John Bartel Reinheimer

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Reinheimer (1)The Rev. John Bartel Reinheimer was instituted as rector of St. Mary’s by the Bishop of Virginia at a special service on January 13, 1957.

Fr. Reinheimer had received a B.S. degree from Trinity College in Connecticut, a B.D. degree from Episcopal Theological School in Massachusetts, an M.A. degree from Northwestern University, and a second M.A. degree from Georgetown University.

Fr. Reinheimer was particularly interested in education and social issues. He felt strongly that Christrians had a role to play within the community as well as the parish.

Fund raising for the parish house brought to a head a controversy that had developed between the rector and ten of the 17-member vestry in 1961.

In his view there was a small but powerful group of conservative parishioners (including, he implied, the 10 vestrymen) who opposed socially prophetic ministry — whether his or that of his predecessor.

But in the view of 94 parishioners, the principal problem was the rector’s conduct of his interpersonal relationships. They stated that he showed little Christian compassion, conciliation, or forgiveness in those relationships. They said they were not opposed to the building program, but some had withheld their support as the only effective means of registering a protest.

Fr. Reinheimer was keenly interested in starting a day school, which became the focus of a second round of dissent at St. Mary’s, beginning in 1964. Other factors were also involved, but the main source of contention had to do with the allocation of the rector’s time between parish and school.

Conflict between rector and vestry lasted for four more years, during which time several vestrymen and trustees resigned and many parishioners left St. Mary’s. Finally, in April 1968, an agreement was worked out between the rector and the vestry for the separation and dissolution of pastoral relations. Fr. Reinheimer would resign as rector of St. Mary’s Parish, and the parish would lease the parish house to the Episcopal Academy for one year with an option for a subsequent year. Fr. Reinheimer would be headmaster of the academy.

The toll of these troubled years was severe. By the end of 1968, St. Mary’s had only 199 members, 103 communicants, and 14 children in church school. The operating budget of the church was in the red.

One bright spot in the last year of Fr. Reinheimer’s rectorship was the election of the first woman to St. Mary’s vestry: Doris Murphy.