Knocking on Harlem’s door

Some friends of friends came to visit NYC a few Sundays ago and they had an urge to see some Harlem Gospel.  Harlem is the neighbourhood in north Manhattan that’s famous for black cultural expressions like jazz and Gospel.  We picked a random Baptist church with a reasonable starting time and cautiously walked up their entranceway towards the sound of their chirpy gospels.

At the start, there was only a few singers up the front but soon everything stopped to make way for a slow, showy procession of sisters in full-length white robes, entering the room in a train like a sport team or a congo line.  That’s when the standing and singing really started happening.  The shameless tourists near us took videos and photos with an American portion of discretion.

We all had to get up and walk around the church 3 different times to be welcomed and give offerings.  Strangely enough, though, the bread and wine came to us rather than making us walk around again.  We were equal measures of appalled and fascinated when we realised that the wafers were vacuum sealed onto the tops of the grape juice cups.  It was like a little piece of Jesus in a single-serving package – consumerist capitalism at its finest.

The sermon was light on content and big on repetition and hallelujahs, as anticipated, but the lesson was clear.  The people were much more free and emotional than the studious, sobered circles that I grew up in.  It was certainly a unique experience but 2 hours and 40 mins was a bit excessive.  That was a little more Harlem shaking than we’d bargained for.

Info about Gospel in Harlem –

You know you’re in NYC when…
– The subway costs just $2.50 and you can go as far as you want on 337 kms worth of lines, 24 hrs a day!

2 Responses to “Knocking on Harlem’s door”
  1. Scotty says:

    Sounds awesome but I can’t go that long without a wee break.

  2. Annalisa Ramsay says:

    Great experience. Can we do this when we visit please.

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