search Buscar

    New York Gospel Mass: how and where to attend Harlem services

    Who I am
    Lluis Enric Mayans

    Item Feedback:

    content warning

    To talk about the New York gospel mass, the first thing we get to do is stick to the rich Hollywood filmography on the subject. Of course, everyone has their own cinematographic background and their specific tastes, and therefore I will limit myself to mentioning the first two films that, among the countless, come to mind (knowing, however, to break through an open door): Sister Act e The Blues Brothers. To be fair, the first is set in Nevada, the second in Chicago, Illinois, but this only confirms one fact: the gospel mass it is a religious event deeply felt by the African American communities throughout the United States.

    The fact remains that, if you intend to have the unique experience of attending a gospel mass, in New York you can do it in the characteristic neighborhood of Harlem, known to be the African American neighborhood of Manhattan, although it would be worth talking about melting pot, given and considered the richness and variety of the social fabric of a multi-ethnic neighborhood like this one.

    In this article I would like to give you some indications on how and where to attend one messa gospel a New York, also suggesting a couple of tour including a church service in one of the churches in the Harlem suburbs. In this regard, I will not fail to give you some important tips on how to behave when you are in church: although the gospel mass has now become a tourist phenomenon, it is good to remember that it is still a religious service, and the faithful may sometimes turn up their noses if they do not have adequate behavior.


    • Gospel Mass in New York: which churches are to visit?
    • Catholic Gospel Mass
    • Map of churches with Gospel choir in New York
    • Harlem gospel mass: how to behave?
    • New York Gospel Mass (with Harlem tour): two options
      • Harlem Gospel Choir Tour on Sunday Morning
      • Harlem Gospel Music Discovery Tour on Wednesday mornings
    • Gospel New York: City Pass and other options!

    Gospel Mass in New York: which churches are to visit?

    Abyssinian Baptist Church

    Most of the gospel masses as we understand them are from Christian-Baptist rite, and have a minimum duration of 2 hours: some functions can last up to 3 hours! The masses with Gospel choir in New York tend to begin at 11. The four most famous churches in Harlem are as follows:

    • Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W 138th St), one of the oldest and most famous Baptist churches in Harlem, where tourists stay in a section of the church separate from the faithful;
    • Canaan Baptist Church (132 W 116th St);
    • Convent Avenue Baptist Church (420 W 145th St);
    • Greater Hood Memorial AME Zion Church (160 W 146th St).

    Aside from the Canaan Baptist Church which - like the neighbor First Corinthian Baptist Church (1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd) - is located close to the north side of Central Park, the other three churches are all enclosed in a very circumscribed perimeter that coincides with the Northern borders of Harlem.

    This means that, if you have a free Sunday morning, you can also take a stroll around Harlem reaching them all, to enjoy the festive atmosphere that pervades the whole neighborhood. However, my advice is to choose just a church and to stay for the duration of the function: the faithful do not look favorably on tourists who leave after half an hour from the start of the mass.

    Harlem accommodation available

    As we anticipated, the New York gospels in Harlem have become - over time - a real one tourist attraction, with the pros and cons that this entails: in all likelihood, on Sunday morning you will find the aforementioned churches full of tourists who wish to attend mass, but it is also true that religious services will be particularly cared for e "Choreographic". In some cases, you may even witness strange celebrations in style hip hop (for example, at the Greater Hood Memorial AME Zion Church).

    If, on the other hand, you are not going to slip into such touristy churches, you could look for, map in hand, one of these:

    • Salem United Methodist Church (211 W 129th St)
    • Metropolitan Baptist Church (151 W 128th St)
    • Bethel Gospel Assembly (1832 Madison Ave)
    • The Great Refuge Temple (2081 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd)

    ... or find a church yourself: it is said that in Harlem there are "a bar on every street corner and a church on every block": if you are lucky, you will also find functions where there is not even a shadow of a tourist!

    Catholic Gospel Mass

    Usually this type of mass is of Protestant confession however it is also possible to attend Catholic functions, an example? The Parish of St. Charles Borromeo, in north Harlem. The address is 211 W 141st Street. To find out about the times of the masses, you can directly consult the official website.

    Map of churches with Gospel choir in New York

    Harlem gospel mass: how to behave?

    The beauty of the song and the sincere religious sentiment of the gospel services will strike you deeply, and you will not hesitate to define theexhilarating and transcendental experience, as well as humanly enriching: in most cases, you will be greeted as confreres or old friends from church members. However, before you go, it is good to pay a little attention.

    The faithful cannot bear sufficiency behaviors during the function: although the mass sometimes seems more like a rock concert than a religious celebration, the faithful perceive the function as a moment of great spirituality; it follows that they hardly tolerate the chatter during the celebration or the constant flashes of the tourists' cameras. Avoid behaving carelessly and above all avoid giving them the impression that what you are witnessing is a ridiculous staging, do not misunderstand their enthusiasm by trivializing it. Rather get involved in the music and the rhythm, experiencing this moment in first person, and not as mere spectators!

    As anticipated, avoid leaving halfway through the service, maintaining an attitude of profound respect and religious silence; dress appropriately, avoiding shorts, t-shirts and tank tops: in some cases, they may not even let you in.

    Finally, I recommend you to arrive early because once the maximum capacity is filled, the churches close their doors and there is a risk of being left with a dry mouth; in some cases (especially for the more famous churches) if you arrive late, the security officers may refuse to let you in, using methods also little Christians!

    New York Gospel Mass (with Harlem tour): two options

    If that's not enough for you to watch one as protagonists Harlem gospel mass, but you want to experience as complete as possible spirit of the neighborhood - knowing Harlem's customs, history and culinary traditions - you can choose one of the following organized tours:

    Harlem Gospel Choir Tour on Sunday Morning

    Sunday guided tour (About 4 hours) of the Harlem district, with stops at some places of historical and cultural importance, such as "City College, Morning Side Heights, Morris Jumel Mansion, Sylvan Terrace, Striver's Row, Abyssinian Church, Duke Ellington's home on St. Nicholas Avenue, 125th Street, Harlem USA, the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater ”(cit. Viator) and much more. This beautiful tour obviously includes admission to a gospel function and, optionally, a brunch dedicated to Soul Food local. Here is what is included in the price:

    • Harlem Guided Tour (available in Spanish)
    • Walking tour in the residential neighborhoods area
    • Gospel function
    • Soul Food Brunch (optional)

    Book on Viator

    Harlem Gospel Music Discovery Tour on Wednesday mornings

    If you are not in New York on Sunday but do not want to lose a close contact with the spirit of the New York gospel masses, you can take advantage of this 4-hour tour, which however takes place on Wednesday morning. In this case you can take advantage of a guided tour in the Harlem neighborhoods and finally attend a gospel singing performance by theARC (Rehabilitation center for drug addicts). Here too, at your choice, it is possible to include a typical lunch in the offer. Here is what is included in the price:

    • Gospel music concert at the ARC (Rehabilitation Center for Drug Addicts)
    • Harlem Residential Neighborhood Walking Tour (available in Spanish)
    • Ingresso allo Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
    • Soul Food Brunch (optional)

    Book on Viator

    Gospel New York: City Pass and other options!

    If you are going to take one of the several City Pass per New York, please note that only the New York Pass includes in the offer a lap of Gospel masses in New York. Finally, at the following link, you will also find other tours and activities to consider if you want to get to know the culture and spirituality of the New York gospel masses, in the district of Harlem:

    All Harlem Gospel Mass Tours

    add a comment from New York Gospel Mass: how and where to attend Harlem services
    Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.