Former People’s Temple building is open to possibilities

Indianapolis Star, June 16, 2003

A church that was once home to cult leader Jim Jones is up for sale on the Old Northside.

Jones had been a street preacher before founding the People’s Temple Full Gospel Church in 1956.

Today, the building at 15th and North New Jersey streets is home to Abundant Faith Apostolic Church, which is moving to the suburbs.

The congregation has no members left over from the People’s Temple days.

Pastor Larry Glass says people doing historical research sometimes visit but that the Jones connection isn’t talked about in the pews.

Local lore has it that Jones in his early days was different from the man who led more than 900 followers to their deaths in Guyana 25 years ago.

“He was a man who loved people, who reached out and loved people in the community,” Glass said.

“And what went wrong after that, I really don’t know.”

What could have happened to Jones? Glass talked about the power that ministers have.

“You know how absolute power corrupts. You’ve got people who never had anything. And they start to get things, and greed sets in.”

Gretchen Gutman says she heard about the building’s past from several people after she moved in to her home across the street four months ago.

“Basically, the story that I’ve heard was that he was a community activist, very outspoken.

“This was at a time when the community and the country were going through a lot of issues.”

But even then, the charismatic Jones was beginning to establish a grip on his followers.

Carolyn Pickering, a retired Indianapolis Star reporter, wrote a series of stories about the People’s Temple in the early 1970s. Last week, she recalled talking with a woman whose devotion was typical of the minister’s followers.

“Before I met him, I was a nobody going nowhere,” the woman told Pickering. “And then, Reverend Jones came and saved my soul.”

Today the neighborhood, once crumbling from urban blight, is one of the city’s hottest real estate markets.

Glass says the church wants half a million dollars for the building. It sounds like a lot, but the number did not faze some in the neighborhood.

Kurt Flock, former president of the Old Northside neighborhood association, is co-owner of Flock Real Estate Group and lives a few blocks away.

He doubted the Jones connection would help or hurt Abundant Faith’s sale of the place.

“It’s a neat building. But it’s nothing we’ve touted as one of the top 10 reasons for moving into the neighborhood.”

Another congregation could move into the building. But the cost and the lack of parking might be a problem.

So what else could a buyer do with the former People’s Temple?

Maybe the same thing that folks are doing with historic buildings all over Downtown:

People’s Condos.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday June 18, 2003.
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