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The Times They Are A-Changin'

By Linda Fippin, President of the Board of Trustees

I suppose quoting Bob Dylan is diagnostic of being in a particular generation, but time and again I find that his words resonate with the current era. The song (and album) The Times They Are A-Changin’ was released in 1964, the year that Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, striking down Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination, but it was also the year that the number of American soldiers in Vietnam increased from around 25,000 to 184,000, leading to a dramatically increased level of military operations. It was certainly an era of great social changes, some welcome, some not so much, but all of them reaching into people’s lives in ways that were uncomfortable for some, challenging for most and unavoidable for all.

The past few years have also been a time of sweeping changes: the Covid-19 pandemic, violent demonstrations – some protesting police killings, some protesting election results – controversial Supreme Court decisions, war on the borders of Europe. Sometimes it makes me think of another quote from a musical source from the 60s: Stop the World – I Want to Get Off!

But changes are unavoidable now, just as they were in the 60s and in every other era in which there were upheavals. And maybe every era has upheavals, and it’s just that some “upheave” more than others. Lately, I’ve been listening to a podcast that Reverend Carol recommended called American History Tellers, and it has made me feel less like our current era is one of the worst ever. We all know how terrible the Civil War was, but I (admittedly having dozed through required American History classes) was not really aware of how many times America has been through lots of other terrible episodes of violence, economic hardship, political machinations, oppression and corruption – things that would utterly horrify us now. And yet, here we are, better off in many ways and at least not worse off in most others. That makes me more hopeful and able to face changes with more equanimity and willingness to (paraphrasing Bob Dylan) get out of the way if I can’t lend a hand in dealing with them.

If you have read Reverend Carol’s recent blog post, you will know that changes are afoot in Unitarian Universalism, too. I must admit that I was just getting really settled in with the 7 Principles and 6 Sources, and now they may be on the way out. The changes that the UUA has proposed are just that, “proposed changes,” that are not inevitable or immutable. It will be essential that the Westside congregation think about and discuss what the changes would mean for Westside, the things we do and how we do them. The Board of Trustees will be actively involved in providing information and facilitating discussion of the proposed changes and their implications for Westside and its people in the coming months. As always, the Board welcomes your comments, concerns and questions about the proposed changes or anything else that is on your mind.

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Yes, the times are changing, but in more ways than we realize. The sermon that I hope to present after the holidays has the tentative title "Near-Death Experiences and Reincarnation in the Twentieth Century." Christianity and Islam are perhaps the only major religions in which reincarnation is proscribed. There isn't anything negative in the Bible regarding reincarnation. The proscription began with a conference in Constantinople in the year 553. The decision to declare belief in reincarnation a heresy began then.

Modern medicine has resulted in an explosion of near-death experience, many of which are profound. Some of those experiences took only a minute, but they profoundly changed the lives of the experiencers. As a result, many people became less religious…

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