The Christ Holy Sanctified Church on 7th Street is where musician Saunders King got his start singing and playing piano in the choir. His father, Bishop Judge King, was the church’s pastor.
The church was originally founded in 1910 in Louisiana, but Judge and Sarah King moved to Los Angeles in 1918 to escape racial discrimination. On their trip west, they preached the gospel in open fields from Louisiana to California. In search of mill work in the 1920s, the Kings moved to Oroville, where they established a mixed-race Pentecostal church. They endured religious and racial prejudice; after a mob burned their church and Sarah was shot in the arm by an assailant, they moved to Central California.
While in San Francisco in 1925, Bishop Judge King said he heard the Lord’s voice telling him to establish a church across the bay in West Oakland. The first church was located on 7th Street in a Victorian house. Judge and Sarah King took to the streets and preached amid the active nightlife and sometimes seedy scene on 7th Street. Their church was known as the Seventh Street Mission, located among clubs, shops and gambling joints. The Mission became a 7th Street institution where hustlers, alcoholics and roustabouts were welcome to find God.
Kitsaun King and Deborah Santana, Saunders King’s daughters, remember spending Sundays at the church. According to Kitsaun, it largely catered to “reformed prostitutes, pimps, and others struggling with various addictions.” After the service, King and his family walked down 7th Street to visit friends. Kitsaun King recalled one character from 7th Street named “Flash” who would do a little dance when she passed by. Deborah Santana remembered her father wearing a wide, shiny tie and smelling of Ivory soap and lime aftershave.
Bishop Judge King died in 1945. One of his sons, Ulysses S. King (Saunders’ brother) became the new bishop and broadened the focus of the church by joining the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. His goal was to teach Pentecostal doctrine across religious boundaries.
In the late 1950s, the Christ Holy Sanctified Church was forced to find a home when federal administrators announced the construction of a postal distribution facility that ultimately took up 12 square blocks of 7th Street. The church that was once a neighborhood institution and spawned a jazz great relocated to North Oakland. Known today as the Memorial Tabernacle Church, it’s run by Saunders’ nephew, Pastor Stephen King.