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PHOTO Malachi sings the praises of Copeland's gospel brunch.
- E. Lippman

March 2, 2002 -- How about some scrambled eggs with your spirituals? Gospel with your grits?

Sunday brunches, where you can praise the Lord while packing in the pancakes, have become all the rage in Harlem.

And while many prefer to drop in on one of the nabe's famous gospel churches prior to their Sunday repast, the choice of gospel brunches available means you can sleep in on Sunday without forsaking the power of prayer.

"I see what I do as a form of ministry," says Helen Slade, who performs at the Cotton Club. "I try to enlighten people and help them feel better, because I know God is there for them."

Among Slade's favorite hymns are "Amazing Grace" and "He Keeps Right on Doing Great Things for Me."

More nightclub than restaurant, the Cotton Club (656 W. 125th St., near the West Side Highway; [212] 663-7980) has a sultry, cigarette-soaked feeling, even in the light of day. Its windowless walls, tinted mirrors and dark maroon paint give it the air of midnight, even at high noon.

Fashionably dressed men and sequined women fill their plates to brimming with the club's impressive array of Southern foods, served buffet style on a long, red-clothed table.

From spiced black-eyed peas and creole tomatoes to heaps of fried chicken and meatloaf, the options are broad enough to please carnivores and herbivores alike.

Cost for the all-you-can-eat brunch (Sundays at 1 and 3:30 p.m., with food and seating beginning an hour earlier) is $25 per person. Reservations are recommended.

Twenty blocks up is Copeland's, a casual neighborhood standard that features a different group of musicians every Sunday.

Served buffet-style, Copeland's Sunday gospel brunch ($16.95 per person; noon and 2 p.m.; 547 W. 145th St., between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue; [212] 234-2357) offers such Cajun, Creole and continental dishes as seafood jambalaya, quiche lorraine, chicken livers and stewed okra.

Regular entertainers include an all-male gospel a cappella group called Malachi; John 316, a traditional instrumental group; Brothers in Christ, a contemporary gospel group; and New Deliverance, who switch back and forth between traditional and contemporary spirituals.

Over on the East Side, at Lenox Avenue and 126th Street, Sylvia's ([212] 996-0660) NEED PRICE offers an 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. a-la-carte gospel brunch that includes everything from waffles and fried chicken to short ribs and gravy.

"Things get really crazy here after about 1 o'clock on Sundays," says Bedelia Woods, one of the owner's daughters, "when everyone comes in after church."

With so much to offer, Harlem is the place to be. Unless, of course, you're trying to lose weight.

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