Christmas greetings from the church belfry.
Christmas greetings from the church belfry.
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.
I heard a wonderful documentary on CBC radio today about teaching students to self regulate or quiet the self. I ruminated on it while I was sitting in church.
One very positive thing about participating in organized religion as a child was that even though I was required to sit quietly in church it actually taught me the value of sitting quietly.
That is so rare for children these days. There really is no place they are required to sit still other than perhaps in school. Maybe at a public movie theatre or live theatre performance if they are lucky enough to be taken there.
Of course I was bribed quite often in church with mints, judicially portioned out to me and my brothers by my great Aunt Jean. (My mother always sat way up in the choir loft.)
Or I would doodle on the church bulletin.
Or just maybe flip through the hymnbook once I learned to read.
It was sitting quietly in church that my most creative thoughts would emerge.
Kids are so stressed these days that they are having trouble learning. The documentary with Stuart Shanker sites that when they are stressed their brains actually turn off their hearing. So escalating your voice doesn’t help. Deescalating the situation is more helpful.
Children are being taught to self regulate, to self soothe, to “drive their own bus”.
So I am grateful for an old Aunt who made me sit still in church.
Listen to the documentary here:
I still have enough skill on the piano to at least play hymns. Unless they are in 5 sharps or flats. Forget that.
To pass the time in a personal care home I spent an hour playing a lovely Clavinova for my mother. The playing of hymns I hoped would spark some recognition in her memory. Page after page I found old Baptist classics; Jesus, Wondrous Saviour, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Just As I Am, When Morning Gilds the Skies, Can I Little Child Like Me, Jesus Bids Us Shine.
One of the keyboard buttons made the instrument sound like a huge pipe organ. Immediately I was transported back to my home church where Sunday after Sunday I was lucky enough to listen to the most amazing organist.
Music embeds ideas into young brains. I reminisced silently about the theology enshrined in those old hymns. Some of them grand and expansive, like Immortal, Invisible, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee. Some which exude the love of the Divine Presence, like God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall. And then I ran across this one:
It had four other verses:
Oh be careful little eyes
Oh be careful little mouths
Oh be careful little ears
Oh be careful little hands
That just about covered every body part. And sitting there as a little girl in my Sunday best on that big wooden pew that message just didn’t jive then nor does it now. A Heavenly Father glaring at me every second with a judgement rod, more like. I realize that all those hymns kept reinforcing this exterior being always ‘out there’ who was quick to pronounce eternal damnation.
It’s amazing how music can affect you.
Recently I attended an evangelical worship service which is not my norm. The music was led by, what is now termed, a ‘praise band’. And the lyrics glow from an overhead screen above. The songs are impossible to grasp. They are not written for congregational singing at all, but for trained performers. The theology is half baked, at best. Mostly self-centred crap and completely unmemorable tunes. Soap box.
There is something to be said for the musicality of the ancient hymnwriter, the singability of tried and true tunes (sometimes lifted from secular songs and saloons). But my choice is simple singable chants from the ecumenical Taize community in France. “Singing is one of the most essential elements of worship. Short songs, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character. Using just a few words they express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God.”