Volume 18 Number 5
Watering the Seed
01 October 2005

School leaver Eorann Lean gets a buzz out of a conference for young and old

Entering Mountain House perched just above Lake Geneva, you can see children playing, teenagers learning drama and adults enjoying the children’s games or going to workshops.

The main concentration of the Intergenerational Experience of Community living is on faithfulness. How in this modern time, where families are breaking, is it possible to stay together and how can we help each other be faithful?

As the conference is directed at all age groups, with many families bringing all three generations, the set up is slightly different from the normal Caux experience. For example the meetings in the morning have a half an hour with the children and then a more serious discussion for the adults. This leads to a very cheerful atmosphere around the house although important topics are being discussed.

Having arrived late into the conference my integration into this big family starts with being told to stand up and sing ‘ti ti ta ta’ with actions such as ‘thumbs up, tongue out’. This exercise is enjoyed by all age groups and breaks the ice nicely before a discussion on how to be a good friend. An added extra is Mr Incredible who after bounding in to the Ghostbuster theme tune saves us from Jealousy.

Once the children have left, the meeting turns to a more indepth discussion of ‘purpose’ and ‘commitment’. The people speaking are whole-heartedly honest. This honesty spreads throughout the building, augmented by the relaxed atmosphere caused by the families. This builds up to such an extent that you can sit down next to someone you have never met before at lunch and leave having heard about not just their successes but also their struggles. It becomes natural to tell people experiences that you would never in daily life reveal.

I thought I would have to sneak into the planning meeting of the day but it is open to anyone who wants to help. This inclusiveness encourages the idea that everyone under the roof is one big family with enough children and grandparents to go around.

As the conference is concentrated around families there are workshops for married couples and fathers. I don’t qualify for these workshops, but there are many options as well as community groups in which everyone can discuss different issues.

The children and teenagers participate in fun workshops such as singing, drama and T-shirt printing. All of these conclude in a variety night where they perform. Children are quite naturally making new friends with people from other countries and other cultures.

At the very first meeting the desired outcome is stated as being that everyone leaves with a group of friends and a sense of urgency. On a personal note, I can say that I left the conference with many new friends and a Latin American glass game, as well as a renewed sense of urgency to make my time count.

A saying cited at the planning meeting, ‘Yours to prepare the soil, me to drop the seed,’ applies brilliantly to the conference. It worked as an expert gardener preparing the soil in those new to Caux and searching, such as me, and watering and nurturing those already growing.