Coltrane Church given 60-day reprieve from eviction

For the embattled Coltrane Church, the love is indeed supreme.

The Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church declared before a crowd of supporters late Tuesday evening that its eviction has been delayed 60 days. The reprieve came in just under the wire, as the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department was expected to enforce the church’s eviction early Wednesday morning.

At a rally of two dozen or so outside the church on Tuesday afternoon, Archbishop Franzo W. King was quick to say it was a victory brought not by the sheriffs, but by the people of the church.

“We refused to leave at gunpoint,” King told the crowd as he removed his headphones. “Instead of the police telling us when to leave, God is telling us when to leave.”

Coltrane’s music echoed from the church onto the street, as it has for decades.

King has presided over Coltrane Church, which he co-founded, for 48 years. The church’s teachings take their notes from Coltrane’s jazz, especially his famous “Love Supreme” composition.

The church’s landlord, private nonprofit West Bay Center, served the church with an eviction notice citing a failure to pay rent. The church must still pay two month’s rent during the 60-day reprieve, Archpriest Rev. Wanika Stephens told the San Francisco Examiner.

Stephens said the church’s new eviction date is April 30, and more information will be forthcoming on March 20.

King said it was unlikely the church would find a new space in the historically black Fillmore district.

“With God, all things are possible,” King told the Examiner. “But we don’t know if something is available.”

Seeing the eviction delayed is “very important,” said Rev. Stephens, as her congregation is now in the middle of Lent. She said the church plans to use the 60 days to fundraise to find a new space, but said, “I doubt we’d be able to do anything in 60 days to afford anything in San Francisco.”

Still, the church has offers from landlords across the Bay Area, she said, even as far as Encinitas. She said a move that far was unlikely.

“This church was born here, and lives in San Francisco,” Stephens said.

Supervisor London Breed told the Examiner previously that she’s in talks to secure a space for the church, including possibly occupying a small theater space in the Fillmore Heritage Center at 1330 Fillmore St. — the complex previously occupied by Yoshi’s jazz club.

Will Moreland, a 10-year San Francisco resident, said that, as a black man, he finds San Francisco’s black community to be “distant,” but said Stephens is “a voice of love and compassion.”

“They shouldn’t have to go through this,” Moreland said.

Many spoke at the rally outside the church, including Dean Preston, who is running for supervisor of District 5, which includes the Fillmore.

“The idea of armed sheriffs busting locks,” he said in reference to evictions, “it takes a lot to fight that.”

Though the Coltrane Church said it received a 60-day delay of eviction, the Sheriff’s Department was unaware of it.

“We have not received any paperwork to indicate that, but that does not mean it’s not true,” Eileen Hirst, chief of staff for the Sheriff’s Department told the Examiner. “They need to bring that paperwork to us.”

King was quick to put the Coltrane Church’s loss within the greater flight of the black community from the Fillmore, due to historic city policies which drove out the community.

“What’s been happening in the Fillmore has happening since the late ’40s early ’50s,” King said. “With this idea of urban renewal, this blight, asking all the black folks to leave so they could sweep it up.”

“They swept the people out, too,” he said. “You see a culture disappearing from this area.”

Archbishop F. W. King prepares to address the media during a rally in support and celebration of St. John Coltrane Church in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, Calif. Tuesday, March 1, 2016. The church recently recieved a 60 day extention after facing a looming eviction. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

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Archbishop F. W. King prepares to address the media during a rally in support and celebration of St. John Coltrane Church in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, Calif. Tuesday, March 1, 2016. The church recently received a 60 day extension after facing a looming eviction. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

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