First Advisor

Darrough, Galen

Second Advisor

Burleson, Jill

Document Type


Date Created



The purpose of this study was to examine musical thought among members of the Congolese Mennonite Church. Established and governed by missionaries, the music practices of the Church were initially modeled after Western services, which consisted of church choirs and four-part hymn singing. Congolese who chose to convert to Christianity had to adapt to a new musical system, which included not only properties of musical sound, but also concepts surrounding the music making experience, including what music is and what it has the power to accomplish. The church has now been in existence for over one hundred years, and musical changes have occurred in both sound and concept. This is an examination of those changes, with focus on the development of current forms and practices, the function of each form in the worship service, surrounding influences, and the points of debate that occurred with each stylistic shift. Additionally, the nature of music making and the boundaries between the sacred and profane are discussed. This was accomplished through traveling to DR Congo and employing the ethnographic techniques of interview and observation. Fifty men and women from thirteen different congregations were consulted, and observations occurred at choir rehearsals and church worship services, all within the city of Kinshasa, which is both the capital of DR Congo and its largest city. As a result, four categories of music were identified, as well as descriptions for their development and function in the worship service. A timeline was created from 1911 to the present, demonstrating the shift from one style of music to four styles of music. The timeline also encompasses surrounding influences and the topics for debate that accompanied each style change. Music making and musical thought were determined by numerous factors, both musical and extra-musical. The overarching purpose of music making has not changed from the mission era, but the boundaries that were initially established by missionaries were later challenged by Pentecostal churches in Kinshasa, especially churches in the revivalist movement. Additionally, in the midst of change, Congolese Mennonites continue to write their own songs and explore sonic possibilities, creating sounds that are distinct to each congregation and choir.

Abstract Format



Music; Musical Thought


135 pages

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Copyright is held by author.