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'Voices of Harlem' Black Churches Attract Crowds of European Travelers

(UPDATED) But declining membership means decreased tithes despite crowds of tourists.

Update (May 28, 2013): The New York Times reports that changing economic fortunes in Harlem are leaving many historically African American churches with fewer tithing members. Even though Sunday attendance remains steady due to tourists, tithes are down 20 percent in some churches.

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According to CNN, historically black churches in Harlem, New York, suddenly are attracting white European visitors for a "uniquely American" experience.

Tourists are packing pews at Harlem's black churches, attracted by the lively gospel music and inspirational atmosphere. But the attendance boom is forcing some pastors to turn away international visitors, who often come on "Gospel Tours," paid trips through Harlem's historic churches that often cost tourists more than $50.

But not all white congregants may be tourists. Michael Walron Jr., a local Harlem pastor, says the actual face of the neighborhood is changing. He cites the fact that Hispanics and whites are outpacing the number of blacks coming to live in the area.

"You can no longer assume that a white person in a black church in Harlem is a tourist," Walron said.

CT previously has discussed shifting demographics in African American churches and their neighborhoods, the influence of Black Gospel music, and Geoffrey Canada's well-known ministry in Harlem–Harlem Children's Zone.

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Posted:November 21, 2012 at 7:05AM
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