Doors Open at St. Columba, Waterloo

On September 15, St. Columba Anglican Church in Waterloo welcomed the community during Doors Open Waterloo Region with the liturgical art of Nancy-Lou Patterson.

By Christine Rier

At St. Columba Anglican Church (Waterloo, Ontario) the congregation has been called to reach out with its many gifts to its community. Those gifts include a beautiful ‘mid-century modern’ church building and an array of art work by accomplished local artist, Nancy-Lou Patterson. Nancy-Lou, her husband, Palmer and their children are members of St. Columba Anglican Church.

St. Columba’s gifts combined on Saturday, September 15, 2018, to welcome the community during Doors Open Waterloo Region. “From historical houses to modern marvels of construction, Doors Open Ontario showcases the buildings, natural spaces, infrastructure and cultural landscapes that shape and define our communities.” (

St. Columba, Waterloo (Photo: Sue Clark)

This year, Doors Open Waterloo Region focused on the local “built region,” with the theme of Places, Patterns and Plans. On full display were the patterns and plans of Nancy-Lou’s rare and exceptional collection of decorative religious art, which she gifted to the church over a span of three decades (1970-2000). This included seven banners (some done with cut felt and others quilted), altar frontal, needlework cushion covers and wall art, stained glass, metal work, an external Celtic cross, a mural and wooden furnishings – all of which are still in use today, bringing joy, comfort and inspiration to parishioners and visitors alike. The predominant theme is Christian symbolism with references to the Irish monk, St. Columba, who helped bring Christianity to Great Britain in the sixth century AD and after whom the church is named.

Thanks to the generosity of Nancy-Lou’s family, these religious works were augmented by a private collection of some of Nancy-Lou’s secular work.

The morning of Doors Open, over one-hundred people were also treated to a comprehensive presentation by Susan McFarlane Burke, manager/curator of Joseph Schneider Haus (Kitchener), “The Gift to be Simple: The Religious and Secular Art of Nancy-Lou Patterson”.

Guests enjoyed a ‘guided tour’ of Nancy-Lou’s artistic life and impact on her community. Born in Worcester, Mass, USA (1929), she received her B.A. from the University of Washington and began lecturing at Seattle University (1962) before settling in Waterloo, Ontario.

Subsequently, she became the Director of Art and Curator of the University of Waterloo’s art gallery and in 1966 taught University of Waterloo’s first Fine Arts course. In 1968 she founded the university’s Department of Fine Arts. The many contributions of her prolific career are visible throughout Waterloo Region, but it is at St. Columba that her work is ablaze amidst the understated design and modesty of the building.

The design plans and photographs of the original building were also on display. The church was designed by architects Horton and Ball of Kitchener and built in 1961. It was designed to be part of the surrounding suburban residential neighbourhood and has since been quietly welcoming all those who follow Christ. Today, worship is led by Priest-in-charge, Rev. Julia Gill, who marvelled, “Doors Open was a reminder to our congregation of how we may be called to reach out in ways we have yet to imagine. I give thanks for the members of our congregation who responded to that call and volunteered, and celebrate all who visited St. Columba that day.”


Nancy-Lou Patterson’s art at St. Columba (Photo: Christine Rier)