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Rev. Frederick K.C. Price of Crenshaw Christian Center in South L.A. dies from COVID-19

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frederick K.C. Price sit next to each other
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks to the Rev. Frederick K.C. Price, pastor and founder of the Crenshaw Christian Center, during a service at the center in Los Angeles in 2005.
(Patrick Liotta/AP)

The Rev. Frederick K.C. Price, a televangelist who founded the Crenshaw Christian Center, a South Los Angeles megachurch with a 10,000-seat sanctuary, died Friday from COVID-19. He was 89. His family said he had been in the hospital suffering from the virus infection for the last five weeks.

Opened in 1989 on the former site of Pepperdine University, Price’s South Vermont Avenue church was topped by a massive aluminum sphere known as the FaithDome, 320 feet in diameter and 63 feet high. At the time, newspapers proclaimed it the largest geodesic church structure in the world, and it remains a landmark visible to air travelers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.

“He chose to build the FaithDome in the inner city, as opposed to doing it in the suburbs, because he wanted to minister to the disenfranchised,” said Angela Evans, his daughter and the church president. “He had a heart for his own people, people of color. He wanted to lift them out of their ills and raise their hopes, that in God they could be something, do something, raise their children well.”

The Crenshaw Christian Center has served as a coronavirus testing site since early in the pandemic, and recently as a vaccination site. In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described Price as “a towering giant of our faith community in Los Angeles and an inspiring force for justice worldwide,” and added: “His ministry had local roots, but a global impact — providing care, resources, and a helping hand to the most vulnerable in our city and far beyond our borders.”

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A Santa Monica native, Price met his future wife, Betty, in the early 1950s when they were both students at Dorsey High School. Price’s family says his religious awakening began when he followed her to a Christian tent revival service. He joined her at a Baptist church, and preached for years while making a living at other jobs, such as driving a truck for Coca-Cola.

“He was the consummate family man, and that’s one of the hallmarks of his ministry and his life,” Evans said. “That’s why his children are so devastated. He was everything.”

She said her father wrote more than 50 books on religious themes. Price and his wife were married for 67 years. They lost an 8-year-old son when a car struck him in 1962.

“He was generous to his children,” said Evans. “If they needed something, he didn’t say, ‘You know, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, you do the same.’”

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Price founded the Crenshaw Christian Center in Inglewood in 1973, and his popularity was hugely boosted by his appearance on television and radio, including a show called “Ever Increasing Faith.”

Price was a preacher in the charismatic tradition, with a belief in miraculous healing. He also preached what some described as the “prosperity gospel,” or the idea that God rewards faith with abundance, material and otherwise.

As crowds multiplied, Price dreamed of assembling his congregation in one room. Frederick Price Jr., who took over his father’s pulpit in 2009, said his father got the idea for the FaithDome after walking into the geodesic dome that used to house the Spruce Goose seaplane in Long Beach.

“He realized we needed another building. ‘How can we get everyone in the same building? How can we get a good seat for everyone in the house?’” he said. “The geodesic dome can be pillarless. He said, ‘Yeah, this is it.’”

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The geodesic dome was also much cheaper than traditional architecture would have been for a sanctuary of its size. When the FaithDome opened in 1989, The Times called it “the nation’s largest house of worship,” with a 16,000-member congregation that made it the largest Protestant church in Southern California.

“We’re located where we are, where others might not want to come in and help,” said Price Jr. “It was important to him to be that oasis in the desert, so to speak.”

The church has a school and a youth center, hosts food and blood drives, and does prison outreach. It employs about 150 people. At times, the church has boasted membership of 28,000, a number the family says encompasses parishioners throughout its history.

Price Jr. said that before the pandemic, the church had a congregation of roughly 6,000 people, a number that he estimates has grown massively during COVID-19 lockdown, with online videos reaching 20,000 to 30,000 viewers.

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Besides his widow, Price Jr. and Evans, Price is survived by daughters Stephanie Buchanan and Cheryl Price, as well as 10 grandchildren.


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