The three hundred year span of time from 1640 to 1940 saw the development of great variety in congregational singing throughout America. Beginning with the Psalters of the first colonists, Americans contributed widely varying styles of songs and hymns, culminating with the popular and influential gospel song.
The preceding article traced the outlines of the revivalist music tradition in both Europe and America. The following article looks more closely at the church music in the period of American colonization and revolution. Church music during this period was based on European models, especially the Psalm singing of the Calvinists. Later, the rise of singing schools and the presence of groups such as the Moravians and Shakers produced church music that was distinctively American.
Sadly the Indians came to be regarded as wards of the Government, and it became national policy to place them on specified reservations. The missionaries sent out by Eastern societies were the only groups sympathetic to this maltreatment and they tried to help by building schools, churches, and clinics.
The Moravians were never ambitious to become a great church, but in proportion to their numbers they surpassed all other Protestant bodies in foreign missions. At a time when missionary work was scarcely conceived by other Christian denominations, they were undertaking the most heroic tasks in such difficult countries as Greenland, Lapland, and the West Indies, though they had small resources and their missionaries were mostly untrained. The time came when they had more than twice as many members on their foreign mission fields as in their home churches. America proved an asylum for the Moravians, as it did for so many other religious refugees. They mostly settled in Pennsylvania, where Zinzendorf visited and organized them with churches, schools, and industries.
James Montgomery, the son of a Moravian minister; was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1771. He became a renowned poet and abandoned the Christian faith. At the age of 43, he repented of his sinful condition and joined the Moravian congregation at Fulneck.
John Cennick was born in Berkshire, England in 1718. At the age of 17 he joined the Methodist church and became a preacher.
Count (Nickolaus Ludwig) von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), the founder of the religious community of Herrnhut and the apostle of the United Brethren, was born in Dresden in1700. It is not often that noble blood and worldly wealth are allied with true piety and missionary zeal.
John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism, attended Oxford University in 1720 and was ordained deacon in 1725. He returned to Oxford in 1729 and became the leader of the “holy club” or Methodists, which had been organized during his absence by his brother, Charles.