Kristen Gilles is a worship leader and deacon at Louisville's multi-campus Sojourn Community Church. Her new CD Parker's Mercy Brigade is a story of faith, lament, comfort, healing and worship following the stillbirth of her son. We are honored to be able to chat with Kristen for this Hallels' exclusive interview;
Hallels: Kristen, thank you so much for the interview. For the sake of some of our readers who may not be familiar with you, can you briefly tell us who you are.
It's a privilege for me to do this interview-thank you for inviting me! I am a member of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY, and primarily serve there as one of several worship leaders and songwriters. I have the privilege of co-writing songs with my husband Bobby Gilles who also works as the Communications Director at Sojourn. I also work full-time as a legal administrative assistant at a law firm in Louisville. We live in New Albany, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville.
Hallels: Can you also describe your style of music?
I've tried to cultivate a style that's very accessible and familiar to contemporary worship teams and worshipers, so that the songs on Parker's Mercy Brigade will be singable and easy to lead in various churches. So you could say it's "worship pop" music but there are also elements of gospel and southern rock. And the aesthetic is very indie or classic rock, in the sense that the band and I recorded live, playing off each other, with very little overdubbing and no Auto-Tune.
Hallels: Congratulations on the release of "Parker's Mercy Brigade." The album is named after your stillborn Parker. We are so sorry to hear about this. If you don't mind, can you tell us what happened there?
Thank you for expressing your sadness over the stillbirth of our son Parker. I experienced a healthy full-term pregnancy with Parker and there were no signs of distress during the labor. Parker's heart just stopped beating and he was delivered by emergency c-section but unable to be revived. The Lord gave us Parker and He took Parker to live with Him. We have been greatly comforted by the reality of God's sovereignty, goodness and wisdom at work in all of this.
Hallels: During this very difficult time, what was (were) your source of strength(s) and healing?
God is forever our source of strength, comfort, peace and joy. He has poured out great grace to us as we've mourned and He's encouraged us through His Word, the members of His Church and through His Holy Spirit counseling and comforting us each day. The Lord has not failed to uphold us by His grace and love in all of our sorrow. He has greatly helped us to trust Him and praise Him even when grief pressed us to the dust. The God of All Comfort is our Strength, the Source of all our Joy, and the Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with our grief.
Hallels: Out of the songs on your new album, which song(s) ministered to you the most in your time of pain?
Chase Away My Unbelief has probably been the greatest help to me in the last 17 months since Parker died. This song gives adequate, honest expression to my pain while also helping me to pour my heart out in prayer to God who is able to chase away my doubt and remind me of His promises to make everything new when He returns. I'm so thankful God helped Bobby write these lyrics. The melody we recorded is exactly what I sang the first time I read the lyrics, just a few weeks after Parker was stillborn.
Even the Darkness Is Light to You was also particularly helpful in giving me a visual reminder that I am not hidden from God, ever. Not in my sadness, not in my sin. I memorized Psalm 139 shortly after we buried Parker and a few months after that as I was meditating on it again, I envisioned my grieving self being completely exposed by the light of God's grace and this realization of what was presently and always true encouraged me to my core. I knew that I was seen by God in my pain. His view of me was not obscured in the least by the darkness of my soul's anguish. And just as Parker's frame was not hidden from God's view in my womb, my frame, now riddled with grief, was not hidden from God's view either. This song continues to greatly comfort me.
Hallels: For our readers who may also have lost a child before, what encouragement do you have to offer?
The encouragement I have to offer is what I have received from God's Word: "Trust in God at all times, pour out your heart to Him for God is our Refuge." (Psalm 62:8) I know it's hard to trust Him in the face of deepest loss; and it's difficult to pour our hearts out to Him. We all want explanations for our suffering. But we are not entitled to them. It's good for us to recognize and submit to the reality that God alone has the right to rule. Everything He does is right, and He is faithful in all He promises. That's why we can trust what He does, what He allows, even when He doesn't explain Himself. So, I would encourage others to ask Him to help you trust Him. I have probably prayed for this help a million times. Quite often it was the only thing I could pray: "Lord, help me to trust You. Help me to trust Your Word. Help me to know that You are good, that You're working everything together for my good. Help me to praise You at all times." Also, acknowledge that you cannot bear the grief alone, and allow the Lord to comfort You through His people, through His Spirit, and through His Word. Ask Him to help you receive His care. Seek the Lord in your suffering. He will be found by you. He will let you find Him.
Hallels: If our readers would like to purchase your album or/and find out more about you, where can they go?
Parker's Mercy Brigade is available on iTunes and Amazon. We've also got both the CD and digital downloads available at KristenGilles.com. Beyond that, Bobby and I blog about worship, songwriting and life at mysonginthenight.com.