Organized Religion Got You Down? Discover The Church Of Saint John Coltrane

Orga­nized reli­gion got you down? Feel like giv­ing up on it alto­geth­er? You are not by any stretch alone. Reli­gios­i­ty is in grave decline in Europe and the U.S., prompt­ing pan­ic in some quar­ters and sat­is­fac­tion in oth­ers (that young adults, for exam­ple, agree more with Karl Marx than with the Bible). The list of rea­sons for religion’s grow­ing unpop­u­lar­i­ty is long and rather pre­dictable, and you won’t find a case for the con­trary here—unless, that is, it’s for the St. John Coltrane Church. If there’s any reli­gion that deserves an upswing, so to speak, per­haps it’s one based on the gen­uine­ly ecsta­t­ic, con­scious­ness-expand­ing music of one of America’s most spir­i­tu­al­ly-mind­ed jazz com­posers.

Found­ed in San Fran­cis­co by Bish­op Fran­zo King and his wife Rev­erend Moth­er Mari­na King in 1971 as the Saint John Coltrane African Ortho­dox Church, the small body of wor­ship­pers has since become some­thing a lit­tle more rad­i­cal: The Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane Church, whose vibe, writes Aeon, “is a rap­tur­ous out-of-your-head-ness, where instead of the choir and the hymn book there is the sin­u­ous, tran­scen­dent music of the jazz saint.” We get a pow­er­ful immer­sion in that vibe in the course of the 30-minute doc­u­men­tary, The Church Of Saint Coltrane. (Watch it above, or find it on Aeon’s YouTube chan­nel). The church band, with Bish­op King him­self on the sopra­no sax­o­phone, gets deep into Coltrane’s music, in funky per­for­mances of cuts from Coltrane’s ground­break­ing 1964 A Love Supreme espe­cial­ly.

That career-defin­ing album of reli­gious music changed the course of Coltrane’s career at the very end of his short life. (He died three years lat­er at the age of 40.) He wasn’t always such a mys­tic. Before he dis­cov­ered the idio­syn­crat­ic God of his recov­ery from hero­in addic­tion in 1957, he was a rapid­ly ris­ing star in an increas­ing­ly pre­car­i­ous place. After his “spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing,” as he describes it in the lin­er notes to A Love Supreme, Coltrane became a musi­cal evan­ge­list. And Bish­op King heard the call. King’s “sound bap­tism” took place when he saw Coltrane in 1965 at the Jazz Work­shop in San Fran­cis­co, a Pen­te­costal expe­ri­ence for him. “I am the first son born out of sound,” he says.

Oth­er wor­ship­pers iden­ti­fy with Coltrane on a more bio­graph­i­cal lev­el. Sax­o­phon­ist Father Robert Haven is also a for­mer addict and alco­holic, who got sober “under Coltrane’s spell.” At the church, he found both a spir­i­tu­al and musi­cal home. As the doc­u­men­tary pro­gress­es, you’ll see the expe­ri­ences of non-musi­cian church-mem­bers are equal­ly pro­found, but the com­mon thread, of course, is that they all love Coltrane. That would appear to be the most impor­tant cri­te­ri­on for join­ing the Saint John Coltrane Church, where one can osten­si­bly come for the music and stay for the music. At least that seems to be the pitch, and it’s quite a com­pelling one for peo­ple who love Coltrane, though Bish­op King’s ser­vices do get preachy at times. But the res­i­dent church icono­g­ra­ph­er tells us that King con­vert­ed him with one sim­ple phrase, repeat­ed with con­fi­dence over and over: “It’s all in the music.”

The Church Of Saint Coltrane will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

For more back­ground on the church, see our 2014 post: The Church of St. John Coltrane, Found­ed on the Divine Music of A Love Supreme

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Spir­i­tu­al Jazz: Hear a Tran­scen­dent 12-Hour Mix Fea­tur­ing John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Her­bie Han­cock & More

The Sto­ry of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Released 50 Years Ago This Month

John Coltrane’s Hand­writ­ten Out­line for His Mas­ter­piece A Love Supreme

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Bill W. says:

    How­ev­er, Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty is up. God does­n’t need walls to be wor­shipped and adored!

  • Fred says:

    I think I’ll put on Love Supreme tonight.

  • Hanoch says:

    If it is true that young adults are more inclined toward Marx than the Bible, that just demon­strates their utter fool­ish­ness. One need not search very long to see the mis­ery and inhu­man­i­ty that fol­lowed when soci­eties adopt­ed the Marx­ist mod­el. I will take love your neigh­bor as your­self any­time over such non­sense.

  • E says:

    Isn’t “love your neigh­bor as your­self” essen­tial­ly Marx­ism?

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.