Churches are important in many communities but not all. Remember that there is one God (my viewpoint) but he established ZERO religions. All religions are man-made sets of rules for behavior and worship. God is all about one-on-one relationship. That is not meant to run down religion, because I think communal worship is important, and I think many people can almost always do more good than one. Religion has its place, but it is not a substitute for God or a substitute for a relationship with God.
There is no obligation to attend church in America. If you took that impression, either you misunderstood or the person misinformed you. In some small towns, it would be difficult for you to make many contacts without attending a church. There is a strong and real component of community wrapped up in churches in many smaller towns. However, there is no obligation or requirement. In fact, we have laws here that PREVENT employers from considering religion when hiring, promoting, demoting, or taking any other official employment action.
About music: attendance at churches here are waning too. Some churches found that a lot of people couldn't relate to the 18th and 19th century hymns that were being sung. So, for a variety of reasons but mostly so that people could use the singing portion of the service for meaningful worship time and also so that people attending could relate to the music better, some churches began using "contemporary" music rather than the old Wesleyan style hymns. Many churches mix it up, doing some of each. Some worship and praise bands have started doing modernized "rock" versions of the old hymns. They have so much meat in the lyrics that they're hard to ignore, but the style can be offputting to some. There's a lot of different ways that music is handled.
When I was playing in a worship & praise band, it didn't matter how we wanted to sound, everything came out as bluesy folk/pop. We played hymns, contemporary Christian, Christian rock, and even regular music you'd hear on the radio that has a spiritual component if it fit into the theme of the sermon. But it all sounded like bluesy folk/pop because of the odd mix of people playing. I have a blues background on bass. The lead guitarist is a metal-head. The worship leader/rhythm guitarist was a folk singer, and the drummer was self-taught listening to Christian rock. So we had blues, rock, folk, metal all represented in the band. Blend it together and you get blues folk/pop.
Hope that answers some questions. If it doesn't, next time you're in the states if you are in my neck of the woods (northern Virginia), I'll be happy to take you to church with me and introduce you to the band and our worship leader.
Granted B chord amnesty by King of the Mutants (Long live the king).
If it comes from the heart and you add a few beers... it'll be awesome! - Mekidsmom
When in doubt ... hats. - B.G. Dude