The History of the Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church

The birth of the Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church came from one sermon preached by the Rev. A.M. Iverson while he was passing through the town to return to the fledgling Moravian community in Ephraim. Moved by his proclamation of the Gospel, a group of individuals made a covenant to build a church. Property was donated on the corner of 5th (formerly Church St.) and Quincy near the waterfront. This is the same location of the church today.

 A group of individuals began work on a log church at the site and completed the structure up to the bottom of the windowsills when a disagreement broke out. Records indicate a well known rabble rouser, Ole’ Johnson, fostered dissent over what the formal affiliation of the church would be. The work was stopped because of this disagreement for several years.

In January of 1862, Rev. Iverson returned to the community and gathered a group of Moravians, Methodists, Lutherans and Quakers and went and registered the congregation at the courthouse as a Moravian Church. Much like the early Moravian community in Herrnhut the Moravian Church in Sturgeon Bay was born out of the diverse faith experience of its founders. This ecumenical trait is very evident in the congregation today.

The log church was completed and was eventually replaced in 1880 by a larger structure. After an expansion of that building it was removed in 1931 and the current sanctuary was constructed. During tremendous growth during the post World War II era the education wing was added in 1962.

The Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church throughout its history has been known in the community for a very strong youth ministry as well as an outstanding music program under the direction of many talented church musicians. Its strongest witness of the grace and love of Jesus has been, like many Moravian Churches, the ability to create the middle ground for ecumenical relationships and the hospitality of welcoming the stranger.

The congregation has been known within the denomination for the large number of its clergy daughters and sons and former pastors who have gone on to serve as administrative leaders. This list includes:

John Groenfeldt (PEC President), Burke Johnson (Western District and PEC President), Warren Sautebin (Western District President), Paul Graf (Pacific Coast District),Gary Straughn (Currently Easter District President), and David Wickmann (Current PEC President).

The congregation has had the unique experience of having two instances in her history where fathers and sons both served the congregation, J.J. and Sam Groenfeldt, and Vernon and Paul Graf. It is notable that Sturgeon Bay also has the unique blessing of having two Bishops of the Unity as members. (Rt. Rev. Warren Sautebin and the Rt. Rev. Paul Graf)

The congregation is also very proud that one of the very first ordained women to serve the Moravian church in the modern era was Rev. Dorothy Mendonca from 1975-1980.

Sturgeon Bay also has been a fertile ground for the calling of men and women into ordained ministry. There have been 25 daughters and sons who have served or are currently serving the Moravian Church with several more who have served in other denominations. Currently there are two individuals from Sturgeon Bay who are preparing for Moravian service.

Today the Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church is a very active congregation. It is recognized in the community for music, youth ministry, and ecumenical partnerships. In recent years God has led the congregation into mission ministries that touch many lives with the Gospel. These include local mission through the Loaves and Fishes Community Meal Program, and Habitat for Humanity. Mission beyond the community includes youth mission partnerships in New York City and Jamaica and a new adult mission partnership in Honduras.

Last Published: April 19, 2011 2:19 PM