The Open Door

Peoples Temple was born in 1954, when Jim Jones left Somerset Methodist Church on the southside of Indianapolis, Indiana, and opened a small church that he named Community Unity. Within two years, he had put a down payment on a church building at Fifteenth and North New Jersey in a racially-mixed neighborhood, which he opened as Wings of Deliverance. As Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs wrote in Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People (p. 49), “The little church … constituted a real step up in the world. It had stained glass, arched windows, a steeply peaked roof and a red brick parsonage next door.”

Wings of Deliverance survived as a corporate entity for some years – there are papers from the Temple’s years in Ukiah from the late 1960s that still refer to the name – but within a few months, Jim Jones had renamed his church as Peoples Temple.

The April 1956 issue of the Temple’s newsletter, The Open Door, is one of the earliest uses of the name Peoples Temple. The drawing on the front of the four-page newsletter includes the stained glass and arches that characterized the building.

The article on page two – entitled “The Christ In You” – is unsigned, but its message is one that Jim Jones preached often during his early years as an evangelical pastor, until it began a slow evolution towards the Christ in Jim Jones and ultimately to Jim Jones as a Christ and – later – God figure. The message on page three, written by an early Temple member, that communism represents the anti-Christ, is one that Jones would completely reverse.

The Open Door, from the collection of Gene and June Cordell, Indianapolis, Indiana