Harlem Churches Experiencing Gospel Tourism

March 12th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir
greater highway church ny

Photo by Susan H

In some churches, members are find themselves in a sea of unfamiliar faces, outnumbering the congregation itself. Signs have been posted, “No photography, no flip-flops, no exiting during the sermon”.

Tour companies are listing churches for foreign visitors to New York City so they can experience sermons from black preachers and hear black gospel choirs. Pastors see both a blessing and problems.

Struggling to preserve the sanctity of the service visitors are asked not to leave once the sermon has started or not to take pictures during worship, requests that are sometimes ignored. “I understand that you’re visiting and you want to have a memory of it,” said Carlos Smith-Ramsay, who has been a church member for years. “But when we ask you to stop and you continue to do so after the fact, that’s disrespectful.”


Gospel singers by Gloria Bell via Flickr ~ used under CC-BY license

Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has become an attraction for tourists from all over the world and is the oldest black church in New York state, membership that once included black leaders such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Paul Robeson. On a given Sunday almost 200 seat are filled with visitors and the collection basket with dollars.

In an interview with the Associated Press, The Rev. Gregory Robeson Smith, Mother AME Zion’s pastor, said he refuses to work with tour operators. He doesn’t even like to use the word “tourist,” preferring instead to call them part of his “international congregation.” And he won’t turn anyone away.

“I refuse to commercialize the church worship experience,” he said. “You don’t pay people to experience the Lord, to come and pray. I think that’s unconscionable.”

Near by Abyssinian Baptist Church, another house of worship popular with the tourists, often turns away visitors because the pews are too full.

Options are divided, some would say that people are just coming to see a show, like on TV or in the movies. Others would like to believe the tourists have come to listen to the word of God. Either way the tour guides will continue to lead new visitors to the steps of the church and each visitor will have their own reason for being there.

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First Black to head Southern Baptists

March 1st, 2012 by admin

Rev. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, will be nominated to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention

Fred Luter[/caption]

Pastor Luter began his career as what he fondly refers to as a street preacher, spending his time preaching on different street corners in New Orleans “Lower Nine” area where he grew up. In 1986, the members of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church elected him pastor even though he had no pastoral experience. Under Pastor Luter’s leadership the church has grown from a membership of 65 members on roll to its current membership of 7000 plus worshipers.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the world’s largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with over 16 million members as of 2010. The SBC became a separate denomination in 1845 following a regional split with northern Baptists over the issues of slavery. After the American Civil War, another split occurred: most black Baptists in the South separated from white churches and set up their own congregations. Today the once all-white denomination of slaveholders and segregationists, has a membership of 16 million and are one of the most diverse denominations in the United States. Almost 20 percent of Southern Baptist churches are predominantly African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American or other minorities.
“Our election of Fred Luter as the first African American president of the SBC will send a great, hopeful, powerful message to our city, our culture, our convention and our country,” said current president David E. Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

The national convention is scheduled for June in New Orleans.

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Whitney’s Homegoing Service

February 14th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir

Thanking Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston for deciding to hold the service at New Hope “…… brought the world to church today,” Pastor Marvin Winans said during his eulogy. The decision kept the funeral personal and respectful for the family and friends while allowing the fans to watch the broadcast of Whitney’s farewell. The three-and-a-half-hour service was watched by millions where she was not only remembered for her voice, but her kindness. Speakers at the service called her an angel, others spoke to remind everyone that she was a child of God.

houston funeral


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Passing: Dr. Patricia Stephens Due

February 8th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir
Patricia Stephens Due

Dr. Patricia Stephens Due died after a long struggle fighting thyroid cancer. She passed away at a skilled nursing facility near Atlanta, where she had moved to be close to her three daughters. She was 72.
At the age of 13 Dr. Due and her sister Priscilla started fighting segregation in Florida by insisting on being served at the “white only” window of their local Dairy Queen, instead of the “colored” window. In the summer of 1959, the sisters attended a nonviolent resistance workshop organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). On Feb. 20, 1960, eleven FAMU students, including Patricia and Priscilla, were arrested for ordering food at a “white only” Woolworth lunch counter. On March 12, dozens of FAMU and Florida State University students who participated in sit-ins at McCrory’s and Woolworth’s were arrested. A thousand students began marching from the FAMU campus toward downtown Tallahassee, but were stopped by Police officers with teargas. At the head of the march, Due was teargassed right in the face, and suffered permanent eye damage.
Due and the other sit-in participants were tried and found guilty on March 17, 1960. Eight refused to pay the $300 fine, deciding instead to go to jail. Eight students served 49 days at the Leon County Jail: FAMU students Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, John Broxton, Barbara Broxton and William Larkins, and three other students—Clement Carney, Angelina Nance, and 16-year-old high school student Henry Marion Steele (son of activist pastor Rev. C.K. Steele).

The “jail-in” gained nationwide attention, and the students received a supportive telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Due sent a letter to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who published it in a column he wrote. Robinson later sent the jailed students diaries so they could write down their experiences. After the jail-in, Due and the others traveled the country in speaking tours to publicize the civil rights movement. Due met Eleanor Roosevelt, author James Baldwin, and many other activists on those tours. She went on to be jailed multiple times as a leader in the movement.


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Honored for lifetime of music

December 18th, 2011 by admin
Rosemary Griffin Music minister


“If it were not for God, I would not be here. Even in working with my students, they knew that Mrs. Griffin was first a Christian, then a teacher”. said Ms Griffin in an interview.
During its Gospel Heritage Festival at Bethel AME Church in Columbia,SC. Griffin was presented the Gospel Heritage Legacy award, an honor from the Renaissance Foundation.

The 64-year-old is the widow of the late Dr. N.L.A. Griffin, founder of Greater Faith Baptist Church in Orangeburg serves as music minister. She feels it’s important to keep that gospel tradition and the gospel genre is worthy of preservation.

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