By Cynthia Germain
The Moravian Church, considered the oldest Protestant denomination, has a more than a 150 year history in Door County, hallmarked by mission work and community service. As Scandinavians came to the area in the 1800s, Moravian missionaries immigrated with them, eventually settling in Ephraim. The church originated in 1457 as Unitas Fratrum, translated Unity of the Brethren, after the martyrdom of Catholic priest John Hus in the Czech Republic. To escape persecution, members of the Unitas Fratrum moved from the Moravia Province in the Czech Republic to Germany, leading to the reference as the Moravians. They were the first to send missionaries to far undeveloped countries in the Caribbean, Africa and South America. Pastor Matthew Knapp of the Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church says that mission work is the hallmark of their denomination, and the Door County churches are quite active around the world.
The vast majority of Moravians are south of the equator and the largest concentrations in the United States are in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At one time, there were 22 Moravian preaching stations in Door County offering Sunday school, gospel teachings and community support programs. There remains three active Moravian churches in the county found in Sturgeon Bay, Ephraim and Sister Bay The Shiloh Moravian Church on Shiloh Road still stands and is used on occasion. Pastor Knapp notes many of the contributions that the Moravians have made in the county, sparking programs such as Clothe and Feed My People, Loaves and Fishes and PATH serving parents with special needs children, and he is pleased with their continued service in the community.