When the grey-haired set met the blue-jean generation of Emmanuel Mennonite Church at an evening gathering last year, both generations learned a lot about the other. And everyone agreed it was an experience worth repeating.
Although Emmanuel is home to all generations, seniors and youths have few opportunities to converse with one another. Desiring more interaction, the “Plus or Minus Sixty” seniors group approached youth sponsors John and Angelika Dawson and offered to help plan an evening of getting better acquainted.
“Our culture has somehow managed to isolate groups from each other, so unless some proactive decisions are made to have various groups meet and engage in a conversation, it won’t happen,” explained se-nior Waldo Neufeld.
The evening’s entertainment included singing favourite songs from both groups. Several high-school students who had been on overseas missions trips through Mennonite Educational Institute reported on their experiences, and senior couple Ed and Louise Janzen sang a song in Low German, which the teenagers did not understand but nonetheless found amusing because of the dialect’s unique sound.
Both generations sat around each table and took turns asking questions of those on the other end of the age spectrum, learning much in the process. The older folks were asked, “What form of discipline did you have growing up?” and, “How do you think youth differ today?” The young people, in turn, were asked, “What is your favourite subject in school?” and, “Do you have chores/jobs/pets?”
Sarina Brandt, 16, said she appreciated the different stories people at her table told, as well as discovering “the sense of humour that we all share.” Brandt added that it meant a lot to her generation when “a lot of seniors take time to come to talk to us,” even outside such planned church events as this one.
Neufeld agreed that providing opportunities for youths and seniors to interact benefits both groups, and that it is okay for seniors to talk to youths and vice versa. “During this experiment at Emmanuel, I think seniors realized the extent of changes that have occurred, in terms of what youth are challenged with these days,” he said. “On the flip side, the youth at our table were quite amazed at what education was like 60 or 70 years ago, and found some things, like the forms of discipline, to be quite humorous.”
Capping off the evening, the seniors had prepared a selection of delicious homemade desserts for everyone to enjoy.
“It was amazing. They spoiled us rotten!” Angelika said, adding that the young people appreciated showing up on their regular youth night and being treated to an evening of planned activity.
It is hoped that generational barriers can continue to be broken down with more such interactive church events.