Columbia University IRAAS
Mar 30 11

Iglesia Pentecostal la Sinagoga

Walking through East Harlem this past weekend, I was struck by this sign announcing La Iglesia Pentecostal la Sinagoga: in literal terms, a Spanish-speaking place of Pentecostal worship that is simultaneously a church (iglesia) and a synagogue (sinagoga). After a bit of research, I came to find out that this is in fact a Christian Pentecostal church. The name “sinagoga” is a stayover from when the congregation initially formed in 1951 as a group of seven or eight parishioners who gathered weekly in the basement of a synagogue on 109th between Park and Madison Aves. They eventually bought the synagogue and then relocated to this current location in the 1960′s, at 125th and Lexington Ave. The “sinagoga” label is a casual name that stuck amongst the congregation dating back to the previous venue, to such a degree that the church chose to make it the most prominent part their sign. I find this dichotomy of identification interesting and wonder if the congregation is particularly open to interaction with other denominations or faiths, given their history and current identity as a church which does not exist in a theological vacuum, but rather intersects with other forms of worship within the same geographic community. Inter-institutional contact is a principle we have seen repeatedly in action during this course, facilitated by Harlem’s multiplicity of religious communities and identities, fostered by its densely packed physical space, and compounded by its heightened consciousness of racial and religious identity. La Iglesia Pentecostal la Sinagoga’s very name and façade manifest such a principle better than anything I have encountered in Harlem thus far.

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