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Youth Column: 'I Had No Excuse'

Wednesday January 18

Anna Linton reflects on faith under difficult circumstances

About four years ago my church (Montrose South and Ferryden) along with Open Doors, organised an event to give us an insight into the life of a persecuted Christian.

We will never fully understand the extent of this adversity, but the event gave us an opportunity to engage and reflect on the situation faced by millions across the world. The event simulated what it felt like to attend a secret church service. To take part, we put forward our name and phone number, and a few days later received a text message with a date, time and a location of where a secret meeting would be held.

The meeting, it transpired, took place in a barn, on a farm, just outside of town. It was so eerie being hidden amongst hay bales that despite being in no real danger my heart was pounding so fast. We were urged to keep quiet. Singing hymns together would be too dangerous and instead we whispered the Lord’s Prayer together.

A representative from Open Doors led the service. He told us Bibles had to be hidden, often in unsuspecting places such as under floorboards. It made me think of what I would do in a similar situation. I would hide a Bible in my house, I thought to myself.  If persecuted Christians were found out, they would be thrown in jail or exiled from their community.  I would risk that fate to be a Christian, I decided.  In worst case scenarios Christians could lose their lives to attend these meetings. I, too, would risk my life I declared to myself a little too confidently.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2020, when we were in a national lockdown. I found myself in a situation where attending church really was illegal. Meeting other Christians was a danger to life (via the spread of the virus). And I’m ashamed to say I lost my faith and disengaged from my Christian life. Just two years earlier I had been so confident that my faith would not waver.  So confident I would remain rooted in Christ no matter how hard the storms of life are.

I don’t want to belittle the experience of persecuted Christians. I understand that in the grand scheme of things Lockdown is so insignificant to the ongoing tribulations of a persecuted Christian. Yet that was all it took for me. I had no excuse really. Church was so easily accessed online. Christian fellowship was just a phone call away and my Bible was not a danger for me to me to pick up and read.

Post covid, I have found Jesus again. I have moved house and now attend Dunfermline East church and have joined a home group. Reading the Bible together has reminded me how relevant such an ancient book is. Recently we read the story of Peter denying Jesus. That story felt very familiar to me. I, too, am guilty of being overconfident in my faith and my own strength. I too am guilty of denying Jesus when times were hard, but I have come to know in my heart that the same Jesus who forgave Peter forgives me too.

If you are under 30 with a Church of Scotland connection, and would like to write for this column, please contact us on magazine@lifeandwork.org