000 members of the UCC belong to “open and affirming” churches.

Trumbull Congregational Church was first established in 1730, and its current building, at 3115 Reservoir Ave., was dedicated in 1899. Its policy is congregational, meaning every member has a say in most major decisions involving the church.

Hare has been pastor since 2014, and said he has thought about making the church open and affirming for some time. He said he’s aware of at least one same sex couple who are members of the church, but the idea was to reach not just people who are already part of the church, but everyone in the community.

“This says, essentially, to members of the LGBTQ+ community that this is a safe place,” he said. “And that they can trust us to welcome them as we would anyone else who shows up at our door.”

The vote on whether to become open and affirming was done both in person and virtually, for those who couldn’t physically be at the church, Hare said.

According to the statement posted on the church’s website, the Trumbull Congregational Church welcomes “people of any age, race, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, economic status, marital status, physical, emotional and mental capacity, and those in traditional and non-traditional families as equally valued members of our community and unique expressions of God’s image.”

Hare said the church’s plan now is to get the word out.

“The next steps are finding ways not just to be welcoming, but to be inviting,” he said.