Tegan – a teenager in flight for her faith
It’s no secret that there are very few young people in church in Cornwall. In fact, the UK has the lowest church attendance among young people in Europe. So it was very refreshing to meet Tegan Holden, aged 15 and fully engaged with church life from lending a hand with the Fly Jesus Project and Messy Church, to ringing the heaviest peal of six church bells in the world!
Tegan has been nominated for the Cross of St Piran Award, but not because she is young and enjoys church! Through her engagement with church life, Tegan has grown in confidence in her faith and leadership skills.
“I really enjoy helping the younger children at Messy Church. I love science, in fact it’s my favourite subject, and it’s great to be able to share that with younger children,” says Tegan after she was enlisted to help with Messy Church.
Tegan was Confirmed in December, seeing it as an important step in her faith journey. She also jokingly admits she was lured to the classes with the promise of more young people than at her youth group! Fellowship is important for Tegan as she says seeking wise counsel and support is really helpful as a young Christian. “My Confirmation was amazing. I was so grateful to everyone at Escalls Chapel who had encouraged me on my journey and came along that evening to support me.”
Tegan’s Confirmation also symbolises the power of churches together, one church reaching out to another and working together to grow the faith of a young person.
What is striking about Tegan is how unphased she is about her faith. It is who she is. It’s not something she shouts about to classmates but quietly wears with calm assurance, helping her to navigate the complexities of being a teenager in today’s society. “Praying is really important, it’s very comforting,” she says, “And so is reading the Bible.”
“Praying is really important, it’s very comforting,” she says, “And so is reading the Bible.”
Tegan enjoys life at her chapel but understands why there are so few young people in churches today. “There is very little, in church, on a Sunday, for people of my age – usually it is Sunday School or adult services. My church is lovely and livelier, I think, than most but it isn’t designed for my age group. So I help out and try to tune in to the sermons.”
Tegan says that sometimes she loses heart but is helped by the supportive network around her. She’s buoyed up by events like Creation Fest and the prospect of a Christian sailing holiday for young people that’s on her horizon. “I might be the only teenager on Sundays, but being encouraged by others to see the bigger picture beyond the chapel walls really helps.”
“I might be the only teenager on Sundays, but being encouraged by others to see the bigger picture beyond the chapel walls really helps.”
That bigger picture reached up to the sky when The Fly Jesus project came to her Chapel. “It was a great project – enabling a plane to fly across the horizon of hundreds of thousands of people at festivals across the country with a trailing banner that read “Jesus loves everyone 1 of U.”
And what of these heavy weight church bells? “I began ringing because I wanted to learn a new skill for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. As my time came to an end a call came out for Ringing Remembers, to ring the bells across the country to commemorate Armistice Day. It was a very special thing to be part of and I’ve stayed – the bells at St Buryan are very heavy, but I’ve got used to them!”
Tegan also contributes to the St John Ambulance. It’s something she started as she thought she might want to pursue a career in paramedics. She’s not so sure anymore but values knowing how to give CPR and even prevented someone from choking once by employing the Heimlich manoeuvre.
It was a joy to meet Tegan. When asked if there was a message she wanted to get across, she said, “I know that a lot of young people struggle with the tension between science and God. I really love science and don’t see it as a barrier to being a Christian. Both are amazing.”
“I know that a lot of young people struggle with the tension between science and God. I really love science and don’t see it as a barrier to being a Christian. Both are amazing.”