Ecumenical Institute at Bossey

The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey is the international centre for encounter, dialogue and formation of the World Council of Churches. Founded in 1946, the Institute brings together people from diverse churches, cultures and backgrounds for ecumenical learning, academic study and personal exchange.

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Bossey institute ‘is in the best hands now’, says descendant of former dwellers

Bossey institute ‘is in the best hands now’, says descendant of former dwellers

Christiane Steck. © Albin Hillert/WCC

10 November 2016

The descendants of the last family to live at Chateau de Bossey before it was acquired by the World Council of Churches (WCC) are elated it is now a centre that brings people from different Christian traditions and other faiths together to understand one another better.

The granddaughter of that family, Christiane Steck, was interviewed on 1 October during the 70th anniversary celebration of the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute which is housed on the picturesque grounds at Bossey overlooking Lake Leman.

Her grandparents, Edmond Cheneviere and Alice-Marguerite Cheneviere, who owned the chateau, were the last family to live there.

“My parents sold the chateau at the end of the 1940s. There had been a grand life at the chateau where there were big Christmas parties to which diplomats from the then-League of Nations and the rest of the world were invited.”

Steck did not live in the chateau herself, but lived nearby at a smaller property her parents bought called La Petite Coudre. There her mother recounted tales of life at the Chateau de Bossey, which during the Second World War held Polish internees.

“I am so happy that the WCC is here now. So many people profit from the council having it.

“Here they meet and learn to live with one another, connecting” said Steck as the Ecumenical Institute was nearing a new application deadline for WCC member churches to find candidates for next year’s courses.

“They learn to understand each other and try to bring this spirit all around the world. It has ramifications everywhere.”

The place where the family had their parties was in the Orangerie, which houses the current dining room at Bossey.

“Next year I plan to celebrate my 70th birthday there with my family, my three daughters and grandchildren.

Steck’s father was a diplomat, so she grew up and was educated in different parts of the world such as Argentina, Brazil, Beirut and Moscow “learning many languages and about many people”.

“I have no regrets that we could not grow up here. Bossey is in the best hands now. Many people come here and learn to spread understanding.”

As a young woman she grew up attending Girl Scouts and Sunday school, and was also a Sunday school teacher.

“It is only by faith and understanding each other and hopefully loving another we can get a better world,” said Steck, who has remained steadfast in her Protestant faith.

She noted that achieving tolerance is “an eternal process of struggle”.

“But isn’t it such a breakthrough to have the director of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo speaking here today? It can only help to secure the future for something bigger. We are talking and that is the way it should be.”

Bossey: forming ambassadors of reconciliation (WCC press release of 7 October 2016)

Bossey alums praise its 70 years of ecumenical formation (WCC press release of 13 October 2016)

Bossey students combine academics with global relationships (WCC press release of 21 October 2015)