Through a Canadian stained glass window – Robert John Renison

 on September 12, 2017

by Ruth Roberts

RenisonThe Most Reverend Robert J. Renison was born in Ireland in 1875 and came to northern Ontario with his missionary father in 1883.

Young Robert developed a liking for the Ojibway and resolved to do missionary work himself. He then pursued studies at Trinity and Wycliffe colleges.

Following his ordination in 1896, his first position was Curate at the Church of the Messiah Toronto. Later he worked among the native Cree, teaching them the Gospel of Christ in their own tongue.

He was made Archdeacon of Moosonee in 1906.

In 1912 he came to Hamilton as Rector of the Church of the Ascension and subsequently Archdeacon of Hamilton.

During the war he revisited the north to recruit Indian trackers for a Forestry Unit. Some never returned to the Hudson Bay area and their names are written on the memorial tablet in the Church of the Ascension.

In 1927 Robert accepted the position of Rector of Christ Church Vancouver; he was made Dean of New Westminster in 1928 and Bishop of Athabasca two years later. The following year found him in Toronto as Rector of St. Paul’s Bloor Street.

Moosonee finally claimed him as its own. Robert returned in 1943 to his beloved north as fifth bishop of that Diocese.

At age 76 he became Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario.

He authored the Indian Cree Hymn Book, the Life of Bishop Sullivan and Canada and War. He also published Wednesday Morning and For as Such a Time As This.

He died at the age of 82 in 1957. His funeral service was held at St. Paul’s Toronto.

Renison University College in Waterloo, Ontario is named after him.

Ruth Roberts is a member of the Church of the Ascension Hamilton.


As we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, we look back at the role of the church as told through stained glass windows.

The Church of the Ascension Hamilton has 10 stained glass windows in their Chapel of the Holy Spirit dedicated to Canadian Anglican pioneers. For more information about the windows go to

Note cards featuring the historic windows can be purchased through the church.

The Niagara Anglican will feature others in the coming months.

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