The Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston will reinstall a rainbow flag that was taken nearly a month ago.
The new flag, which will be installed tomorrow, replaces one that was removed by vandals in the same location outside the church atop a hill on Wiehle Avenue.
Local police have not provided any details about the suspected vandalism.
Rev. Debra Haffner said the church is committed to replacing every stolen flag “even if it means putting up a new flag each month.”
“We are a welcoming faith community and we want everyone who drives by our church in Reston to know that all people – gay, straight, pansexual, bisexual, transgender – are welcome here. Our faith celebrates that sexual and gender diversity is a blessing, and our flag is a symbol of that commitment,” she said.
The church has the only freestanding rainbow flag in Reston that is up year-round.
The 11-foot flag was removed on June 11, one week after the church co-sponsored the Reston Pride Festival. Roughly 5,000 people came out to celebrate the second annual event at Lake Anne Plaza.
In the last several months, the flag was taken three times. It was installed in 2017 without incident until this spring.
A rainbow flag outside the Unitarian Universalist Church is missing for the third time in three months.
Rev. Debra Haffner says that the 11-foot flag was stolen on Tuesday, June 11.
The church has been very vocal in advocacy for LGBTQ rights. It organized the first ever Reston Pride Festival last year. This year, the festival was held at a new and larger location at Lake Anne Plaza.
“We are deeply saddened that some person or persons have chosen to steal our flag and hope that it will be returned to us. More, we hope for an opportunity to create an opportunity for restorative justice with that person or persons so that they will come to understand and accept all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” said Haffner.
The missing flag was reported to the Fairfax County Police Department, which is investigating who tore down the flag.
Haffner says she fears the incident qualifies as a hate crime. She says her church is open to purchasing a flag for any faith community that requests it.
“We will continue to fly a rainbow flag on our property even if it means buying a new one every month. We hope that other churches, synagogues and mosques will put a rainbow flag on their property, so that all will know that people of every faith in Reston support and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.”
Until this spring, a rainbow flag has flown on UUCR’s property since 2017 without incident.
Organizers of the Reston Pride Festival, which was held on Saturday (June 1), have already set the date for the next festival after this year’s successful event.
A tentative date for next year’s festival is June 6, 2020.
More than 5,000 people took part in the festival, which featured choral groups, dancers, speakers and dozens of exhibitors and vendors.
Since its inaugural event at a local church two years ago, the festival has rapidly expanded. The event was cosponsored by three Reston churches: the Universalist Unitarian Church in Reston, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, and United Christian Paris.
During the event, state Del. Ken Plum (D-36th) said the festival was an example of Reston’s reputation as an “open community.” State Del. Danica Roem (D-13th) also delivered remarks at the event.
Organizers recapped the event, which was staffed by more than 60 volunteers:
In addition to community choirs and speakers, attendees at Reston Pride were treated a variety of musical performances. Delta B Knyght, a DC-based drag performer, and Ken Williamson, minister of music for Washington Plaza Baptist Church, were the emcees for the event. Rev. Michelle Nickens, minister of Washington Plaza Baptist Church, penned and performed Reston Pride Blues, a catchy song designed to capture the spirit of Reston Pride Monika Chaturvedi and friends provided a bit of international flair with a Bollywood Dance performance.
Musician Laura Tsaggaris closed out the festival with her unique sound of modern folk music. Lake Anne Merchants and Professionals provided a moon bounce, bubbles and chalk, an interactive snow cone maker and transformed the Lake Anne horse sculpture into a unicorn, making the event truly family-oriented.
A location for next year’s festival has not been announced.
Photos via Chip McCrea Photography
The event, which aims to celebrate and support Reston’s LGBTQ community, is co-chaired by the Unitarian Universalist Church, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, and United Christian Parish.
Building on last year’s event, the festival will feature entertainment, music, food, education and celebration, according to event organizers.
“The Lake Anne Plaza venue offers not only more space but greater visibility and access — and brings the festival into the heart of Reston, which is fitting as Reston since its founding in the 1960s has been committed to the principles of equality and inclusion.”
The schedule for the event is below:
- 2 p.m.: Welcome note by Reston Pride co-chairs
- 2:05 p.m.: Remarks by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Del. Ken Plum, and Sen. Janet Howell
- 2:30 p.m.: Performance by choir from sponsoring churches
- 2:40 p.m.: Vocal performance by Reston Community Players
- 3:15 p.m.: Remarks by faith leader speakers
- 3:35 p.m.: Drag show performance by Delta B. Knyght
- 4:05 p.m.: Vocal performance by Rev. Michelle Nickens
- 4:25 p.m.: Remarks by official speaker Danica Roem
- 4:40 p.m.: Vocal performance by Jeff Young
- 5:05 p.m.: Indian Bollywood dance performance
- 5:20 p.m.: United Christian Parish Total Praise ensemble
- 5:40 p.m.: Voices of Howard University
- 6:10: Vocal performance by Laura Tsaggaris
- 6:55 p.m.: Closing remarks
Tomorrow (June 1)
- Gardens of Note Tour (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) — Take a self-guided tour of Reston’s gardens and pop-up musical entertainment. Registration is open online. A garden party at Hidden Lane Residential Landscapes will follow the tour.
- Wildlife Counts and Classes (6:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.) — Adult volunteers will explore Reston’s natural areas in this class, which meets at the Walker Nature Center.
- Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — A stilt walker, juggler and face painter performs onstage at Reston Station Plaza atop Wiehle-Reston East Metro. The event is free and open to all. Parking is free in the Metro Parking garage.
- Summer Reading Kickoff (11 a.m.) — Young readers are invited to join authors Erica Perl and Laura Gehl to read some of their favorite titles at Scrawl Books.
- ArtSplash for Adults (2-4 p.m.) — Adults are invited to create their own masterpieces in this workshop led by artists from Abrakadoodle Northern Virginia.
- Lake House Open House (1-3 p.m.) — Enjoy light refreshments and mingle with neighbors during community-drop in time.
Sunday (June 2)
- Nova Tour de Cure (6 a.m. to 4 p.m.) — The event, which is the American Diabetes Association’s signature fundraiser, raises funds for research, advocacy, programs, and education. It will take place at Reston Town Center.
- Sunday Art in the Park (7-8 p.m.) — Hear the voice of the cello in favorites with assistant profess or cello Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki at Reston Town Square Park. The event is free and open to all.
Photo by Debra Haffner