Black Churches Struggle as Harlem Gentrifies

With fewer members, tithes have dipped steeply at historical houses of worship.

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Black parishioner celebrates Easter at Mount Olivet in 2007. (Mario Tama/Getty)

As Harlem's racial makeup changes, membership at some of the historical churches has fallen and so have the tithe amounts, reports the New York Times

The tourists often put offerings in the collection basket. But then they are gone. And so despite the draw, churches like Canaan are struggling. And at the heart of the struggle is a contradiction: As Harlem's fortunes rise, tithing — the traditional source of the churches' money — is fading away.

Harlem's historical base of African-Americans has been dwindling. Those who remain have regularly tithed, setting apart 10 percent of their incomes for their church, in times good and bad. But now that has changed, too.

"Your tithers are your people who really keep your church going as a whole," said the Rev. Dr. Charles A. Curtis, the senior pastor at Mount Olivet Baptist Church and the chairman of Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement.

"With the drop in population," he said, "you have less people to tithe."

Read more at the New York Times.

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