My husband and I hang out with a unique fellowship of believers; Christ Church, Anglican.
This rural church, in the town of Petrolia, Ontario, Canada has a unique claim to fame. It is intimately connected with the development of the oil industry. It was the place of worship of many of the original Canadian oil barons.
Totally devastated by fire in the late 1950’s the wooden church was replaced by a cinder block construction design. The building is simple but the windows are anything but.
In the early 1960’s Christopher Wallis, one of Canada’s foremost glass artisans, was commissioned by the church to begin work on the outstanding stained glass which now graces the sanctuary.
Central to the collection is the Memorial or Oil Heritage Window. It encapsulates the story of the history of the oil industry in the area, which is actually the history of the petrochemical industry worldwide. For from Petrolia poured forth men all over the world as “foreign drillers” teaching the rest of the world how to pull this rich resource out of the ground.
Measuring nine by 16 feet, this huge window is an expression of thanks to God for the gift of Creation, celebrates the gift of oil and chronicles the development of the oil industry locally and abroad.
This one window in particular is, quite simply, a stunning piece of art, especially when the sun is shining.
It is priceless piece of area history which was rightly given Heritage Ontario designation in 2004.
The entire story of all of Christ Church’s stained glass windows, along with colour photographs, is documented in a book, Wonders of Light: The Stained Glass Art of Christopher Wallis. Heritage in Oil – Heritage in Faith (2010) by Patricia McGee. Read the synopsis of the book here.
These beautiful windows are now very much in need of repair. The church has raised over half of the $4000 needed to start the work on the oldest one, the Sanctuary Window above the altar. The work must begin this year.
Since the windows were installed between 1961 and 1989, a new type of storm window is being manufactured with venting to allow heat reduction in the cavity between the stained glass and the storm glazing.
Our windows are unique works of religious art and play a significant role in the heritage of our parish and the community; it is important that we preserve and care for them. But we cannot do it on our own. The value of the art far outweighs our aging congregation’s means.
If you are interested in donating to this historical cause please send a cheque to Christ Church, Anglican, P.O. Box 565, Petrolia, ON N0N 1R0 or call the church office 519-882-1430 to ask how to give.
Take a tour of the church windows here:
Copies of the book are available for purchase for $15 (plus shipping). Contact the office at 519 882-1430 to order.
For more on Christopher Wallis, click here.