Barros family

Photo courtesy of Leesa Wilson

Leonardo Barros, center, is now serving as the new minister of worship and outreach at Immanuel Baptist Church in Temple. Barros is pictured with his family: his son, Daniel; his wife, Claudiane; youngest son, Lucas; and daughter Leticia.

A vibrato note has been struck at Immanuel Baptist Church in Temple, with the arrival of Leonardo Barros, the church’s new minister of worship and outreach, who led his first worship service last Sunday, Oct. 10.

Born and raised in Brazil, Barros came to the United States about 10 years ago on a student visa, said Ron Milne, church pastor. When the church began its search for a new worship leader, it was looking for someone international, he said.

“We are aware of how Texas in general and Central Texas also are becoming more international,” he said. “I think Houston now has more internationals in it than New York City. As part of our outreach, we want to begin reaching more internationals.”

Barros received a master’s degree in instrumental conducting from Campbellsville University in Kentucky, Milne said. He then earned a doctorate in choral conducting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

“He is musically very talented,” Milne said.

His principal instrument is a viola and he has played in professional orchestras, the pastor said. He also plays the guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano and other instruments.

“He has extensive knowledge in technical audio video,” Milne said. “He speaks Portuguese and Spanish and we’re working on Texan for him.”

“Part of what attracted us to him was that he had a joy-filled faith,” Milne said. “I feel that over time the congregation —it’s emotional tone — is somewhat set by the worship leader. And he’s a man of deep faith and a kind of joy that spills out of him.”

Another thing, Milne said, is that the church leadership wanted someone who can both lead worship and be proficient with the choir.

“It is difficult to find someone who is balanced in that,” he said. “Some worship leaders prefer the small contemporary praise group. Some prefer choir. Few do both fully well.”

While working on his doctorate in Fort Worth, Barros said, he served as a part-time music minister at New Hope Baptist Church in Mansfield. He and his young family moved to Chicago in 2017, where he was the worship arts minister at Armitage Baptist Church for four years.

“Then I decided to come back to Texas,” he said. “We had peace in our hearts to accept the position here. My wife moved Sept. 15 and I moved here a week ago.”

His wife, Claudiane, got their three children enrolled in school for the fall semester. Their daughter, Leticia, is a senior at Temple High School. Their oldest son, Daniel, is a sophomore. Lucas is in the third grade at Kennedy-Powell Elementary School.

Leticia and Daniel were both born in Brazil, their father said. However, the family moved to the U.S. in 2011, when Daniel was 4 years old. He learned to read and write in English. Leticia had already learned to read and write in Portuguese, so she speaks a little better Portuguese than her brother, he said.

The family took English as a Second Language, he said, and learned to speak English in one year. Because everybody was studying the new language, they decided to speak it at home.

Sometimes, he said, when he and his wife ask the children a question in Portuguese, they understand but they answer in English. If his mom or someone from Brazil visits, he said, the children struggle to say some words in Portuguese.

“I definitely love to lead the worship in church,” Barros said. “We love to build community outside the church, to invest in people’s lives, and we love to use the music to reach people for Christ. I love to have songs that point to Jesus, songs that bring understanding and help us to know who Jesus and God is, so I really love Christ-centered songs at church.”

“Music is one of the tools that help people draw near to God in worship,” he said. “I hope I can accomplish that here at Immanuel. That’s my desire.”

He intends at some point, possibly as early as this spring, to open a music academy at the church, teaching both instruments and voice. Ultimately, he would like to expand that to include other arts.