The building that houses Linden Gallery was once a place of worship called Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church. The building was sold to Brian and Jeanee Linden in 1995, for their new gallery, when it was determined that a larger church was needed for the congregation’s needs. While Shepherd of the Bay is one of the newest church names in Door County, the church possesses a rich history, and was formed by the merger of two very well-established Lutheran congregations in Ellison Bay and Sister Bay. The early history of those two congregations is very similar. Both were started by groups of lay people meeting with visiting pastors to explore the possibility of Lutheran congregations in this area. As early as 1878 a group of early settlers of Swedish descent met in Sister Bay. They organized a congregation and were given land by P.W. Carlson upon which a church was built in 1879.
In 1885 a meeting was held in Ellison Bay to organize a Lutheran congregation. Called the Lutheran Trinity Congregation, the church had as trustees, Hans Olsen and Ole Olsen from Norway and Andrew Wickman from Sweden (the local Casperson family are direct descendants of Andrew Wickman). John Ellison, for whom Ellison Bay was named, donated two acres for the church and cemetery and the building fund collected $265. The first building was completed in 1890. These two congregations were linked early on by sharing a common pastor. Money was tight and neither congregation could afford their own pastor. Early minutes from their meetings describe the situation. In 1904 the salary of the pastor was set at $150 per year with farm members encouraged to supplement his income with produce!
The fortunes of the two congregations waxed and waned with the times. Zion, the Sister Bay congregation, didn’t meet regularly from 1917-1935 because of small numbers and the lack of a pastor. With the influx of new people into the communities, both congregations prospered, with Trinity building a new church in 1957 and Zion completing an addition the same year. By the mid 1980’s, both buildings were unable to meet the demands of their respective congregations. Unable to expand on-site because of limited land, the congregations merged in 1987 to form a single unit and the next year, with the calling of their present pastor, they began the process of building a new worship complex just south of Ellison Bay. The building was completed in 1994 and a bell tower was added in 2000.
Already the growth of the congregation has meant that the congregation is planning to expand the worship space and install an outstanding new pipe organ in 2004. Known for its commitment to quality worship and music, adult education and innovative programs for children, Shepherd of the Bay strives to continue the vision of the first settlers, to have a Lutheran church presence in Northern Door County.
- by Bruce Foster