Veteran AME Pastor Dr. Archie Criglar crosses over Jordan at 71

| January 5, 2016
The Rev. Dr. Archie Criglar Sr.

The Rev. Dr. Archie Criglar Sr.

Celebrating the Life of the Rev. Dr. Criglar—A brilliant mind, man for all seasons

By Madeline Marcelia Garvin

Editor’s note: Frost Illustrated’s editorial department also contributed to this story.

FORT WAYNE—The city lost one of its renowned spiritual leaders and the African American Episcopal Church lost one of its stalwart proponents recently.

The Rev. Dr. Archie L. Criglar Sr. 71, of Fort Wayne, gained eternal rest on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, at home.

Criglar, the former pastor of Turner Chapel AME Church in Fort Wayne, was a native of East Moline, Ill. He earned his BS degree in Religion and Philosophy at MacMurray College in 1986 and Master of Divinity at Garrett Theological Seminary in 1989. He was a Henry H. Mitchell Fellow and continued his studies at United Theological Seminary where he earned his doctorate in Homiletics in 1995. He pastored 4th District African Methodist Episcopal churches in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana—including Turner—retiring on Aug. 28, 2015. After his retirement, Dr. Criglar remained in Fort Wayne with his wife Yvonne, worshiping regularly not only at Turner but at Gomez Temple AME Church locally.

Those who knew him remarked that the Rev. Criglar loved family, movies, and most of all teaching and preaching the Bible. He also loved working with the community, serving many capacities in the AME church and with the Fort Wayne Urban League.

Dr. Criglar’s home going celebration was hosted by the Rev. Pastor Kenneth C.  Christmon at Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church, Saturday, January 2, 2016, and was officiated by the Rev. Eileen Thomas of Gomez Temple A.M.E. Church. And, my Lord, what a morning it was!

After the Call to Worship, the Invocation was offered by the Rev. Christmon who reminded congregants that though “our Brother in Christ has gone, we all must come this way.”  Following the Rev. Christmon was the Rev. Elza Bearyman of St. John C.M.E. Church of Fort Wayne who eloquently delivered an elongated rendition of Psalm 23, in which he emphasized surely; with: “I said, Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow thee all the days of thy life.” The Rev. Bearyman often shared the pulpit at Turner when Dr. Criglar served as pastor there.

Tyra Watson of Gomez Temple, A.M.E. shared acknowledgements and resolutions from the African-American Ministerial Alliance in Indianapolis,and Copping Chapel A.M.E. Church in Indianapolis,along with words of comfort and a resolution from Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church in Battle Creek Michigan which reminded congregants that Dr. Criglar served where he was sent.  Throughout all of the condolences it was reiterated often that the Rev. Dr. Criglar was a good and faithful servant. As the family was often reminded that God will wipe away every tear, two minute words of comfort were brought by James and Cecilia Graham of Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, where Dr. Criglar served just prior to his retirement, Mr. John Robins, a friend and member of Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church, and the Rev. Dr. Michael Carson of Coppin Chapel A.M.E. Church, Indianapolis, all of whom reminded attendees that Dr. Criglar was concerned about one’s soul and he was a man of God, who had served his time. Though he battled his health challenge courageously, God saw he  wasn’t going to get any better, so He sent His angels.

The Rev. Samuel L. Sumner, presiding elder of the South District, Indiana Conference AMEC; the Rev. Dr. Norman V. Osborne, presiding elder of the South District of Michigan Conference AMEC; the Rev. E. Anne Henning Byfield, presiding elder North District Indiana Conference AMEC, and the retired Rev. Samuel Hooks, presiding elder and the Rev. Dr. Criglar’s father in the ministry, all shared how brilliant Dr. Criglar was. They said he not only was a deep thinker; he was also a great preacher, father and friend. And, the Rev. Byfield joyously let everyone that though Dr. Criglar could be intimidating, he was a voracious reader and phenomenal scholar who liked being right and would often challenge one and reminded clergy the importance of wearing one’s collar so no one would ever question who one is.

Many of the aforementioned shared that God had blessed Dr. Criglar, and “he’s no longer sojourning in the wilderness, for he’s come full circle.” In closing, the Rev. Hooks shared: “A prince and a great man has fallen,” which were a few words from the Dr. Criglar’s friend David, who would bring the eulogy.

