Should you find yourself in New York City on a Sunday, there’s something you must not miss. Put on your Sunday best, because you are going to church – specifically, a black Protestant church, up in the northern Manhattan neighbourhood of Harlem or the next borough up, the Bronx.
Accessible by subway (Underground) and public bus, these areas have had a tough reputation, but many thousands of visitors per year stroll the streets up here – always keeping in mind the precautions everyone needs to take in any large city – and the payoff is one of the great and authentic experiences of travel.
How to choose which church to attend? You have a couple of options. You can go it on your own, researching online ahead of time, then show up at the church that most appeals to you; you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Or you can sign up for one of the bus excursions which a number of Manhattan tour operators run to various black churches.
Top choices include churches such as Faith Mission Christian Fellowship International (160-164 West 129 Street), where pastor Kerry A. Gulston and his congregation will invite you to observe from the back rows. Once you’re in place, you’ll get to lose yourself in the joyous singing, dancing, and preaching. And afterward, quite often congregation members will come up to welcome you and thank you for sharing their worship service. Sometimes they’ll chat with you, asking where you’re from, and share a bit of their lives with you.
It’s an experience guaranteed to leave you with a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes – certainly one of the most emotional experiences of your visit to New York; it’s an experience of theatrical proportions, but in real life.
And speaking of theatrical, why not also check out our advice for scoring discount tickets to an amazing Broadway show?
Photo | US Embassy Sweden