Steve Wolfgang to the list,
Gospel preacher Robert Turner passed away this morning at the age of 90. He edited Plain Talk for many years…
Second, a reminiscence:
For listers who may not know, RFT was, by Ed Harrell’s description, a “thoughtful voice” and “widely respected preacher whose non-institutional vision of the nature of the church left a deeper imprint on the non-institutional churches of Christ than the thought of any other individual” – an assessment with which I totally agree (quote from the Hailey biography, Churches of Christ in the 20th Century, p. 124).
When my grandfather and grandmother moved in 1920 from the family farm near Sheridan, IN to the “big city” (Indianapolis, in this case, thereby joining much of America in moving to urban centers – the 1920 census was the first in which more Americans lived in “urban” areas than “rural” areas as defined by the Census Bureau), they joined Englewood Christian Church (which I think is still an Independent congregation, perhaps moved to another location). I’m sure CJ or other listers can clarify.
They continued there for several years, but became increasingly dissatisfied with the circumstances (just as Harrell describes HH’s feelings in the same period). When they heard a preacher on the radio by the name of E.G. Creacy, who “rode the rails” each week from Horse Cave, KY, to Indianapolis, my grandpa told my grandmother, Dad, and my aunt, “we’re going to hear that fellow tonight – we haven’t heard preaching like that since we left the farm.”
Creacy had rented the “Red Man’s Hall” on East Michigan Street, and after hearing Creacy and others preach for awhile, my grandparents and father (a teenager at that time) left Englewood and “placed membership” with the non-instrument group meeting at 40th and Capitol, closer to their home. The young preacher there, a University of Illinois student from Scottsville, KY, who Creacy had convinced to make weekend trips to preach in Indianapolis, was Robert F. Turner. Robert told me years later that my grandfather was the second person to “respond to the invitation” in his young preaching life – the first being Dr. O.S. Jaquith, long-time and well-respected physician who, I believe, also departed Englewood.
My grandparents, father, and aunt later became members of the “Eastside” group that was meeting with Creacy but later became the Irvington Church of Christ, purchasing an 1890’s Methodist building in the Irvington community (where Butler University had been located, I think, before relocating to University Park on the north side of Indianapolis). That building was my first memory of what a church building SHOULD look like – semi-circular auditorium with balconies and aisles sloping slightly down to the podium area, mahogany, cherry and other polished woods everywhere, enlightened by dozens of stained glass windows. The Methodists had sold it to build an even more ornate structure few blocks east – say what you will, they knew how to build a building.
Earl West, with whom my Mom and Dad went to Arsenal Technical High School (along with Earl’s first wife, Lois) was the preacher there after attending Pepperdine, and while doing his graduate degrees at Butler which became the first two volumes of “Search for the Ancient Order.” Earl West performed the wedding ceremony for my parents after Dad returned from “the War,” and I came into the picture a couple years later. He was followed by Cecil Willis, when Earl went to Harding/Memphis to teach (or maybe F-HC), and then by Paul Dobson, under whom the Irvington church plunged headlong into the support of various parachurch agencies or “institutions” (thus the roots of the “NI” designation for those opposing, among whom were my parents and grandparents).
When my dad, a deacon and the treasurer, was told under protest to start writing checks to various “institutions” or turn in the checkbook, they left (my grandfather had already resigned as an elder and left) and affiliated with the old North Indianapolis church which had long been under the influence of Daniel Sommer before his death in 1940.. They built a very nice (by the standards of the day) building on a main thoroughfare (Emerson Avenue, at 40th street), and it was here that I made the good confession and was baptized.
Probably more than anyone wants to know, but I’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, even if no one else profits thereby. It’s an account of what Harrell and others have described in the abstract – played out in the life of one family, and a young preacher, Robert Turner, whose paths crossed at a critical juncture. I’m sure Terry Gardner can correct my fading memory on any hazy or mistaken details.
Thanks again for your prayers and attention to my sister-in-law.
— Steve Wolfgang