The following comes from an Apr. 4 story on SFGate.com.
For more than a century, San Francisco Catholics were baptized, married and mourned at Sacred Heart Church on Fillmore Street.
Now the elegant, Romanesque-style building – with its Tuscan columns and towering campanile – is home to a different kind of rite: one involving KC and the Sunshine Band and short-shorts with American flag patterns.
Sacred Heart, once a pillar of the archdiocese of San Francisco, is now a disco roller rink. Under the glow of the Virgin Mary etched in stained glass, skaters in furry, flashy regalia swoop and glide to the joyous beat of 1970s dance tunes.
“We’re a different kind of holy roller,” said David Miles Jr., 58, who is leading the operation. “I mess with a lot of people, but I don’t mess with God. I feel truly blessed to have this.”
The archdiocese constructed the colossal church over a 12-year period starting in 1897. It survived the 1906 earthquake and the Loma Prieta quake in 1989. But in 2004, citing a seismic repair bill topping $8 million, the archdiocese closed the church. Parishioners were devastated and tried fruitlessly to save the church that had been their spiritual home for generations.
The building has changed hands at least twice since then and gradually slipped into disrepair. Homeless people broke in to the basement, and many of the artifacts – including the marble altar and a pair of circular rose stained-glass windows – were removed and sold.
In addition, the roof started leaking, sending chunks of plaster from the ornate, mural-covered ceiling onto the floor.
The building is now owned by a San Francisco contractor who declined to comment Thursday but reportedly hopes to build retail shops at the site, a process expected to take several years.
Enter Miles and his cadre of roller-skating apostles.
Miles was skating one Sunday last fall at Sixth Avenue and Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, where he has gathered with like-minded skaters for more than 35 years, when it started to rain. Skating in the rain is no fun, and he casually started asking around if anyone knew a dry, wide-open place that could accommodate skaters.
Friends of friends referred him to the current Sacred Heart owner.
“It was like a light went off in his head,” Miles said, remembering his initial conversation with the owner. “We agreed to try it once a week. But my instincts are pretty good. I took one look at this place and knew this was going to be great.”
Once a week has now turned into four nights a week. Miles, who runs a roller-skating party business, has outfitted Sacred Heart with a disco ball, flashing strobe lights and first-class sound system.
The pews are pushed against the wall, and he coated the 3,800-square-foot vinyl floor with polyurethane to provide some traction.
The Archdiocese of San Francisco does not object to the building’s current use. After all, it ceased being a church at its final Mass on Dec. 26, 2004, when church officiants formally closed it. Now, it’s just a regular building, said archdiocese spokeswoman Christine Mudridge.
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