Last weekend we dressed in our Sunday best and headed to Harlem anticipating a morning of gospel music, fabulous outfits and inspirational words from the pulpit. The Baptist Church in Convent Street on 145th is the place I usually recommend for a warm welcome – which we received, but it also came with a warning that the service was a special one and would take at least 3 hours. It would be rude to leave before the service finished, and we knew we couldn’t last 3 hours, so we jumped in a cab and headed for the famous Abyssinian Church on 138th. I was lucky enough to attend the 100th anniversary of the church in 2008, when Wynton Marsalis led his jazz orchestra and 150 gospel singers in a performance especially written for the occasion. It was amazing. But these days the Church is so famous you have to queue to get a seat. In fact there is a special entrance for visitors, and we were told on the day that if you want to attend the 11 o’clock service you have to start queuing at 8am… There were easily 1,000 people in the queue – it stretched for at least 2 blocks. So we followed the Usher’s instruction to seek out other churches – first one block south ( no gospel singing that day ), then two blocks north ( no visitors allowed) and finally one block west where we didn’t get past the front door.
So having tried five churches without success, we decided the only sensible thing to do was to have breakfast! So we found another cab and went downtown to Frankies in the East Village. I am happy to report there was a table waiting, the coffee was strong, and they still make the best french toast in the city….