“I love having a front row seat to watch how God is working in the lives of many people,” said District Pastor, Karl Reinagel, who pastors the GCI congregation in St. Louis, Missouri.
Karl spent his early years on a 40-acre Christmas tree farm in Eden, New York. “I sold trees as a boy of 8 or 9 when dad was at work. We stopped running that business after embracing WCG teachings against Christmas. Oddly enough the last time we had a Christmas tree in the house is one of the acts that my mom and sisters remember most fondly of me. I barely remember it, but it always comes up at family reunions. I helped them by cutting, hauling and standing up a tree in the living room after it was forbidden by Dad. I don’t think I got the memo on that one – at least my conscience was not developed enough to have a crisis. I just saw my mom and sisters struggling with something that was important to them and needing a strong hand from an older brother.”
Karl first became aware of WCG in the late ’60s through The World Tomorrow radio program, The Plain Truth magazine and especially the Correspondence Course. “Dad asked me to read the Correspondence Course and scriptures as he typed every word. We began attending church, along with two of my brothers, in the early ’70s following a public Bible lecture series in Buffalo, New York. We had no idea there was a congregation in the area until then.”
Karl’s parents divorced when he was about 12 and Karl became “chief cook and bottle washer of the bachelor pad with dad and two brothers.” In late 1974, they moved to central Tennessee where his father remarried and began a mixed family of “yours, mine and ours.” Karl graduated from high school in 1977 and went off to University of Tennessee-Knoxville to study accounting.
Karl was baptized right after high school and started participating in the local Spokesman Club while attending college. “It was a pretty scary adventure for me. I usually enjoyed my astronomy class at 7:50 a.m. except Wednesday mornings when I began to anxiously anticipate my assignment at club that evening” His passion for pastoral ministry started developing and Karl transferred to Ambassador College in 1979. “Events in WCG and in my home church area led me to attend AC. I wanted to learn to be more helpful to the church in a troubled time.”
It was in college that Karl met his wife, Carla Abbey. They were married August 8, 1982. Karl and Carla have three children and two grandchildren. Jon is married to (another) Carla and they have two children, Kyran (3) and Jariel (six months). Their other two children are Kneight (who currently lives in Chicago) and Krissy, who will graduate from high school in 2014.
After graduating from AC in 1982, Karl began working in the Mail Processing Department of WCG. “I was hired to serve those responding to The World Tomorrow program and The Plain Truth magazine. At the same time I started serving members of our local Auditorium PM congregation in various capacities alongside a whole bunch of outstanding men and women over the years.”
Karl worked in various departments of Mail Processing for a number of years overseeing office staff and working with volunteer phone operators for the WATS line. In 1995 he transferred to Church Administration to assist Richard Rice. Karl calls that time, “the year all heaven broke loose in the church.”
Richard Rice was a mentor to Karl for many years. “Richard Rice helped me grow as a Christian in many ways during my years in Pasadena and helped me to navigate through various rough patches of ministry as a new pastor who faced sticky situations I had no idea how to approach. I especially treasure the hours we spent travelling to and from the Los Angeles airport as he and his wife Ginny made many trips across the country to encourage pastors and congregations. This gave me the opportunity to learn how to graciously and lovingly deal with many of the difficult circumstances ministers face.”
In the mid-90s Karl became aware of the importance of identifying spiritual gifts. “I realized shepherding was one of my strongest gifts. It became apparent that my position in Pasadena would soon be phased out and I was sure I would serve in pastoral ministry when that happened. Unfortunately in the spring of 1996 when ‘my number came up’ with another wave of massive layoffs, they were also cutting back the already depleted field ministry. That was heartbreaking, but it gave me the chance to gain some useful experience serving the congregation in Olean, New York, while I sought work in the area. Pastor George Hart was most encouraging at the time in ministering to me as well as giving me opportunities to serve others. In July I was hired to replace a transferring minister in Wausau, Wisconsin.”
Since that time, Karl and his wife Carla have served congregations in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska before finally settling in St. Louis. “Carla is very supportive of me in my ministry, but her ministry priority has been on providing a stable home and rearing godly children. She serves the church by filling in where needed as she is able and encouraging the body of Christ through art.”
When asked about his most memorable moments as a pastor, Karl said he’s had three. “It is more as a parent than as a pastor, so maybe it doesn’t even count but it is the baptism of each of my children. Carla and I have been blessed beyond words to express just what it means that each of our children loves Jesus and serves him according to their gifts, abilities and opportunities.“
A couple of interesting things about Karl that others may not know: “Several years ago we installed a wood burning stove on the hearth and have used it for our primary heat ever since. It gives me lots of good exercise splitting, stacking and hauling wood most of the year and the radiant heat is hard to beat. Carla and I have also begun to make homemade wine and are trying our hand at hard apple cider. We have little success to date, but we eagerly await next year’s apple harvest so we can test modifications to our recipe.”
Karl enjoys the “amazing journey” of GCI. “The variety and breadth of friendships over the years is wonderful with friends and acquaintances literally throughout the country and all over the world.” As a pastor, Karl says, “I want to see people growing into maturity in Christ: discovering God’s love for them and responding to it, finding their spiritual gifts and passion and taking their place as active members of the body of Christ.”
Karl says he feels closest to God “in those quiet mornings before anyone else gets up just watching the birds and other wildlife interact with one another and enjoying the native garden Carla and Krissy have planted in the backyard—our sanctuary. Also, sitting by the fire in the middle of a cold winter’s night meditating and praying while reloading the stove. Oddly enough there are more public times as well, such as standing with a couple during their wedding ceremony and feeling for those brief moments that God has included me with them inside a special circle of his love. Or when I am privileged to participate with Jesus as he comforts mourners before and during a funeral service as we reflect upon the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the deceased and the survivors.”