The Best Gospel Churches To Visit In NYC

New York City's gospel scene is a global magnet, drawing in visitors from far and wide to experience the transformative power of gospel music and the rich cultural tapestry that surrounds it.

November 29, 2023

A Guide to Gospel Music in NYC

New York City's gospel churches stand as enduring testaments to the city's rich cultural heritage and the transformative power of music. Rooted in the early days of African American congregations gathering in small storefront spaces, these institutions have evolved into vibrant centers of faith, community, and artistic expression, drawing visitors from around the world. Today, the city's gospel scene remains a vibrant force, resonating with the soulful melodies and heartfelt messages that have become synonymous with New York City's unique spirit.

Nowadays, there's a variety of ways to immerse yourself the city's gospel traditions. Enjoy a spirited Gospel Brunch at Sylvia's and Red Rooster, join Harlem Spirituals' Sunday Harlem Gospel Guided Tour, or even visit churches directly for open-door services. Below, you'll find a curated list of churches you can visit directly.

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Ok … On to the list

Gospel Churches in Harlem

Abyssinian Baptist Church

The most popular church is Abyssinian Baptist Church. It holds a gospel mass on Sundays that is not included in any tour, but is open to tourists who wish to attend. The mass is estimated to last two and a half hours, and it is frowned upon to leave before it is over.

To gain access to the mass, tourists should go to the tourist entrance point located at the southeast corner of West 138th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. Access is on a first-come, first-served basis based on seating availability. It is advisable to arrive early, as there is usually a long queue.

Bethel Gospel Assembly

Bethel Gospel Assembly is another well-known option for a gospel service, along with Abyssinian Baptist Church. This church has a special feature: Sunday mass is celebrated in both English and French. The French mass is at 9:00 a.m., and the English mass is at 10:15 a.m. Additionally, this church allows photography and videography during the ceremony, which is rare.

First Corinthian Baptist Church

The First Corinthian Baptist Church stands as a cornerstone of Harlem's gospel tradition, offering visitors a captivating immersion into the power of gospel music. To fully embrace the authentic atmosphere and connect with the local congregation, consider planning your visit outside of school vacation periods.

During these peak seasons, the church may experience an influx of visitors, primarily other tourists, which can sometimes affect the overall experience. By visiting during non-vacation periods, you can better immerse yourself in the church's vibrant community and fully appreciate the soul-stirring melodies and heartfelt messages that resonate within its walls.

Canaan Baptist Church

With dynamic preaching, emotional congregation participation, and inspirational singing, Canaan Baptist describes their services as “Afro-centric.” The church has several renowned choirs that perform spirituals, gospel, and praise songs as part of the services. The service takes place every Sunday at 10am.

Greater Calvary Baptist Church

The Greater Cavalry Baptist Church has served as an important pillar of the city’s jazz scene for many years. They’re famous for their gospel choir that has performed alongside famous acts like U2 and even released a studio album! In addition to weekly services, the church frequently serves as a venue to hear blues, jazz, and other popular styles of music too. Service at Greater Cavalry Baptist Church is every Sunday at 10 am.

The Greater Refuge Temple

The Greater Refuge Temple is a Pentecostal church located in Harlem, a few blocks from the Apollo Theater. The 60-member choir is known for its lively performances that include audience participation and unique percussive instruments. In addition to their weekly Sunday service, they also host regular concerts and community events that welcome all. Worship services are held every Sunday at 11:00 am, 4 pm, and 8 pm.

Gospel Churches in Midtown and Brooklyn

Times Square Church

Located just outside of Times Square in Midtown, the Times Square Church is an interdenominational house of worship. The church is situated in the former Mark Hellinger Theater, a movie palace that was originally built by Warner Bros. and later converted into a Broadway theater. The church welcomes people from all walks of life and denominations and hosts frequent community events and children's camps. It also has a renowned gospel choir with over 130 members who share their faith through song.

Services at the Times Square Church are held on Sundays at 10 AM and 1 PM, Tuesdays at 7 PM, and Wednesdays at 7 PM. The church also offers virtual services on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Brooklyn Tabernacle

The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a non-denominational church in Downtown Brooklyn that is renowned for its namesake choir. The 280-member ensemble has recorded 40 albums and won seven Dove Awards and six Grammy Awards.

The church is designed like a concert hall, with high domed ceilings and two levels where visitors can sit and worship. An estimated 10,000 people attend services each week to worship and hear the world-famous choir. Services are held at 9 am and 12 pm on Sundays and are also live streamed.

The Temple Of Restoration

Founded by Bishop Angelo Barbosa in November 2000, The Temple of Restoration is a Pentecostal Ministry that has grown into one of the biggest churches in Brooklyn. In addition to their main location near the Barclays Center, they also have several locations throughout the city and country, as well as international congregations in Brazil and South Africa.

In addition to being a welcoming community with a mission of helping the poor and disenfranchised, The Temple of Restoration is also a great place to hear gospel music in NYC every Sunday. Services are held at 7:30 am, 10 am, and 6 pm.

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