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
influenced to join the faith after this experience. We were very welcomed by the church community and they delivered a service that was so inspiring that it almost bought me to tears. Congratulations on a well planned & delivered event.”
“Had a wonderful time on the Harlem Spirituals tour, when my folks came over from Italy in August,” writes another. “My parents didn’t know what to expect, and neither did my kids, since I typically would have taken them all to other places. But I’m glad we went. Great and moving service, great singers, great tour guide. My parents are still talking about it!!! ”
The Abyssinian Baptist Church is perhaps the most popular tourist magnet. There visitors are often turned away because the pews are too full. It has a two-page “Tourist Policy,” which explains that gawkers are banned from the 9 a.m. service, as well as the 11 a.m. service on certain special days — and are required to wait outside a designated “Tourist Entry Point,” unless they have made group reservations allowed for school groups, church groups, and family reunions.
Sad that the crowds have necessitated such rules, longtime congregation member Dabney Montgomery, 88, a Tuskegee Airman during World War II and a civil rights activist, told the Daily Mail that he believes tourists walk away richer for the experience.
“In listening to the Gospel, they get something out that they didn’t expect,” he said. “The word of God.”