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Church of Coltrane will play on in new location
SAN FRANCISCO -- Worshippers at the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church celebrated their last services Easter Sunday at the small storefront it has occupied for nearly 30 years. Like many other residents and businesses in the San Francisco Bay area, skyrocketing rents forced the world famous institution to move to a new location.
"It's so sad to be evicted out of here," church member Erinne Johnson, 19, told The San Francisco Examiner. "It's so sad, but we're looking at this as a new beginning, a transformation that's exciting."
According to Johnson, the current property owners raised the rent from just over $1,000 a month to $2,500 a month. She said the site will be converted to a coffee shop.
John Coltrane was a jazz saxophonist who played with the Miles Davis Quintet in the 1950s and later played with Thelonious Monk. He overcame drug and alcohol addiction and, after a "spiritual awakening" in 1957, spent the last decade of his life devoting himself to creating music that would inspire brotherhood and spirituality.
Coltrane, who died of liver cancer in 1967 at the age of 40, wrote that he aspired to sainthood though he never knew of the church founded in his name.
The Church of Coltrane, as it is known to many, was the brainchild of Bishop Franzo King, who established the church two years after Coltrane's death.
King said he had an epiphany one night as he and his wife listened to Coltrane's music at the old Jazz Workshop in North Beach. He compared it to being "arrested by the sound. It was a feeling of transportation, an out-of-body experience, where the focus is so entirely on the music that there is no sense of time or place or anything other than the sound."
The church's first meetings were held in King's home before moving to the Divisadero Street location. The church provided food and clothing for the needy and found people temporary shelter. On Sundays, it was standing room only.
"I don't know about the saint business, but John Coltrane's fantastic," churchgoer Phillip Naylor, who was visiting from England, told CNN.
The services are not for those in a hurry. Jam sessions preceding the sermons can last for hours.
"It was great, and I wished I'd known it'd last three hours, I could have stayed the whole time. I wouldn't have made an appointment," said San Francisco resident Anna Maria Stone.
The church still needs more than $20,000 in donations to help find a permanent home. In the meantime, it will share space with St. Paula Lutheran Church.
Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report.
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