“I know that Pastor Jim Jones is God Almighty himself!” cried one of the more than 1000 people who overflowed the auditorium of Benjamin Franklin Junior High School on Geary Boulevard yesterday morning and Saturday night.
“You say I am God Almighty?” asked the Rev. Mr. Jones, the charismatic pastor-prophet of the People’s Temple Christian (Disciples) Church near Ukiah, who was holding special services in San Francisco this weekend.
“Yes, you are!” shrieked the unidentified but obviously ecstatic woman, as the audience clapped or waved their arms and shouted approval at Sunday services.
The Rev. Mr. Jones has been consistently attracting congregations of more than 1000 people – who travel by the fleet of ex-Greyhound buses from as far away as Los Angeles and Seattle to his home in Redwood Valley, seven miles north of Ukiah, and to services such as those this weekend in San Francisco.
Among those attracted is the assistant district attorney of Mendocino County, Timothy O. Stoen, who has affirmed in writing that the Rev. Mr. Jones has raised 40 people from the dead.
Jones arrived in California in 1965, accompanied by 165 of his parishioners from the People’s Temple of Indianapolis, where he served as pastor.
He is a darkly handsome, 41 year old, part-Cherokee who is an ordained minister of 1.9 million member the Disciples of Christ (Christian) Church.
Yesterday as he conducted services, he was clad in a white turtleneck sweater, a pulpit gown, and dark glasses. He was seated on a cushion-covered stool behind the podium – which is an apparent necessity given the five and six-hour length of his services.
He reflected only momentarily upon the lady’s enthusiastic affirmation of his divinity before replying:
“What do you mean by that? If you believe I am a son of God in that I am filled with love, I can accept that. I won’t knock what works for you – but I don’t want to be interpreted as the creator of the universe.”
Then he added, gently:
“If you say ‘He is God,’ some people will think you are nuts. They can’t relate. I’m glad you were healed, but I’m really only a messenger of God….I have a paranormal ability in healing.”
The Rev. Mr. Jones had just completed what were said to be two resuscitations of parishioners who had either fainted or gone into catatonic stiffenings in the general excitement.
In each case, he stopped in the middle of a sentence, raced from the stage to the audience and laid hands upon the stiffened congregant.
After some 30 seconds, the audible tension of the multitude broke as the Prophet lifted up each prostrate figure – to thunderous applause.
Another unidentified woman began leaping wildly and screeching hallelujahs – while an even more elderly woman commenced a frenzied hopping in a corner down stage right.
Utilizing the full force of the microphone to project his generally soothing voice above this ecstatic din, the Rev. Mr. Jones smilingly explained:
“You’ll have to understand – she was given up to die; they said she’d never be able to move again….Such experiences are not at all uncommon to us. That’s the 43rd time this has happened. I just said: ‘I love you, God loves you, come back to us.’ The registered nurses around her said it was so.”
These R.N.s were neither introduced nor even identified, however. They were hardly even apparent, given the number of large men who surrounded the reported resurrection.
None of these security guards (“ushers”) was spotted carrying firearms, however – in contrast to last Sunday’s service in Redwood Valley, where an Examiner photographer spotted three holstered pistols (one a .357 magnum) and a shotgun.
“You all complied with my wishes and didn’t bring guns, even though you are afraid for me,” congratulated the Rev. Mr. Jones.
Yesterday morning’s services opened with two hymns, followed by glowing testimonials from 3 men who recalled how The Prophet had either healed them or in one case saved them from air crash and false arrest for transporting narcotics.
Then Mrs. Jones, a trim blonde, sang a song entitled “My Black Baby,” with the Jones’ adopted black son, a handsome boy of 14, standing at his mother’s feet at stage edge while the audience loudly applauded. (The boy had been extensively featured in last week’s sermon by his father in Redwood Valley, as well.)
Then The Prophet made everyone hold hands (after an initial embrace). With the organ providing a tremolo background, he began a series of trance-like revelations about various people’s names, relatives, addresses, and maladies. These assorted ills were all pronounced cured by both healed and healer – to further applause.
Among a vast number of subjects discussed by the Rev. Mr. Jones in his two-hour extemporaneous sermon was the desirability of cooperation and fellowship with other denominations.
He did note in this connection that this is sometimes difficult, however.
“We tried to fellowship with one pastor in this area – who actually propositioned two of our young choirgirls! And when I confronted him about this, he replied: “Wasn’t David a man after God’s heart?”
(King David, in the second Book of Samuel, seduced Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom David ordered killed after Bathsheba became pregnant.)
But this San Francisco pastor was not identified by the Rev. Mr. Jones. Nor were several assistants and parishioners able to identify the man.
The prophet’s offertory calls are (comparatively) low key. He told the mammoth congregation that the elders had informed him that Saturday evening’s collection was “light.”
Later in yesterday’s service he applied this very same (unspecific) description to the Sunday’s collection – while one week ago, the Rev. Mr. Jones described the current financial condition of the People’s temple as “bleak.”
(Receipts for the fiscal year ending this June 30 are listed by attorney Stoen at $396,000.)