Abyssinian Baptist Church

Abyssinian Baptist Church

There is no better place to experience the Harlem gospel tradition than the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Founded in 1808, this Harlem church was New York’s first African American Baptist Church and is one of the oldest African American Baptist churches in the U.S.

Church of the Masses

This church was originally founded by a group of African American and Ethiopian merchants who wanted to stop worshipping in churches that imposed racially segregated seating. Named for Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) these merchants left Lower Manhattan’s First Baptist Church and organized themselves as The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York.

The church’s first permanent place of worship was on Worth Street. Eventually it was sold and the parish congregated at other buildings, continuing to move uptown throughout Manhattan over the years.

Legacy of the Powells

A new era began for the church in 1908 when Reverend Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. became the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. On April 9th, 1922, he moved the edifice uptown to its present location in Harlem. The new Gothic and Tudor-style structure was paid for entirely by tithing and offerings. Under Powell’s spiritual leadership the parish eventually grew into one of the largest Protestant congregations in the U.S.

When he retired in 1937 his son, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. took over as pastor and inherited a congregation of more than 4,000. Powell Jr. served as the church’s pastor until 1971. He continued to grow the “church of the masses” and under him the Abyssinian Baptist Church became involved in many world-wide missions, offered activities for the Harlem community and participated in activism to eliminate racial discrimination and improve health care for African Americans.

In 1944 he became the first black U.S. Congressman from New York when he was elected to represent the Congressional District that included Harlem. He served 14 terms in the House of Representatives and the boulevard which meets the church was renamed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

Guidelines for Attending Worship Services

Worship services are held every Sunday at 9am and 11am. Due to space issues tourists are welcome to attend the 11am service only.

Services are approximately two and a half hours in length. Visitors are expected to remain at their seats until the service is over. Photos and audio/video recordings are not permitted.

Shoulders must be covered when entering the church. Shorts, tank tops and flip-flops are not allowed.

Visiting the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City

This church is located at 132 Odell Clark Place (formerly 138th Street) between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and Lenox Avenue in Harlem.

Because the Abyssinian Baptist Churchis such a busy parish, admittance for tourists is not guaranteed and is on a first-come first-serve basis. Tourists must proceed to a designated entry point located on the southeast corner of West 138th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.

Reserved seating for groups of ten or more should be requested a minimum of two weeks in advance by contacting esimpson@abyssinian.org.

here are certain holidays such as Christmas and Easter where the 11am services are not open to tourists. For a list of these dates and complete tourist guidelines visit Abyssinian Baptist Church official website., or call the Abyssinian Communications Office at 212-862-7474 ext.216 for more information.

Location: 132 Odell Clark Place, New York City, New York
Phone: 212-862-7474 ext.216
E-mail: esimpson@abyssinian.org

Click here to visit Abyssinian Baptist Church official website.