Unable To Pay Back-rent Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church To Be Shut Down

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San Francisco's Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church Faces March 2nd Evection


Mural of John Coltrane on the wall at the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco.



The Fillmore District of San Francisco, known for decades as the "Harlem of the West" for its rich African-American culture and jazz roots- has put the neighborhood's beloved Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church on notice that they must vacate their 46 year old spiritual home and find somewhere else to worship in the next 24 hours.


Formed at the former store front in 1969, Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church is one of the most unique Churches in the world. Centered around the music of John Coltrane, particularly his 1964 composition A Love Supreme and later "avant-garde" body of work, the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church focuses on John Coltrane's vision of a multi-faith world.

"I believe in all religions," Coltrane wrote in the liner notes of his 1966 album, Meditations.

Coltrane, who was born and raised in a Christian home, was interested in religion and spirituality from childhood. His maternal grandfather, the Reverend William Blair, was a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in High Point, North Carolina, and his paternal grandfather, the Reverend William H. Coltrane, was an A.M.E. Zion minister in Hamlet, North Carolina.

In 1957, Coltrane had a religious experience that helped him overcome both heroin addiction and alcoholism that had begun 1948. In the 1964 liner notes of A Love Supreme, Coltrane states that, in 1957, "I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music."

"The church is almost like going to Jerusalem or going to Mecca, so people pilgrim here from all over the globe," says Archbishop Franzo Wayne King Sr., who co-founded the church of John Coltrane devotees in 1969.

The church was formed to use to the spiritual quality of Coltrane's music as a form of religious worship, through what King dubbed "the holy trinity of melody, harmony and rhythm."

"From the very beginning of the church, we wanted everybody to know about this evolved, transcendent being that came in this time and from this age with a new testament message that wasn't about division, an as Coltrane would say, 'living clean and doing right,' " King said.

Coltrane kicked heroin and alcohol ,although -as this reporter broke in High Times Magazine in 1998- the tenor sax jazz giant in fact took LSD several times in 1965, which radically transformed his music to 40 minute "screaming saxophone" improvisations inspired by the music and friendship he had with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar.

As I wrote in High Times, Coltrane and his entire band were under the influence of LSD when they walked into a recording studio in Lynwood, Washington on October 1, 1965 to cut the album Om for Impluse records.

San Francisco officials has informed the congregation to vacate their small storefront building on Fillmore Street by Wednesday. But Archbishop King is trying to get the courts to stop the eviction and give his church time to settle charges of unpaid rent.

Gentrification is the culprit, pushing the African-American out of the area. "I think it's about profit mainly," King says.

This past Sunday the final services was held, beginning with a meditation on Coltrane's A Love Supreme.

Reverend King is fighting the good fight, but his a plan B:  he hopes to open a Coltrane university and study center at much a larger location than their Fillmore Street storefront.

But until he finds the proper location, he is requesting city of San Frisco to allow the neighborhood institution to carry on at Fillmore St. until they find they find the next space to reopen.

"This is a global spiritual community. It belongs to the world," King says. "But San Francisco is the custodians of this. And officials in this city, from the supervisors to the mayor, should feel the responsibility to protect the house of a love supreme."

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