Religions of Harlem

With the sponsorship of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, Columbia Professors Josef Sorett and Obery Hendricks have started a new initiative to publicly document the religious life of Harlem. With the help of Columbia University students, the Religions of Harlem project uses written research, photos, and video to provide a unique view of the wide range of religious expressions, leaders, and communities that have been and continue to be central to the cultural worlds of Harlem. The locations students visit and capture are shared on the site’s blog and can also be viewed as a map.
Blog Excerpts:

New Hope Church of Seventh Day Adventists, West Harlem
By Noel Bohl-Fabian

I had an astonishing experience wandering around West Harlem Saturday afternoon, looking for interesting topics and trying to find expressions of “alternative religion”.  What began as an innocent and accidental encounter with a church I’d never seen before, quickly ended up as an experience of deep self-consciousness that completely transformed my perspective of so-called “Black culture” and “Black religion.”

Second Providence Baptist Church
By Dafna Revah

While walking past the Second Providence Baptist Church, I noticed this sign referring to Youth Resources Numbers. The sign includes many numbers that are not associated with religious life. The sign includes a variety of emergency hotlines, a number for a cocaine hotline, a poison hotline, and a STD hotline. Why would such a sign be posted outside of a church? Perhaps the sign is posted because the church is known as a safe place. The church embodies a protected environment for people. The Second Providence Baptist Church may be trying to help not only members of the church, but also members of the community when in crisis.

The Black Barbershop
By Benji de la Piedra

Level’s Barbershop, located on 125th St. between Amsterdam and Morningside Aves, was my initial introduction to Harlem when I first arrived here at Columbia, so in light of our course subject, this post has a bit more of a personal motivation. As I was getting my haircut today, I chatted up my barber about his experience in working at Level’s. As common knowledge (or stereotype, if you want to call it that) affirms, Level’s, being a barbershop with a predominately black clientele, is more than simply a place for people to get their hair cut. At any given hour, but especially Thursday-Saturday, the shop’s busy days, both customers and friends of the barbers come in and out, and the place is vibrant with talk and exchange. Generally this revolves around sports, music, and daily life. Yet from what I’ve seen and heard, religion, at least institutionally, is generally not a hot topic for discussion at Level’s.

M. Moran Weston and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
By Natalie Shibley

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is a historically black congregation with a riveting history in New York City. Founded in 1809, the church had various homes downtown before moving to Harlem in 1910. The current building, pictured above, was designed by the architectural firm of Tandy and Foster. (Tandy was the first black architect licensed to work in New York State.) The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated the neo-Gothic structure a New York City Landmark. Although St. Philip’s history is long, I would like to return to one (extended) moment in the church’s story, the time during which M. Moran Weston served as rector (1957-1982).

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