Peoples Temple is many things to many people.
[In] demonstrations last week on behalf of the four jailed Fresno Bee reporters is emblematic of his active role in society.
The church, based in the Bay Area, provides housing and care for the elderly and organs and dormitories for college students.
It operates a farm mission in South America to produce food for the underprivileged while teaching the nationals self-sufficiency and attempting to dispel a bad image of the United States.
It has a fleet of Greyhound-type buses for transporting its 9,000 members throughout the state to church meetings and rallies.
It offers free legal services and health care.
It has a boat sailing off of the South American coast which provides medical and agricultural assistance to these countries. Each year it champions thousands of dollars to many philanthropic organizations that the list of beneficiaries rivals a United Way directory. Let the Peoples Temple hear of a need and the congregation jumps in to help.
In the last year the congregation’s donations have:
-Helped keep open a medical centered in San Francisco which otherwise would have closed.
– Benefited research in the medical fields of cancer, heart disease and sickle-cell anemia.
– Supported educational broadcasting such as KQKD
– Provided emergency cash to distressed families, particularly those of state law enforcement officers.
– Benefited the treasuries of groups fighting hunger, building schools, developing hospitals, [xxxx] church programs or working with [xxxx]
-Aided civil rights causes, both financially and through demonstrations including those involving discrimination and the jailing of the Bee newsmen and Los Angeles Times reporter William Farr. Peoples Temple Christian Church as it is properly called is affiliated with the 8-million member, nationwide Disciples of Christ.
The man behind the manyfaceted church is the Rev. Jim Jones, a prophet and revolutionary for 15 years, and formerly a teacher and businessman.
Jones’ theology is succinct: “The highest worship to God is service to your fellow man.”
Members of the church interviewed.
Jones admits he doesn’t adhere to fundamentalist teachings of the Bible but is driven by his oft-repeated phrase of serving fellow man. He does it with a budget of [x00,000]
– “We try to be frugal” he says – and a congregation that is willing to leave home or job to get involved.
“I visualize God as love” he said in an interview. “You can reverse that, too and say love is God. I try to maintain the highest degree of love and compassion that I can with my [xxxxx] [xxxx]
“Jesus, in Matthew, put the pressure on the church by emphasizing it’s what you do for others that counts. That’s what we try to do, to serve others.”
A native of Indiana where he graduated from the University of Indiana and A Bible college, Jones began preaching soon after he got out of school. He also worked part-time as a school teacher to supplement his income.
After serving several pastorates there, he came to California 11 years ago, settling in the small Mendocino County community of Redwood Valley eight miles north of Ukiah.
“We considered California more progressive,” said Jones of the family’s decision to come West. “Having adopted a black child, we thought it created a lot of problems. We heard there were a number of ethnic groups gathered in Redwood Valley and it would give us an opportunity to grow up in a small town.”Jones stated that of his nine children, eight are adopted and most are of mixed ancestries including Korean, Indian, Mexican and Japanese.
The church is as diverse as his family and has been described by one religious writer as the most multiracial congregation ever. Jones said [about] 35 percent are Caucasian, 45 percent black, 10 percent Chicano and 10 per cent Indian and Asian.
“We go out of our way to break down all barriers between socio-economic and ethnic classes,” said Jones. “We find a very wholesome bond between all these people.”
“We think there is something important in the Kerner Commission Report which said we are heading toward two societies, spate but unequal one black, one white. One of the sharpest messages of the Scripture is that God doesn’t see a difference in people.
“One of the challenges of this church is that there are no barriers between young and old. The typical thing you see in a church is a gap between age. You don’t see that in our church. Rather do you see a gap between race or creed.”
In the same vein the church is open to all beliefs. There are both fundamentalists – “not too many” said Jones – and agnostics. “We even have people who come here just because they like to help people and care about serving people. They feel they are equals. We don’t claim to be a highly evolved people.”
The basic tenet Jones said, is that members should subscribe to the practical teachings of Jesus Christ. “We don’t attempt to define the furniture of heaven of the temperature of hell” said Jones. “I’m not futuristic. That’s one of the dangers. Jesus said we should build the kingdom of heaven on earth. Well, when we were marching some said it was the Lord’s will for those men to be in jail. I think that is a dangerous assumption.”
Jones began his California ministry in the garage of his redwood valley home. Some members of his Indiana congregation followed him west and the church grew. He opened a branch church in the Fillmore district of San Francisco seven years ago. It now serves all his [congregation.] Another branch was opened in Los Angeles four years ago.
There are members throughout the state who are transported to services on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at one of the three churches by the fleet of busses. Jones or one of 12 assistant pastors conducts the services with Jones alternating weekends in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
The San Fransisco church is in what Jones calls a traditional [xxxx] a kind way of saying a member of the buildings are [xxxx] It is a church without permanent [roots] so that the facility can be transformed into a community center. From there area residents are offered free medical care provided by volunteer nurses and doctors, and free legal services provided by volunteer lawyers.
[Second to last paragraph on column one, page two is illegible]
However, [xxxxx] [xxxxx] [xxxxxx] Jones and Peoples Temples [xxx] not [xxxxxx] any kind of religious [introduction] of hungry persons before giving them bread.
[xxxxxx] is [xxx] special programs.
Peoples Temple has donated thousands of dollars into other causes such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Big Brothers America and Indian rebuild program and a plan to combat hunger.
When a law enforcement officer is critically shot or slain the church usually steps in to help with money, said Jones. The church gave the family of slain High Way Patrolman in Los Angeles [xxxx]
“Being that we are activists, we [xxxx] want it know that we are opposed to violence,” said Jones, whenever an officer is shot we make a deposit to the family. The typical image of the person who protests for people’s rights is that they are militant. We are pacifists.”
“Jones said the bulk of the church’s protest is limited to letter writing. However, about 1,000 members of the church, wearing paper ‘Free the Bee Four’ [xxxxx] on their lapels participated in last weeks [xxxx] of the Democratic [xxxxx] in San Francisco. One of those attending was Rosalynn Carter, wife of Democratic Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, who invited Jones to dine with her. “I can tell you this” said Jones “ I told her all about the Bee Four.” Jones said the money for all the church’s activities comes from members “and others just wanting to help.” “We have no demand on [xxxx] said Jones. “When the congregation sees things happening, they tend to respond. Some causes just stir people up that they put on rummage sales or bake sales. That helps [xxxx] money.
Jones also said the church is “very frugal,” and called the use of the San Francisco church ‘sanctuary” as a multipurpose facility as an example. Jones said the motivating force for many involved in Peoples Temple is the work or the [???]
“We are interested in your newsmen, for example, because freedom should be a [xxxx] for everyone,” said Jones. “We have demonstrated [xxxx] the Civil Rights marches years back. But we saw that the only people showing concerns were the newsmen so we decided to get involved.”