(Editor’s note: This is another in an occasional series about the churches of Iola.)
Church of Christ, less than a mile south of Iola along old U.S. 169, is an island unto itself.
“We do not have a headquarters on earth nor do we have a universal organization,” said Norm Morgan, who leads services each Sunday. “Each congregation is autonomous and therefore independent of all other congregations.”
The church follows strictly teachings of the New Testament, “as our only guide in matters of faith,” Morgan said. “We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent.”
All music is a cappella because the New Testament doesn’t talk about instrumental accompaniment for songs of rejoicing.
Salvation is accomplished, Morgan said, by the plan found in the New Testament. A difference with some other congregations is that Church of Christ faithful believe that baptism is necessary for remission of sin, and that baptism is complete immersion.
“We believe you’re saved by grace and also emphatically believe that baptism” is an essential part, he said.
The Iola church studies the King James version of the Bible, but “we don’t adhere (strictly) to any one translation,” Morgan said.
Communion is a part of each Sunday’s services, “because the New Testament teaches that such was the practice of the early Christians,” he noted.
“We don’t use any gimmicks or gadgets in our services,” Morgan said. “No plays or dramas. We just offer the gospel,” although he does take advantage of PowerPoint presentations to accentuate what he has to say.
He eschews the titles pastor and reverend, rather calls himself a preacher or minister.
“We do not refer to our preachers as ‘pastor’ because this term refers to those men who have the oversight of the congregation,” Morgan said. “Because the New Testament does not make any distinction between so-called ‘clergy’ and ‘laity,’ preachers are no more worthy to wear a special title than any other member.”
Whenever decisions are to be made, men of the church gather to hash them out.
A church dinner is the third Sunday of each month.
Bible study at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays precedes 10:30 morning services. About 15, mostly older folks, attend services regularly, and because several drive from elsewhere, Sunday evening services have been discontinued. A mid-week Bible study is at 7 o’clock Wednesday evenings.
MORGAN, born in Chicago, was raised in the northeast Mississippi town of Smithville — “You can probably tell by listening to me I grew up in the South,” he quipped — and spent seven years in the U.S. Air Force, joining a year after graduating from high school in 1965.
During his time in the service, working as an electronics technician, Morgan spent a year in Vietnam, at the height of the conflict in Southeast Asia. Most of his time in the country was spent in Saigon City.
On his discharge, Morgan had a variety of jobs before a friend, a Church of Christ minister, encouraged him to consider the ministry.
“How do you say no to a minister,” Morgan said, and soon found himself studying at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.
Out of college, he started his ministerial career in Iowa and eventually came to Kansas, to a church in Junction City. He then was in Columbus before being called by the Iola congregation a little more than a year ago.
He has found Iola a pleasant place to live, Morgan added, having lived his younger years in Smithville, a town about the size of Gas. Earlier this year one of the series of tornados that lashed the South hit Smithville, and killed and injured several people whom Morgan knew well.
His wife, Patricia Ann, died about five years. His daughter, Jessica Ann Morgan, lives in Oklahoma City.