Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Holm-Hudson


Songwriters have been creating music for the church for hundreds of years. The songs have gone through many stylistic changes from generation to generation, yet, each song has generated congregational participation. What measurable, traceable qualities of congregational songs exist from one generation to the next?

This document explores the history and development of Congregational Christian Song (CCS), to discover and document the similarities between seemingly contrasting styles of music. The songs analyzed in this study were chosen because of their wide popularity and broad dissemination among non-denominational churches in the United States. While not an exhaustive study, this paper reviews over 200 songs spanning 300 years of CCS. The findings of the study are that songs that have proven to be successful in eliciting participation all contain five common elements. These elements encourage congregations to participate in singing when an anticipation cue is triggered and then realized. The anticipation/reward theory used in this study is based on David Huron’s ITPRA (Imagination-Tension-Prediction-Reaction-Appraisal) Theory of Expectation.

This thesis is designed to aid songwriters and music theorists to quickly identify whether a CCS can be measured as successful (i.e., predictable).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)