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Karl Reiland


Centurion, 1915–1964

Born 23 October 1871 in New York (Brooklyn), New York

Died 12 September 1964 in Winsted, Connecticut

Proposed by William S. Rainsford and James Manning Bruce

Elected 6 November 1915 at age forty-four

Century Memorial

“Can you not see him standing here in this pulpit, rector for twenty-four years, pounding away at new ideas on controversial subjects, defending science against the conservatism of religion, barking at bishops, pausing for a dramatic recitation of Shakespeare, pulling out his handkerchief to mop his brow, tossing his massive head with its raven locks?”

So spoke Karl Reiland’s successor, Centurion Edward O. Miller, as rector of Saint George’s in Stuyvesant Square in a tribute delivered in the church on a Sunday in October.

There has been no clearer or more nostalgic recall than this of the Episcopalian rector who, more than once, rocked the orthodox Episcopal church to its foundations. If Karl Reiland, in his effort to think and speak the truth, shocked a bishop or two by breaking through the confines of a sectarian creed, he was simultaneously loved by the people of his congregation. And how many a sunny golfing Sunday was for gotten so that one of these devoted parishioners might worship under his direction and, incidentally, learn what this firebrand of a rector might say or do next!

Saint George’s is a Century tradition; since our Association was founded, the rector has always been a Centurion. Karl Reiland was often with us; he was a magnet in our house, drawing to him men who were inclined to avoid the cloth. His face and voice invited you; his eloquence instantly rewarded you for accepting the invitation.

Many of us remember the row consequent upon his proposal that a Presbyterian minister conduct a Sunday evening communion service in his church. To William Manning, bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York, the idea was “preposterous,” and he demanded that the proposed service be canceled. The Presbyterian guest withdrew and the service was abandoned, but the reverberations were felt for a long time. Today, when there is less hostility among the sects, this tempest in the Episcopalian teapot could hardly be taken seriously by clergy or layman, but, in 1930, a bishop could be a martinet within his unit and many approved the discipline he exerted.

Karl Reiland was born in Brooklyn in 1871. He was educated in the public schools of Middletown, Connecticut. He studied at Cheshire Military Academy and at Trinity College, Hartford. He was ordained after attending the Virginia Theological Seminary of Alexandria and the Berkeley Divinity School at Middletown. He became rector of Saint George’s in October, 1936, and retired precisely twenty-four years later.

At the burial service which Edward Miller conducted at Winsted, Connecticut, he gave thanks in these words:

“O thou God of the prophets, we thank thee for all the friendliness and humor which flowed from the life of this thy servant into the lives of others.

“We thank thee for his rugged bluntness, his pride in being called a liberal, his uncomplaining suffering when the world rejected his nonconformity.”

We of The Century are proud to list this courageous man among our immortals.

Roger Burlingame
1965 Century Association Yearbook