Worship and Music - Ethnomusicology


Master of Arts (MA)


John Benham

Primary Subject Area

American Studies; Music; Religion, General; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies; Black Studies


African-American, black, multi-cultural, multi-racial, Music, Worship


African American Studies | Christianity | Ethnic Studies | Ethnomusicology | Liturgy and Worship | Music | Race and Ethnicity | Religion


The Worldwide Church of God began as a denomination relying on certain Jewish practices and other Euro-centric distinctions to define its' identity. In the New York City area, African-American churchgoers exceeded that of whites; yet church liturgy retained its European-American flavor. When the denomination underwent transformation in the 1990s, many congregants were unable to accept changes, including new musical styles, and reacted in a manner inconsistent with what church leaders had hoped for. This thesis examines what some African-Americans experienced during this period when liturgy changed to include music representative of their culture. Interviews were conducted with African-American churchgoers from five congregations representing this region. Follow-up group meetings were conducted to share research results with participants, and to receive their feedback. Conclusions and recommendations for both clergy and laity are provided, with the goal of broadening appreciation for musical aesthetics of others not of the same race or culture.