Rejoicing in a Gospel Church in Memphis

When we first started to plan our travels years ago, we made a list of the things we wanted to see. The list included Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, as well as a Gospel Church, and a Mississippi Paddle Steamer. For one reason or another, we had to edit this list and we never ended up seeing these things. So luckily, years later, we had the opportunity to visit Memphis, USA.

Al Greens Gospel ChurchOur first morning in Memphis was crisp and sunny. We headed straight to Al Green’s gospel church. Al Green is a soul singer from the 1970s. Today he runs a beautiful church in suburban Memphis. The congregation were extremely smartly dressed and really welcoming. I felt bad that we were “gatecrashing” their service, but they are used to it and the back few rows of the church were all tourists, so we were not alone.

Apparently Al Green does not always attend the services, so we were lucky that he was there when we went. He lead an inspirational service, and the choir often called out with their approval. The choir were dressed all in white and looked like angels. They often broke into seemingly impromptu song, which was beautiful.

Al Green in Gospel ChurchThe whole experience was really wonderful and I’m so glad we finally made it to a gospel church in America. The gospel music – most of it improvised and harmonies extemporised – was outstanding. If churches were this amazing in the UK I would go!

The only downside for me was when they asked their congregation (not the tourists) to donate $100 by the end of the year at a suggested rate of a $25 a month. I don’t want to criticise this particular church as they were so lovely and the service was amazing – but this did make me feel uncomfortable as I felt that some people may not be in a position to give this amount.

There was a section where the whole audience (ie. the congregation and tourists) could give a donation, and we all went up to give an offering. I did not feel pressured to do so, but I thought it was fair to give a small donation as we had thoroughly enjoyed our experience there.

Outside the church a lady approached us for a chat and said her husband was from Nottingham (UK) and gave me a hug, which was lovely!

As we drove away through the quiet suburban neighborhood I felt warm inside from the whole experience. Hungry, but warm. We grabbed a quick lunch in Taco Bell. This was my first taco bell and I thought it was fantastic! 🙂

Travel Tips:

  1. The services are only held on Sunday mornings (although sometimes I think they put on afternoon services) – something to bear in mind when planning a visit!
  2. Dress Smart. You don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb. However, if you’re on holiday like us, it may not be practical to take a 3-piece suit! We tried to pack items that could pass off as smart, but which we could also wear during the rest of our holiday. My BF wore chino trousers and a shirt, and I wore a dress.
  3. Take some cash for a donation. You don’t want to be in an awkward position where you only have a $100 note (although I must say that is not a position I find myself in much!) and no change.
  4. Take a map or Sat Nav., otherwise you will never find it! The church is on a small suburban road and even though we knew exactly where we were going, we missed the turn-off from the Main road.
  5. Consider combining this with a visit to Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, as they are less than 5 minutes drive apart.

Next blog: Graceland, Memphis, USA

Previous blog: Palavas, France

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