Currently based in Derby, UK, Abi Gledhill has released her brand new EP Meet Me Here. Gledhill has been a part of leading worship at St Werburgh's Church for the past 3 years. She gained experiences from living both in various places in the UK and in Winnipeg, Canada. Throughout 2021, Gledhill has been releasing singles from her debut EP.
We are honored to catch up with Abi for this exclusive interview.
Q: Abi, thank you for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself, tell us about your faith journey, and how you came to know Christ?
Thank you so much for having me, I'm so grateful for your support. I was raised in a Christian family with missionary grandparents, so I've always been surrounded by the Christian faith and regularly heard incredible stories of God from those around me.
Personally, I have struggled with anxiety since I was a kid and it got increasingly worse throughout my teen years and into my twenties. Back in 2018 there was an event which completely threw me and caused me to seriously doubt God and His presence in my life. The months that followed were a whirlwind of emotions, confusion and anger, and a whole lot of questions, but I came out of it knowing that God had been with me in every single moment; He held me and saw me through. That is when my relationship with God became so real and personal. I hold onto Him with everything in me.
Q: I believe you are currently a worship leader in Derby, UK, tell us more about your ministry there.
St Werburgh's Church Derby has been my home church since they planted in Derby back in 2017 and I joined the worship team as soon as I could. I did an internship with them in 2018/19 which also included the Worship Central Academy which enabled me to develop further as a worship leader. Worship at the church is on an exciting journey and we're looking forward to seeing God continue to move in people's lives as we come expectant for what He can do. I'm passionate about encouraging people to bring everything to God, to bring the messy parts, not just the 'picture perfect' parts - He wants it all.
I have just recently made the move to Southampton to begin studying at the university - I am so excited to find a church here and see how God is moving in this city!
Q: On your website, you mentioned that you struggled with mental health, can you share with us some of your struggles?
Yes, of course. As I previously mentioned, anxiety has had a huge effect on my life. My mental health throughout my teen years was not good, I struggled to cope, and it really took its toll on my overall health and ability to live as I wanted to. Growing up I was convinced that I had to be perfect for God and no less than that, rather than take what I was honestly feeling to Him. This translated in how I approached relationships with the people around me and so I kept everything hidden inside, pushing it deeper and deeper, pretending it was fine. But this wasn't healthy and had a major impact on my mental health due to the building pressure. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Then, having, I guess what would be called, a mental breakdown at the age of 20 due to anxiety and panic was definitely not in the life plan, but God met me in a whole new way during this time - I really do believe He turns things around for good and that He's healing brokenness even if we're convinced that He's not moving. Where I am now is a very different place to where I was; I'm still on this journey, but it is so much better.
Q: You also mentioned that you hope your new EP will open people up to talk about mental health. How do these new songs speak to this issue?
I wrote these five songs throughout the time where I was beginning to understand my own mental health and as expressions of the journey that I was on. They are songs of comfort, of healing, honesty, raw emotions, and vulnerability: conversations with Jesus. 'Even When' emerged out of a time where I had to take time off work due to mental health issues. I hope that in me being honest about what I was experiencing that it will encourage others to feel able to be open and honest about what they are going through. The stigma surrounding mental health needs to change and through sharing vulnerably I really believe that things can change. From growing up in Church, the stigma surrounding mental health problems within Christianity has been concerning and has had a personal impact - it has significantly shifted for the better, but there is still a long way to go - it takes vulnerability to really change the way mental illness is viewed and my prayer is that these songs can encourage others to know that it really is ok not to be ok and God will never leave you in that place.
Q: What were some of the highlights in the making of this new record?
So many! The whole experience was so enjoyable - completely overwhelming and surreal, but SO fun! Working with Jake Stimson of TwentyFourSeven Music was a major highlight - I met Jake at Big Church Day Out in 2019 through mutual friends. I would not be where I am without all his support and insane talent. He is a producer, songwriter and musician and has become a great friend. He has encouraged and supported me in navigating being an independent artist. The whole creative process has been a highlight, being able to incorporate other passions of art, design and photography into this record has been such a release personally. Delving deeper into creativity and the stories behind the songs has been a very fulfilling experience.
Q: Why did you call the record "Meet Me Here"? What have you learnt after meeting him through these songs?
'Meet Me Here', this collection of songs, are the story of the moments God has met me exactly where I was: the moments of questioning, of anger and confusion, of overwhelming anxiety and in each and every panic attack, moments of aching and moments of breaking, but also moments of hope and joy, moments of freedom and trusting, moments of closeness, of being held in the middle of fear. I pray that these songs can help bring language to what others may be experiencing, that they can know that He will meet them right where they are. He is not disappointed; He is not ashamed. No matter how broken you think you may be, no matter the pain that you are feeling, He will still meet you there. He's continually teaching me to press into what He's doing in the waiting, in the quiet, and moments of confusion, He's teaching me how to let go and allow Him to hold me in that moment.
Q: What's in the near future? Do you have more new music in the horizon?
I do have more music coming soon, yes! I've been spending lots of time writing, especially over the last 18 months throughout the pandemic, and believe God has been encouraging me to release the songs that have emerged out of that journey in particular. I'm super excited to see what God has planned.
Q: How can our readers learn more about you and your music?
I think the best way is to follow me on Instagram and Spotify and check out my website - I often post about life in general, mental health and, of course, my dog Cooper! Also, there's something exciting coming to my YouTube very soon so if you subscribe to my channel, you can be notified and be one of the first to see what said 'exciting thing' is! All the support and encouragement I have received on this journey means more than I could ever express, I am so incredibly grateful for all the love and kindness shown and for the incredible people God has placed in my life.