2, 3 at 135th St.
A group of Ethiopian merchants and free African-Americans established the first Abyssinian Baptist Church on Worth Street in 1808 after refusing to accept segregated services in downtown’s First Baptist Church. Following a move to Waverly Place, the church finally procured enough money under pastor Adam Clayton Powell Sr. to build this formidable, stained-glassed structure on 138th Street in 1923, solidifying a name as the largest racially inclusive Baptist church in the country at the time. Inside, semicircular rows of wooden pews and sunny rafters are laid out in front of a white marble pulpit, crowned by a balcony for crimson-robed gospel singers and arches of stained-glass windows. The 1,300-seat sanctuary hosts politically driven services in which the sermons are often rivaled in intensity only by the pipes on the church’s two organs. Sit in on the right Sunday morning and you might catch a glimpse of some high-profile attendees (like Vogue luminary André Leon Talley and his celebrity guest du jour) among the generations of local congregants and pious out-of-towners.Extra
The church has flooded over $300 million into Harlem’s economy through its Abyssinian Development Corporation, funding projects like the Harlem Economic Literacy Program.
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