Gospel New York

Sister Act 1 and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit – both two of my favorite movies growing up, so it’s only natural I felt the need to head to Harlem in New York to see some of the best of the best gospel choirs money could give to the donation basket.

Sunday morning in Harlem at Church is the place to be if you are looking to hear some amazing soulful singing.  Lunchtime in Harlem after Church is also the place to be if you are looking to eat some amazing fried chicken and waffles.

My first visit to hear Gospel was when I came to New York on a holiday in the winter. Since then, I am the eager and willing tourist guide for Church on Sundays when friends come to visit.

My first visit was to Bethel Gospel Assembly at 120th St. and I have been back a number of times since. The church is very welcoming and encourages visitors to attend. Services are on Sunday at 8 am and 11:30 am. In my opinion, the 8 am service will not only be less busy but provide a more intimate experience. I am in love with this congregation because of dedicated song that they sing to the visitors during the service and walk around shaking hands.

Greater Refuge Temple is exactly what you imagine a Gospel Service to be like with singing, shouting, foot stomping and arm waving. Look out for the most elegantly dressed women all prim and proper until the music starts and then the tambourines come out of their matching bags.

First Corinthian Baptist Church is a beautiful huge cathedral-like building and the most modern of churches I have been to.

Many of the churches are very welcoming to visitors, but it is important to remember this is still a house of worship and not simply musical show.

Here are some tips for experiencing the beautiful sounds of gospel.

–    Arrive early. If you can get to the first service of the morning, it will be less busy and probably more intimate.

–    Dress appropriately – Ask yourself, “Would you want grandma seeing you dressed like that? If not, change. 

–    Make a contribution to the donation basket. These ‘performances’ are worthy of Broadway; contribute something small since you didn’t pay Broadway prices.

If you have time after church, head over to Sylvia’s for some more live singing and fried chicken.

Steph_profHerstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.

Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.

Connect with her on the web, Facebook and Twitter