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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

From hippies to hipsters: Witnessing the continuation of faith across generations

Feb 23, 2024 02:30PM ● By Lynn Gendusa

My son lives in Denver, the mile-high city, where the cloudless azure sky stretches over the snowcapped Rockies, shimmering in the bright sunlight. Each time I visit, I find myself breathless, unsure if it’s the altitude or the sheer beauty of my surroundings. 

On one memorable Easter weekend a few years ago, we traveled to Boulder, home of the University of Colorado. We strolled the brick walk of Peal Street, which was beautified with tulips and manicured landscaping. Street performers filled the air with the sounds of guitars, fiddles and folk songs. 

It was a lively scene dominated by young folks sporting a modern hippie vibe. Despite the addition of better restaurants and shops, Boulder had retained its charm as a university town and had changed very little from the late 1960s. The barefooted, long-haired hippies of the ‘60s, had been replaced by individuals sporting sneakers and hair dyed in a variety of colors. Groovy! 

The hippies I once knew spread flowers and peace. Some protested, experimented with drugs and listened to rock music splashed with defiance. Our parents’ generation, labeled the “establishment,” often believed the world would eventually be doomed by these errant Baby Boomers. 

“Their music is horrific; they are all druggies and are not true Americans!” the establishment proclaimed as the chants of the hippies grew louder, drowning out adverse reactions to their culture. 

Most generations believe that the next will never achieve the same level of success. They declare that America is going “down the tubes,” blaming the irresponsible and wild behavior of the younger generation.

Does anyone else remember when our parents wouldn’t let boys have long hair? Or when they criticized Elvis’s gyrations or the mania of the Beatles? Well, I wore bell bottoms, owned Elvis albums, and who among us Baby Boomers didn’t watch the Beatles on “Ed Sullivan?”

But you know what? Our parents were wrong. We grew up to be productive citizens. That long-haired hippie boy from the ’60s is now CEO of a company, and the flower-child girl at Woodstock is a grandmother, retired from the company she founded in the ’70s.

On Easter Sunday, during our visit to see my son, we attended the Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver. This historic church, standing since 1926, has welcomed generations of worshippers. The morning air was crisp, the sky a brilliant blue, and frankly, it closely resembled a time forty years earlier when my little boy wore a seersucker suit and carried his Easter basket to church.

Given the decline in church attendance among younger generations, especially outside the Bible Belt where I’m from, I wondered what I would witness that Easter morning. As we settled into the old wooden pews, I noticed children’s storybooks placed among the Bibles and hymnals. Initially, I thought it was a bit odd, but after a few moments, it became clear why they were there.

Children, accompanied by their parents, dashed noisily to their seats, dressed in Easter colors of blue, pink, yellow and purple. Siblings with disheveled hair and infants cradled in their parents’ arms filled every seat in the church.

The sanctuary became alive with songs, babies crying and children chattering happily. The 1960s hippie had become the grandparent, sitting beside the 1980s college student turned parent, who sat next to a child engrossed in a book pulled from the back of the pew.

The young minister, wearing a peach-colored Easter blazer, enthusiastically welcomed everyone. After singing old Easter hymns, he delivered a rip-roaring sermon, brimming with God’s word and celebration for the risen Lord.

The world isn’t doomed because young people listen to rap instead of the Beatles or Guns N’ Roses. America isn’t lost because a new generation of hippies dress in ragged khakis with purple hair and rings in their noses. 

I found hope and comfort in witnessing young families returning to worship the Lord. One generation passes on the word of God to the next. As I looked around at the congregation, I imagined the grandmother in front of me once wore a flower in her hair, and the toddler’s father might have followed the Grateful Dead.

No, the world isn’t doomed if we continue to pass our faith forward. This way, the 5-year-old boy in the seersucker suit may one day find hope in a church under the blue Colorado sky.

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