But, a scenario in readiness was brought to the congregants by Presiding Elder Parks of the North District of Illinois. Elder Parks relayed a short story how two men working a laboriously job were preparing to go to a revival, but John was always filthy. So, John’s friend looked at John and asked: “Are you going to the Revival?”

John replied, “Yes, I have to go get cleaned up.” Thus, John went into the washroom and washed his hands.

When John returned, his friend looked at him and said, “You still have your coveralls on.”

John’s response was, “Yes, I do,” and he unzipped his coveralls, where underneath was a white suit, and with that John said, “I stays ready, so I won’t have to get ready.” Here, equating this with Dr. Criglar’s readiness.

Again, as so many stated, “A soldier of the ministry has fallen.”

Dr. Criglar’s sole surviving sibling Miss Arlene Criglar shared Dr. Criglar’s secret chili ingredient and reflected that in her eyes Archie, as she referred to her brother, stood 10-feet tall; not only because he was a Boy Scout, and could cross country ski; but he was also a connoisseur of good food, and he traded in his gun after serving on the police force for a Bible, that two-edged sword. A little grief stricken, Miss Arlene was able to share that while dining with her brother Archie at a Chinese restaurant, he informed her that something was wrong; though he pointed out: “I’m not saying I’m dying.”

Prior to the eulogy offered by the Rev. David R. Jarret, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Detroit, congregants were invited to sing with the combined choirs the Rev. Dr. Archie Criglar’s favorite hymn, “When Peace like a River.”

The Rev. Jarret, like Dr. Criglar was known to do, rose to the occasion, and joyfully exclaimed: ”It is well with my soul!  For, it is all about the soul; Christ shared His own blood for my soul.” With that Jarret said, “If I was going to preach, today, I’d just say he’s my friend.”

“I want you to know Dr. Criglar and I started the ministry together, and you can’t afford to get sick in the African American Church, and you don’t have many partners in the ministry.” With that Jarret said, “I’d like to acknowledge my wife who is my first partner and Criglar who is my second partner.”

Jarret then pointed out, “Criglar was who he was; he was his traveling partner, and I learned to understand him. Criglar didn’t always talk; but he was a great theologian, and when he went to Garret, he could read Greek, and I have a difficult time reading English. The Book of Matthew says that they took Him as He was, for you don’t have to get dressed up all the time. I roomed with Criglar and stayed with him a long time and tolerated his snoring. But, when you love someone with Agape love, you elevate them.”

As Jarret said, “People in the pulpit and the pews won’t understand; but, you’ve got to have a personal journey with God. You can’t get it by proxy! God sends you thru things to develop you. He takes out the chisel and chisels your soul.”

Jarret then went on to say, “I know the good, the bad and the ugly, but my task is to deliver a eulogy and a eulogy is to praise someone’s life. And, you can’t know a person until you’ve been there. Every night when we went to bed, Criglar was on his knees praying and when he got up. That helped me know who he was; he was a praying person.”

Jarret expressed some of his beliefs through an anonymous poem in which he pointed out that Christ is no security against the storm, for in all our lives some storms will arise; He doesn’t guarantee a safe passage, but a safe landing. I don’t know about you, but Jesus was on board. We started this journey a long time ago and Dr. Criglar stayed on the ship and sailed on to Turner Chapel, where Archie said, “I’ve done the best that I can.”

“It didn’t get any better because the ship was in dock. Rev. Sumner called,’ said Jarret, “and I couldn’t get there. Whereas Dr. Criglar looked up and He saw another ship— someone called it the old ship of Zion. They knew Dr. Criglar was in the water, but there’s no danger in God’s waters. King Jesus said, ‘Get on board; get on board.’ Listen, my friend,” said Jarret, in closing, “Since you got there before I did, tell all my friends I’m coming too.”

Surviving are his wife, Yvonne Smith-Criglar; daughters, Jeanette, Melinda and Benita; son, Archie, Jr.; granddaughter, Ray’Lynn; grandson, Archie, III; a sister, Arlene; stepdaughters, Tamica (Rob) Jeuitt, Tandra (Demitrius) Smith and Tiya (Eric) Bowden; stepgrandchildren, Madison and Watson; and a host of loving nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Service was Jan. 2, 2016 at Turner Chapel AME Church, with calling two hours prior. Burial in Covington Memorial Gardens. Arrangements were by Ellis Funeral Home. Send condolences to

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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