A Brief History: Ministry in the Heartland

Jones didn’t make much of an impact in his high school years, few people remembered much about him. But while in Richmond, Jones met and later married Marceline Baldwin. Prior to their marriage Jones spent some time in college at Indiana University in Bloomington, before moving with Marceline to Indianapolis where he enrolled at Butler University and began to pursue ministry opportunities.

At his first position in south Indianapolis at SSSSS church, Jones grew with his desires to lead an integrated community and overcome the overt racism in the midwestern city. His ministry as an assistant minister at Somerset Southside Methodist Church lasted on a couple of years before Jones insisted on integrated services and was forced to leave the small traditional church. He would never again be in a position where his vision was controlled and subjugated to the institutional boundaries of a church hierarchy. Jones and a few similarly minded followers left to start Community Unity which became the Wings of Deliverance ministry at a rented church in a racially mixed area in Indianapolis, the forerunner of Peoples Temple.

The young congregation grew rapidly as Jones expected complete devotion to the cause and commitment of time and money from his closest followers. Yet those who agreed with Jones’ message of racial and economic equality thrived during these early years with the ministry. During these years Jim developed a following of loyal parishioners, men and women who would move with him to California and then to Guyana in search of a utopian vision that would never be fully realized.

While Jim Jones was building his practical ministry on the streets of Indianapolis, his beliefs were under construction as well. He was attracted to the messages of equality coming from a growing ministry in New York and Philadelphia led by Father Divine. He was so enthralled with Father Divine’s success that Jones made several trips to Philadelphia and wrote a short booklet admiring the work of the Peace Mission movement while distancing himself from Father Divine’s most controversial theological innovations.

Hiatus and Exodus