Sunday Service at Abyssinian Baptist Church

I had to get up early today. A friend of Ettice’s, Michelle, was taking me to church with her family. She is a member of Abyssinian Baptist Church.
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Service at Abyssinian starts at 10 am and Michelle had told me we should be there at least 20 minutes earlier because there might be a lot of people today. Normally there are two services on Sundays but during the summer there is just one. So I had set my alarm to 7 instead of 8. I needed time to dress up – and walk nine blocks. Ettice had offered to lend me a hat, but Michelle assured me I would not need one. So I wore my white dress and the flowery cardigan over it, black sandals and the corals.
Michelle, her husband and her two sons were waiting outside the church where I was introduced to the church man who greeted people at the door. He took my hand and rubbed it because it felt too cold. We climbed the stairs up to the gallery and took seats there. The church was filling up quickly. People, most of them black, were dressed neatly but indeed just a few wore hats. Tourists stood out because they were carrying backpacks. Tourist groups are not allowed during the summer when there is just one service. The whole service took about two hours and was quite an experience. There was a lot of gospel music but not as wild as I remember my first gospel experience. The choir was dressed all in carmine and even had two white women and one white man in ist rows. The reverend was impressive. He was talking a lot and made jokes all the while. His sermon came over loud and powerful. The congregation is much more involved than in our churches. So for example all people who had their birthday during the week were asked to stand up and we sang Happy Birthday for them. All visitors were asked to stand up and afterwards several people around me welcomed me personally and shook my hand. Members who had died or are seriously ill were not just mentioned but the reverend told their story. The atmosphere is cheerful and relaxed. Two candidates for the mayoral elections attended the service – both democrats – and held a short speech. This seems to be common practice in the mayoral race. I’m not sure what to think about that though.

After church I was hungry. I went home, got out of the church dress and into a more comfortable one and left to have lunch. Along Lenox a lot of people were waiting for a table at all restaurants. I could have had a burger at the Burger Shake but I did not feel like a self-service place on Sunday. I taxed my brain and remembered all the restaurants along Broadway on the Upper West Side in the 100s. I could have taken the 2 or 3 to 110th street and walk over but I did not want to walk so much, because I was hungry. So I caught a bus on 125th Street to take one of the trains along Central Park West. But I got into another subway confusion. The first train arriving was a C train, a local. I got in and was told it was going express to 59th Street. That is Central Park South. The next one was a D that runs express but again the speaker voice said next stop is 59th street. A heard a man talking to an MTA person who explained that there are no downtown stops between 125th and 59th Streets today. So I had to go all the way to 59th Street and take an uptown local from there. Ok, walking from 110th Street at Lenox would have been a bit faster. Having arrived at Central Park West and 110th Street and walked over to Broadway I quickly found an appealing place for brunch with outside seats available. I got a Breakfast Burrito filled with eggs, cheese and red beans served with a mesclun salad and a root beer. I had never tasted a root beer and was curious what it would be like. It is a brown softdrink served on ice. The first sip reminded me of medicine. It was made from yucca roots and sugar canes. The taste was herbal, somewhere between anise and fennel with a touch of eucalyptus. Interesting.
After lunch I zigzagged my way back to Central Park. East of Broadway the Upper West Side is largely Hispanic up there. Delis have Spanish names. Apartment buildings are high and plain. Kids are playing on the streets.
At Harlem Meer a music performance was going on. Something Brasilian. I stood and listened for a while but there were no seats available and me legs did not agree to standing for longer. So I took the train home and spend the rest of the day with reading and writing.

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2 Responses to Sunday Service at Abyssinian Baptist Church

  1. Sadie DeSimone says:

    Maria, sounds like you had another interesting day. The church service at the Abbyssenian seems very appealing to me, though generally I do not go to church. Your description of the root beer was eye-opening. You described tastes I never associated with that familiar drink from my childhood. Really, it is made from yucca roots? Never knew that. Eucalyptus? Never got that note of flavor either. If I still drank sodas I would have to sip and analyze carefully to see if I could discern the subtle flavors you described so well. Xoxox

    • Maria says:

      Sadie, I really thank you for encouraging my descriptions!
      The bottle said yucca roots. Maybe they are just used in this particular brand. The waitress told me there are man different ones. Eucalyptus is not quite right, I guess. It was more like campher. Just didn’t find the simile. It was what gave me the medicinal Impression with the first sip,

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