“Is that three times?” I asked our administrator, Diane.

“Four,” she said, handing me a sticky notes with the dates, once a month since May, when the rainbow flag we fly on our church sign was stolen.

Nearly a year ago, in September, one of our members had the wonderful idea of adding a rainbow flag to the Live Oak church sign, to let passersby know that we are a deliberately welcoming and inclusive church to LGBTQ folks. Immediately, we had people from the wider community calling and stopping in, just to let us know how much they appreciated seeing the flag as they drove by.

In May, perhaps because of the approaching Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, someone ripped down the flag and flagpole. We put up a larger rainbow flag. In June, they stole that one. We put up another. July – ripped down, the bracket destroyed. The Facilities team immediately replaced it. And now, August. And again, we will be restoring the rainbow flag.

We are terrifically tenacious, when it comes to asserting our hospitality. Live Oak is proud of our commitment to treating all people with respect and dignity, and welcoming with open arms and hearts those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. We host meetings of PFLAG, an organization for parents, families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ individuals. We march with our Standing on the Side of Love shirts in the Pride parade, and attend rallies at the capital for equal rights for all. This past July, we threw a giant “Festival of Weddings” with free weddings and a giant reception to celebrate that Texas finally had legal marriage equality.

The flag is a symbol of our whole-hearted welcome to all who wish to walk in fellowship with us. But it’s just a symbol. That welcome, and our message of love, can never be torn down.

As for the flag … our fifth one is about to go up. And they will continue to go up, to spread the news that at Live Oak, you are welcome here.