By all counts, Saint John Coltrane AOC tops the list of San Francisco's coolest churches.
It began as a music appreciation club after its founders, Archbishop Franzo King and Reverend Mother Marina King, experienced what they call a "sound baptism" at a Coltrane concert in 1965. After a stint as an after-hours club where touring musicians experimented, their space eventually turned into a house of worship.
These days, the church's congregants attend musical sermons where anyone can bring their own instrument, meditate to Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and spread their spiritual teachings on a weekly KPOO 89.5-FM show, Uplift. How many people can say their minister is also a bassist and a DJ, like Pastor Wanika K. Stephens?
Saint John Coltrane AOC celebrates its 50th anniversary with an evening vespers concert on July 20 at Grace Cathedral. It features Oakland composer and bassist Marcus Shelby, whose work interprets powerful stories from African-American history; saxophonist Teodross Avery, who recently released a Coltrane tribute album called After the Rain; saxophonist, composer and educator Richard Howell; harpist Destiny Muhammad; drummer, pianist and composer Ele Howell; and composer and guitarist Pascal Bokar, accompanied by African dancers. In addition to the performances, guests will hear from Saint John Coltrane AOC's clergy, including co-founder Archbishop King.