My experience was similar to the other reviewers. A very long line, and maybe 45-minute wait to get into the church for the 11am service. Be warned that now they insist that every single person "donates" $20 (yes, you read it correctly, TWENTY DOLLARS). They don't tell you that until you reach the door and even ask you to give a $20 bill exactly. WOW, what a rip-off, in my opinion. It's like any other tourist attraction now. I counted the number of tourists in the balcony and estimated that the church must have raked in well over $5,000 for that one service in tourist donations. Gee whiz! By the way, there were far more tourists there than the actual congregation.
I was allotted a very poor seat in the back row of the balcony and couldn't see a thing. Photos are not allowed, by the way; if they see you taking a picture, a man comes over to tell you to put your camera away.
As far as the service goes, the choir was nice, but if you go to a proper gospel concert, the music is even better. The sermon was on "The Lord's Prayer" and the reverend did the fire and brimstone style, talking heatedly about "being led into temptation" and "being delivered from evil." Real Baptist style of preaching, which was interesting. I don't know if he was the regular preacher or not. The whole service lasted over 2 hours. Halfway through, I managed to sneak downstairs on the pretext of getting one of their free paper fans (furnished by a local funeral parlor!) and managed to convince an usher to let me sit downstairs in back of the main sanctuary, which was much more interesting and better visibility of the congregation and the choir. It was an extremely hot day and there was apparently no air-conditioning, a fact which the reverend alluded to in his appeal not to let ourselves burn in hell !
I would highly recommend walking around Harlem a bit before or after the service. There is a little African market nearby and some other sites. Harlem seems to have climbed out of its previous reputation as a dangerous and dirty place, and I found it quite enjoyable to stroll around the neighborhood. People at the church and all around were very friendly.
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