Gospel Music in Harlem and the Rest of New York City
You don’t have to take a Harlem gospel tour to hear gospel music in New York City. All you need to do is some research and advance planning. Here’s some information to help you visit a gospel church in NYC. It’s as close as the Theater District (video below shows the Adult Praise Choir from the Times Square Church). Of course, if this seems daunting, you might consider a guided tour. (en español)
If you are considering purchasing a tourist discount pass, keep in mind many gospel experiences are included free.
TIPS AND ETIQUETTE: helpful tips on experiencing Gospel music without a costly tour.
Find out service schedules ahead of time – Churches have services at different times, and not all services include a choir. Look at a church’s website or call ahead to decide when to visit.
Know your etiquette – Many church websites have a visitors pages. Read this information to spare yourself being scolded. Showing up in jeans and flip flops is inappropriate. Be sure to turn off your cell phone ringer, and unless you are permitted to do so, do not take photos or videos.
Most important –do remember that these are religious services, not musical performances – The forces driving the sermons and the congregations listening to them are the same forces that drive the human spirit. Be prepared to experience the whole service, which could take 2 hours or more. If you want an experience similar to a Broadway Show, consider the Harlem Gospel Choir for Sunday Brunch at BB Kings. Check out Goldstar first to see if they have any offers of discounted and even free admission.
Give yourself enough time – Services with a choir singing will also include a sermon, and not only are the sermons quite moving, it can be considered rude to leave in the middle– so give yourself enough time to enjoy the whole service.
Consider making a small donation to the church. Congregations are happy to have visitors and share their celebrations, but no church and choir can get by without the support of its members and guests. Religious organizations are non-profits that provide many valuable services to their communities. Even a dollar or two is appreciated.
Avoid the tourist crowds. Consider visiting a smaller congregation– the experience will be just as special and that less crowded.
Times Square Church – 1657 Broadway. The Times Square Church is located in a renovated Broadway Theater in the heart of Midtown Manhattan and is an interdenominational church with members from over 100 nationalities. Their Adult Praise Choir (video above) perform 4x per week. They minister weekly during the Sunday 10 am and 6 pm services, and Tuesday 7 pm prayer service. Check their schedule for additional details.
Brooklyn Tabernacle – The Brooklyn Tabernacle’s choir is 40 years old but better than ever. In 2013 they were invited to sing to the Nation at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. The Tabernacle is located in easily-reachable Downtown Brooklyn at 17 Smith Street between Livingston and Fulton Streets (718) 290-2000. Sunday services are at 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm. Extra Bonus: If you are in Brooklyn anyway, way not take our Brooklyn Heights tour which starts just a few blocks from the Tabernacle.
OTHER PLACES TO HEAR GOSPEL MUSIC IN NEW YORK CITY
If you prefer to visit a congregation in Harlem, try to steer clear of the larger congregations, some of which are so popular with tourists, visitors are sometimes turned away for lack of space in the pews. Still, they are popular for a reason—the sermons and choir and services are magnificent. Some of the larger churches are located in Harlem and they are:
Abyssinian Baptist Church – 420 W 145th Street between Convent and St. Nicholas Avenues (212) 234-6767. Sunday services at 9 am and 11 am. The congregation welcomes those who would like to worship with them. They discourage visitors who are only looking for a gospel performance.
Greater Refuge Temple – 2081 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. at 124th Street (212) 866-1700. Sunday services are at 11 am, 4 pm, and 7:30 pm.
Mount Neboh Baptist Church – 1883 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. between West 114th West 115 Streets. Streets. (212) 866-7880. Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am.
Canaan Baptist Church – 132 W. 116th Street between Lenox & 7th Aves. (212) 866-0301. Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am. Sunday service at 10 am (during the summer).
First Corinthian Baptist Church – 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. between West 115th and West 116th Streets (212) 864-5976. Sunday services are at 8 am and 11 am.
Bethel Gospel Assembly – 2-26 East 120th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues, (212) 860-1510. Sunday Services: 8:00 am and 11:30 am. *Please be advised to double check times yourself.
There are plenty of organized tours that will take you on a Sunday gospel tour. Harlem Spirituals offers a wide arrange to gospel themed bus tours, including jazz and brunch tours. All gospel-themed tours operate on Wednesdays and Sundays. Get $5 off their Sunday Gospel and Soul Food bus tour with Trusted Tours.
Video is of Gospel and Soul Food Tour
Wednesday Gospel Bus + Walking Tour – This tour lasts 4.5 hours, includes a 1 hour gospel church service and ends at a famous soul food restaurant (food not included). They do offer a tour that includes the lunch and lasts for an additional hour.
Departs at 9 am from the Times Square Area
Available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese
2 hour walking tour and 2 hour gospel church service
Harlem One Stop is a arts and cultural initiative that also offers gospel-themed tours of Harlem. They offer a 11:30 am and 5:30 pm walking tour on Wednesdays. The cost is $25/person. You will need to make your own way to Harlem for the tour stating points.
If you are planning on purchasing the New York Passor the Explorer Pass, please note that both include two free gospel experiences, a 9:30 a.m. Sunday gospel walk and a Wednesday evening walk. Both include gospel experiences. Check out our blog post to review whether the New York Pass is worth it for you.
We offer two gospel tour experiences. Be sure to check out our pay-what-you-like Harlem Gospel and Soul Food Experience. Unlike the church services listed below, there is no dress code for this tour and performance, and there is no waiting in line. Come as you wish, pay what you wish.
NOTE: THIS TOUR IS NOT CURRENTLY RUNNING, BUT WE HOPE TO OFFER IT AGAIN IN SUMMER 2017
To learn more about Harlem and visit many of its main attractions, join us for our free Harlem Walking Tour. Be sure to reserve a spot now! We can show you where some of the churches we list below are located on our free New York tours.