Tourists pack the pews of Harlem's churches

“The service was beautiful and uplifting,” writes a British tourist rating the experience at five stars. Her 16-year-old son commented if all churches were like that, "more people would go." Maybe that explains the long lines around the block.

BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor

 

Gawking European tourists are paying to stand in long lines so they can enjoy a unique New York City experience — the legendary Gospel music of Harlem’s black churches.

Having to turn away crowds of international visitors are a number of evangelical neighborhood churches famous for their joyous choirs, sermons delivered in dramatic traditional cadence and unabashed congregations with an exuberant style of worshiping Jesus.

A poster aimed at NYC visitors from Spain and Latin America

“Experience the soul-stirring power of Gospel at a church worship service,” reads a tourist guide sales pitch offering half-day excursions for cruise ship passengers. “See the Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club. Option to add lunch of Soul Food available.”

“Take a guided tour through Harlem’s charming tree-lined streets and historic districts,” reads another, “before attending a worship service in a local church, where you will experience the soul-stirring power of Gospel music.”

That’s right, foreign tourists in New York City are paying $55 and $65 to go to church.

Members and tourists pack the pews. (Photo by HS NYV Tours)

“Out of respect for congregants, we ask you not to wear shorts, tank tops and flip flops,” cautions one website, which offers tour packages in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. “Cameras and camcorders are not allowed inside the church.”

And the on-line reviews are glowing: The service was beautiful, very uplifting and “everything that you would expect a Gospel service to be,” wrote a British tourist who rated the experience the full five

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