The ‘Hood Pastor’ Reimagines Christianity in Harlem

The bass in “Humble,” by the rapper Kendrick Lamar, boomed from the flex space at the Dwyer Cultural Center. A paint-splattered mural of Tupac and a signed, hand-drawn portrait of President Barack Obama hung on the wall. Aside from the Bible on the lectern, there weren’t many indicators of a place of worship.

The Gathering is a “church plant,” or a newly sprouted congregation. It was created five months ago by the Rev. Kenneth Hart, 29.

Mr. Hart, who refers to himself as the Hood Pastor, leads the services.

The Gathering serves as an alternative to more traditional approaches to practicing Christianity. Mr. Hart has embraced unorthodox methods, like using artistic spaces and hip-hop music, as a way to “be a church for the unchurched” while reaching and uniting both “the gentrified and the gentrifiers” in Harlem.

Every Wednesday, Mr. Hart delivers the Gospel in an informal and conversational style, infusing his sermons with talk of race, gentrification, popular culture and politics. He cultivates a familial energy in the Gathering with the hope that congregants of all races can discuss these issues openly and honestly.

The Gathering was started with the help of Orchard Group Church Planting, which partners church plants with established churches to fund and provide managerial assistance.

Mr. Hart envisions the Gathering as the kind of church he needed when he was a 17-year-old in Harlem — one that brings the church out to the people.