Music | December 6, 2021 6:01 am

John Coltrane Inspired the Creation of a San Francisco Church

It's been up and running for over 50 years

John Coltrane
Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane performs onstage circa 1959 in West Germany.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Outside of the realm of gospel music — which is, admittedly, a pretty substantial qualifier — you don’t see too many religious institutions associated with musicians. (See also: Kanye West’s Sunday Service.) One massive exception, however, is a San Francisco church that’s been active for decades, with John Coltrane as its patron saint.

That’s not hyperbole, by the way. The legendary saxophone player is, in fact, the patron saint of  Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, which got its start when its founders saw Coltrane perform live and found it to be a transformative experience.

A new article by M.H. Miller at T Magazine offers an in-depth look into the church’s formation, its current status and its iconography. As Miller writes, the husband and wife who founded the church, His Eminence Archbishop Franzo W. King, D.D. and the Most Rev. Supreme Mother Marina King, did so in 1969.

In 1982, the church became a part of the African Orthodox Church, which canonized Coltrane; it’s also when it adopted its current name. And since then, it’s made use of visually striking art that does pretty much everything you could expect from depictions of Coltrane in a sacred setting.

Seeking the sacred through Coltrane’s music seems eminently understandable for a host of reasons. It’s not hard to see some reviews of the recently-released live recording of his A Love Supreme as akin to theologians pondering a newly-unearthed piece of scripture, after all. The penultimate word in Richard Brody’s New Yorker review of A Love Supreme Live in Seattle is “holy,” which seems entirely fitting in this context.