For David Leonard, a worship leader and recording artist in Nashville, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed to him just how much he relied on a room full of people when he performed.
“That has been extremely convicting,” he told Faithwire earlier this week. “Because it’s like now, well, am I leading for them or am I simply OK with just leading in the presence of God? That’s been a really challenging thing, and I’ve had to check myself on it majorly.”
Leonard, one half of the since-disbanded duo All Sons & Daughters, said he is certain he “will lead differently because of this,” referring to the church closures brought on by the pandemic, which forced many congregations to meet online.
Under normal circumstances, Christians are together — in-person — during worship services, which brings with it a natural charisma. Whether it’s the swelling of the melody or the fervor of the pastor’s preaching or the energetic responses of fellow church-goers, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, leaving us to wonder how much of what we feel is truly spiritual and what’s circumstantial. The pandemic has given us time to really explore that.
It has also impacted the songwriting process, Leonard said.
With a laugh, he explained that recording and writing in solitude has been a “telling” process, revealing when a song “isn’t very good.”
“Because you can’t hide behind anything,” he said. “You literally, like, the lyrics, the melodies, they shine through in different ways that aren’t greatly dictated by the production of what’s happening, so it’s been telling.”
In August, Leonard released a new EP — his second record since going solo.
The first track of “Open House Sessions,” a compilation of tracks he recorded for his home church in Franklin, Tennessee, is “Heart of Worship,” a song first released by Matt Redman in 1999, and one familiar to most people who grew up in church in the early 2000s.
The first verse of the song is:
When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart
I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart
In 2020, Leonard explained, so many of us are experiencing the reality described in those lyrics in ways we never have before.
“I’ve realized through all of this that a lot of my experiences with God have happened in those communal spaces, whether it’s a big crowd or a worship service at your church or whatever,” he said. “A lot of it has been dictated by those environments and the moments that have been more individualistic, they tend to fall in the back, because they just don’t speak as loud as those other moments — those other moments are these grand moments.”
For Leonard, facing the pandemic has helped him realize the most formative moments of our faith often happen is the midst of difficult seasons.
“It’s what we do and what we establish in these moments that, in turn, take us into the next moments with skills that we never had if we wouldn’t have walked through this,” he said. “[This season] is bringing foundational things that I will carry with me forever.”