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Bebhionn Paterson (right) receives her Queen's Award. Pictured with her GB captain (and sister), Calaidh, their mother, Mary, and the Rev Alastair Bruce, minister of Ellon Parish Church
Bebhionn Paterson (right) receives her Queen's Award. Pictured with her GB captain (and sister), Calaidh, their mother, Mary, and the Rev Alastair Bruce, minister of Ellon Parish Church

Youth Column: Faith is Individual

Monday August 8

Bebhionn Paterson describes how working towards her Girls' Brigade Queen's Award led to a deeper faith

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

My earliest memory, in fact, is singing the “tidy up song” at playgroup. Whether it is a genuine, true memory or one that has just been fostered, I’ll never know, but it’s there all the same. In Primary 5, I began learning the piano. In Primary 6 I learned to play the recorder (if you can’t play “Hot Cross Buns” on one of these then did you even go to primary school?!), and soon after this attended the academy, where I learned the clarinet, the saxophone, and all manner of instruments in between. To be fair, you do need to be able to play a fair few instruments if you’re going to be a music teacher!

Church is another thing that has always been a big part of my life. I can remember attending Sunday school every week, and later progressing onto “chatroom” when I began secondary school. Similarly, When I started learning the recorder, I played this as part of the praise band at church. And once I’d learned enough of the clarinet, I played that instead – which I’m sure caused a bit of relief amongst the congregation. Now, thirteen years later, I’m covering our church’s musical director’s maternity post with one of my chums. Talk about going from zero to 100!

I’ve recently completed my Queen’s Award through Girls’ Brigade Scotland – the highest award achievable. A big part of the award is completing a Faith Journal; for this section of the award, you make a personal commitment to your faith and demonstrate this through your journal.

Although I’ve attended church for a long time, I’ve always had doubts about my belonging there. Until I began my Faith Journal for my Queen’s Award, I always had worries about attending church; am I welcome here? How do you pray correctly? Is there a wrong way to do it? If I am doing it wrong, can people tell? Particularly as a teen, going to church be a really daunting thing. Back then, playing the clarinet in praise band felt like my main reason for attending church. Making music was at the forefront of my mind – not whatever the minister was saying. That’s probably why I couldn’t fully comprehend the religious side of things at first.

Looking back, it seems silly to have worried about these things. Church and faith are such a personal thing and mean different things to each individual. There is no one correct way of worshipping and following faith.

The Faith Journal was the bit of the award that worried me the most; I had no idea where to start. It felt totally fake writing about something I wasn’t 100% sure about. “How can I write about my faith if I don’t know if I’m doing faith right?” It was then, slowly, that I realised faith is a very individual and personal thing to each of us and comes in so many different forms.

I decided to look at faith from a different perspective. Don’t focus on the prayers and sermons and, instead, focus on the music – the thing you know for sure you are good at. The thing that you enjoy the most. The thing that you can relate to most easily.

Therefore, my Faith Journal took the form of lyrics from hymns, each one specially chosen to represent something going on in my life at that time: graduating from uni; one of my nephews being born; moving away from home; anything. Creating my Faith Journal this way really helped me to develop confidence in my faith, and reassure me that I can and am doing faith right.

I’m sure there are folk out there who feel a little like how I felt – no confidence in my faith, no certainty as to whether I was doing it right, and convinced that everyone else around me was doing it right and was silently judging me. My advice from my experience? – faith is individual. Faith is not a prescribed course. Faith is whatever you make it to be. And, if you’re struggling, try looking for a new perspective – music, scripture, prayer courses, whatever. Once you find your way of doing faith, the rest is easy!

Bebhionn is a leader with 1st Ellon Company and Commissioner for Buchan Division of the Girls’ Brigade. She is a member of Ellon Parish Church.

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