In 2019, the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church observed its 50th anniversary. Based in San Francisco, the church uses John Coltrane’s music as a source for religious discovery. Instead of singing traditional hymns, worshippers chant Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” and there are monthly meditations where people commune with Coltrane’s music.
In 1965, Branzo King and his wife, Marina King, saw Coltrane live at a San Francisco jazz club. The couple had a religious experience. The couple had a religious experience. They called it a “sound baptism.” “Coltrane impressed me more as a clergy than he did a jazz musician.
In the years leading up to his death in 1967 at the age of 40, Coltrane’s music had grown increasingly spiritual. He said that he wanted to be a saint and in him, Branzo, who had wanted to be a preacher, had found his God. When the King’s founded the church, Coltrane was considered God but when they joined the African Orthodox Church in 1981 he became the congregation’s Patron Saint. Instead of a mural of Jesus in the sanctuary there is one of Patron Saint John Coltrane.
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