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

 

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source of irritation among faithful churchgoers. To preserve the sanctity of the service, pastors struggle to enforce strict rules of conduct. But the reality is that these visitors are often filling church pews that would otherwise remain empty.

The crowd is spellbound (Photo by Grupo Tom Brasil)

Congregation member Carlos Smith-Ramsey says he dislikes being filmed by gawking tourists. “I understand that you’re visiting and you want to have a memory of it,” he told the Daily Mail. “But when we ask you to stop and you continue to do so after the fact, that’s disrespectful.”

However, he appreciates the visitors often filling pews as well as the collection plates.

“Our building is in need of repair,” church member Paul Henderson said after the service. “We need assistance. They’re helping to sustain us.”

Tourists “want to see what they’ve seen on television,” says Larcelia Kebe, president of Harlem Your Way! Tours Unlimited. “They want to see what they’ve seen in the movies.”

The gawking tourists can be intimidating (Photo by Fotografartifici)

“The Gospel tour industry has exploded since it was born in the early 1980s,” reports the Daily Mail. “On a busy summer Sunday, Harlem Spirituals, one of the oldest and largest tour operators, might run 15 full buses, said Erika Elisabeth, a company vice president.”

And the glowing reviews continue to pour in: “This fantastic event was the highlight of our New York holiday,” writes Craig N. from Australia. “I am not a religious person, but I could have been easily

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