The Unification Church, whose members are disciples of the Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon, announced yesterday that it has purchased the former Mormon Washington Chapel on 16th Street NW for $475,000.
Neil A. Salonen, the church president, said the building will be used for events of community interest, as well as religious services, sothat the public can make its "own judgments" about church activities, which have long been the center of controversy.
A training center, conducted to initiate new members into the church, will also be established in the building, Salonen said. The training centers have been the focus of criticism, especially from parents of Moon followers, who claim their children have been brainwashed by church members during the sessions.
Salonen called the brainwashing allegations "intangible criticism" that "seems to be dying down."
Evangelist Moon "sanctified" the 44-year-old building Tuesday, Salonen said. He said the building, located on the edge of the Adams-Morgan neighborhood at the intersection of 16th Street and Columbia Road, is th e Unification Church's first public church center in the Washington area.
"I don't think there will be any different reception then they had anywhere else in the country. Once people become aware of what (the church is) all about they will reject them," said John Jones, the executive director of the 4,000 member Adams Morgan Organization, a community action group.
"I'm not announcing antagonism to the group before they get here," Jones said. "They have a track record which of course we are aware of."
The Unification Church purchased the chapel from Columbia Road Recording Studios, a Washington corporation that had intended to use the building as a music studio, according to Mitchell NewDelman, Columbia's president.
NewDelman said yesterday that he contracted with the Mormon Church to buy the property in April, 1976, but final settlement on the purchase was delayed until a restrictive covenant in the deed could be lifted and zoning changes approved so that the church could be converted into commercial use.
Several weeks ago, however, NewDelman said he began to look for other purchasers because he had difficulties raising funds for the project and anticipated problems in getting the needed zoning change. He said he contacted the Unification Church and other potential buyers about the sale.
NewDelman said on Sept. 9, he formally purchased the chapel building from the Mormons for $300,000 and the same day, sold the building to the Unification Church for $475,000.
"I didn't make a windfall," NewDelman said. He said expenses for the abandoned project were "tremendous" but he declined to specify how much he had spent.
An attorney who represented the Unification Church when it purchased the chapel said the church members "believe they paid a fair price for the property."
The acquisition of the chapel is first major property purchase made in the Washington area by the Unification Church, which owns large properties across the country, including th former New Yorker Hotel, now the church's World Mission Center in New York City.
At a press conference yesterday, Salonen said the church is interested in purchasing a residential facility in Washington to house its members and to provide housing for training center participants.
Until further property is acquired, the training center at the chapel will operate on a daytime basis, a church spokeswoman said.
Unification church members, who believe that Moon is the new messiah, have been active in the Washinton area for about 10 years.
The Moon followers sell flowers, peanuts and candy to raise money for the church and conduct choirs, lectures and programs as part of their evangelical effort. Attempts last summer by some church members to organize recreational activities for children throughout the Washinton area met opposition from parents who did not want their children associating with the members.
Last year the church conducted a "God Bless America" festival on the Washington Monument grounds. attended by about 50,000 people.
The Unification Church's continued expansion in the Washington area since that time necessitated the purchase of the chapel builcing, according to a statement released by the church yesterday. CAPTION: Picture 1, Unification Church has paid $475,000 for Mormon's Washington Chapel.; Picture 2, Neil A. Salonen, Unification Church president, left, and Daid Hose of Washington church at press conference. By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post