Since 1971, Archbishop Franzo King and his wife Reverend Mother Marina King have held services and provided food and clothes to those in need. Considering jazz musician John Coltrane, who emerged from drug addiction as a born-again Christian in 1957, to be their patron saint, their congregation joined the African Orthodox Church in 1982 and have closed their Sunday Mass with the musician's iconic "A Love Supreme" ever since.
The Church has moved around before, spending years on Divisadero and on Gough, and the last several years have seen them based at 1286 Fillmore Street. But in these changing times for San Francisco, even for the Saint John Coltrane Church in the Fillmore's "Jazz Preservation District," nothing is sacred.
Archbishop King tells SFist that in a situation he likens to dual tracking foreclosure, the church's rent is being doubled and his congregation faces de facto eviction from a landlord who refuses negotiation.
As NBC Bay Area and KQED have taken note, a change.org petition directed to Supervisor London Breed and Mayor Ed Lee begs their landlord, the West Bay Conference Center, to "honor their community subsidized rental rates and KEEP THE COLTRANE CHURCH IN THE FILLMORE."
“The present political climate of profit over people continues to devastate the African American population of the Fillmore," the petition reads, "leaving the ‘Coltrane Church’ to stand alone as the sole historic proprietors of the music and culture of jazz as a means to enlighten.”
Identifying itself as “the oldest and only church born out of the music of John Coltrane,” the church was the subject of a 1998 documentary, which you can see a clip of below.
"It's kind of bogus what's happening," King tells SFist. "I think basically, it's two things: One, pricing us out, and two, they've backed up on their verbal agreement with us. We were in negotiations with the executive director of the West Bay Community Center [Attorey Gordon Greenwood] last year." It sounds to King as if the Center is uninterested in further working with the church, even if they are able to pay the rent increase. SFist has reached out to Greenwood and awaits comment.
"I'm a black man," says King, who is willing to raise more funds to pay for the lease if he can. "I'm born in debt and I'm gonna die in debt." But one thing King won't do is beg. "This is what this church is all about. We don't bow, we don't cow, we ain't going along to get along."
The church's petition to Supervisor Breed and Mayor Lee is well on its way to 1,000 signatures. SFist has reached out to Supervisor Breed's office and awaits comment.