A Christian Artist, by John A. Mack (1969)

“Welcome to the fellowship of educated men.”

That is the traditional greeting from the president of Harvard University as he opens the commencement exercises at the nation’s oldest college each June.

One of those who heard these words in June of 1968 was Allan Rohan Crite who, after fourteen years of taking extension courses, was about to receive the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Extension Courses from this great university of the world.

He started attending Harvard in 1954 taking extension courses in Natural Sciences. Through-out the years that followed his studies in Botany, Geology, Zoology and other classes that he would take in order to receive his degree brought him in constant contact with many of the regular members of the Harvard faculty. His work was so exacting and his effort so real that these same members of the faculty chose him to lead the 46 candidates for degrees in these courses in the academic procession at the commencement ceremonies.

Born fifty-nine years ago at Plainfield, N. J., his background over the years that followed justly placed him at the point in life where he could now proudly except this great honor.

He could proudly step to the head of this great procession knowing that his mother, Mrs. Annamae Crite, would share with him the feeling that here was proof that he, Allan Rohan Crite, was indeed an “Educated Man”.

To all those who know Mrs. Crite, there is a complete feeling that here is a “gentle woman” in every sense of the term. As proof of this is the manner and spirit of devotion which she has shown through-out her life towards the church and the work that she did to make it finer. Her “efforts as Church Schoolteacher, Altar Guild member, staff member of the Church Periodical, and others too numerous to mention, live as proof of her fine feeling towards the church and all it stands for.

These are extended only in a concentrated outline of, the work in the church performed by her only son, Allan, even at this minute.

Church history will have to look back many years to find one who has used his skills as an artist and writer to propagate the fundamental doctrines of the Episcopal faith as has this man. No one has emerged so graphically to portray the church’s concept of true catholicity and the role the Negro has played, and must be permitted to continue to play, if that catholicity is to become a reality. Few men can speak and have all men listen but Mr. Crite has that ability.

He was graduated in 1929 from Boston English High and continued his studies for seven years at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. Afterwards he studied at the Painter’s Workshop and other art schools through-out the area striving to become an fine enough to express himself on canvas and in wood and steel the works that could be shown before all mankind in the Houses of God. This multi-talented artist has certainly achieved this goal.

His strong belief in the church was indeed one step towards his peak of serenity. He was confirmed in early years by Bishop Babcock at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Cambridge, Mass. and has served this church faithfully ever since. He has been a lay-reader since 1932, been a vestryman, an editor of the Parish paper, an advisor to the Young People’s Fellowship, helped to found the Young Adult Group. He served on the Parish Planning Committee and was active in the Every Member Campaign that the church conducted. But this was still not enough for this man to do. He found time to serve as representative on many parish and Diocese conferences and committees over the years in addition to his other duties.

Along the line he found time to write many books including “Were You There,” “Three Spirituals,” “All Glory” (Published by SSJE), along with at least two booklets, “A Christmas Meditation” and “Holy Week Meditation.”

But this was not enough for Allan Crite. He also has illustrated many fine stories such as Gardiner Day’s “Lord’s Prayer” and has the distinction of doing an illustration that is in the commentary of the 1940 church Hymnal.

To fill his time, already filled beyond that of the average human being, Mr. Crite is a member of the Fellowship of St. John (an association of lay people affiliated with SSJE), The Guild of Liturgical Art & Design, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Member of the Liturgical Commission of the Diocese of Massachusetts, was a member of the Architectural Institute of America, and on and on and on.

Mr. Crite finds time to lecture before any group of people who are honestly interested in hearing what he has to say. He has lectured on art and its capacity for worship in both Roman and Anglican churches through-out this part of the country. Extending this ability still further, others who have been privileged to hear his lectures include The Institute of Modern Art, The Winchester Art Association, The Wellesley Conference, Seabury-Western Seminary, Berkeley Divinity School, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and, informally, Episcopal Theological School at Harvard and General Theological Seminary in New York City. Those who have heard his seminars can have no doubt as to his versatility.

Today many worshippers find that the Book of Common Prayer and The Bible are void of meaning. Not so with Allan Rohan Crite, a man who lives as though he knows the true meaning of the Word. With a high flourish of the brush he turns phrases into the shapes of life and gives form to things unknown, a lasting habitat in the minds of the worshippers, preserving for all people the vigors of the scene which gave them first being. There is hardly a thing of art in the church that people will not view without the thought that Mr. Crite has been a part of that creative fulfillment that they sense.

Surely such a feeling must prevail as millions of people pass his works in such places as the Duncan Philips Gallery, the Addison Gallery of America, the Fitchburg Museum, and note his work that “Brings Christ to the World”.

Speaking of the man, the Reverend Kenneth de P. Hughes once said, “I have known Allan Crite for years and have never heard him complain. A profound satisfaction is his in seeking first the kingdom of God through the medium God has revealed to him. But it is one of the severest castigations of our social order that it is so little given to the cultivation of things cultural that men like him, who have so much to offer, must of necessity be preoccupied with ‘the things which the Gentiles seek’—the wherewithal of food and clothes and shelter—and have to spend their major time in a tawdry scramble for bare necessities. In a Christian society a man like Allan Rohan Crite should have the economic freedom to devote his full time to the propagation of the faith and teachings of the Church in the expression of his versatility in such mediums as oils, water colors, metals, block prints, and brush drawing as well as other forms.

Here we find the field in which he is most widely known, Allan Rohan Crite—The Artist. He is known through-out the world for his fine murals in such places as Grace Church, Vineyard Haven, Mass., St. Luke’s Church, Scituate, Mass., St. Augustine’s Church, Brooklyn, N. Y., (destroyed by fire), The Convent of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Detroit, Mich., and many other Roman and Anglican churches throughout the world.

The Stations of the Cross in metal, a work of art conceived and brought to their beautiful fruition by Mr. Crite are on view in churches and museums all over the country. The Stations hung in the Holy Ghost Chapel at the Monastery of SSJE at Cambridge are an example of the fine work done by this man. His work along these lines are so fine that they were chosen to be in the Shrine of, the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Others can be found in churches and museums from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast and from Virginia to the Canadian Border.

When—you enter into the History of Liturgical Vestments, Iconography or Ecclesiastical Art, you again find yourself in a field where Mr. Crite is indeed an authority among authorities. He claims not to be a real knowledgeable person along these lines but he has been known to answer questions that both the Roman and Anglican Church authorities have presented to him in time of doubt. Allan Rohan Crite; man, worker, one among many, but above all, a man of God who walks in His way.

—From Cowley, September, 1969, pp. 54-60.

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