SF church celebrates its 68th anniversary
August 30, 2008 11:39 AM
Seated ramrod straight on a floral patterned chair and encompassed by photographs and momentos of her life, Iola Spencer commands a delicate, almost frail strength not uncommon for those who approach her in age. At 97 years she is whisper thin, keen of mind and graceful; always a proper lady.
Spencer has attended Emanuel Church of God in Christ (COGIC) since her arrival in San Francisco in 1956. As the original COGIC 'Mother Church' for The City, Emanuel boasted a congregation "in the thousands", recalled Mrs. Spencer's daughter, Mildred. That was before 1967, when the church was forced from it's original location.
"Emanuel, when it was located on Post Street, was required to move because of redevelopment" noted Mildred dryly. The elder Spencer didn't recall that the relocation shook up the congregation much. The church soon found a new home up the hill at 1649 Hayes Street near Lyon. "...[the congregation] bought this place on Hayes and paid cash for that church. When we moved there we paid for it fully," Iola said, with obvious pride.
Membership at Emanuel has dwindled in recent years, a result of many factors. No doubt the orthodox nature of the church and a declining African-American population in San Francisco as a whole has contributed greatly, noted Iola's daughter Mildred. She could not afford to buy into her Mother's neighborhood in the Western Addition, and instead lives in the Bayview/Hunters Point community. Many of her friends and family have been forced from the city all together, she says.
"...what Mom is praying for, and what the other members of the church are praying for, is that the older members, scattered everywhere, and there kids, come back to the mother church," said Mildred.
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