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Church History | Clergy Selection & Rotation | Liturgy Guidelines | The Clergy Cottage | Life in Fish Creek & Door County

Church History

Celebrating 100 Years

Celebrating 100 Years

Cottage Row Road - 1903

Cottage Row Road - 1903


The Church of the Atonement is the oldest church in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. A summer Episcopal mission that serves full-time residents as well as vacationers, The Church of the Atonement is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Church of the Atonement started with the unfinished home of fisherman Charles Gesler, which was purchased by the Diocese of Fond du Lac for $125. Bishop John Henry Hobart Brown conducted the first service in Fish Creek on Aug. 12, 1877.

The Church of the Atonement was originally a year-round church. In winter the seating capacity fell from 85 to 65 to make room for a wood stove. The church bought its first organ for $105 in 1892. A tower and a stone wall were added in 1895. The Church of the Atonement created a memorial garden in 1988 amid the cedars to the west.

The Church of the Atonement does not have a rector. Each summer visiting Episcopal bishops and priests hold services while enjoying short vacations. In the 1970’s the Rev. William S. Lea and Bishop Arthur A. Vogel were the summer ministers. In 2014, following many years of discussion, the Bishop’s Committee approved the construction of The Annex, a free-standing outbuilding with men’s and women’s restrooms, storage and work space. Most of the money for this project was donated by over 55 donors, many of whom have longstanding ties to the church. The remainder of the money came from the Atonement capital fund.

The Church of the Atonement is governed by the Bishop’s Committee. Providing a traditional Episcopal worship service in a beautiful Door County setting is the primary mission of the church. Those who worship at The Church of the Atonement, whether year after year or for one vacation Sunday, give thanks for the glory of God and sing praise to His name.








Clergy Selection & Rotation

The Church of the Atonement has been fortunate to attract strong, interesting, diverse clergy for many years. A Clergy Selection Committee meets each year to develop a list of clergy to invite for the following summer. We try to develop a roster which incorporates new invitees, repeat clergy, men, women, young, old, near and far. With only a sixteen or occasionally seventeen week season, we can invite fewer than ten clergy per year, and we often feel like the child who has more friends than there are spots at the birthday party! We are grateful to all our clergy for their understanding of our system, and we hope that those who do visit find their time at Atonement a wonderful experience.

Liturgy Guidelines at Church of the Atonement

Our liturgy at Church of the Atonement reflects the faithful flexibility of the Episcopal Church. Generally, the following customs are followed, but anything that is not etched in stone is considered “clergy choice.”

  • Rite II is preferred and better known. If you especially want to use Rite I, feel free.

  • The Sanctus is sung, with organ accompaniment. The rest of the liturgy is spoken. We do not chant and you should not, either…even if someone asks you to!

  • Please introduce yourself and your family to the congregation at the beginning of each service. People really enjoy knowing where our clergy calls home, and your connection to the Church of the Atonement.

  • We use lectionary handouts. They will follow the Revised Common Lectionary.

  • The Altar Guild will prepare in a traditional manner. It is wise to check that the 8 a.m. oblations have been taken from the sacristy and placed that morning on the small credence ledge.

  • There is a medium sized alb in the sacristy. Most clergy prefer to bring their own albs, but the one in the sacristy is clean and average-sized. A chasuble and stole will be set out for you. If it is a very hot day, feel free to not wear the chasuble.

  • The reader will also be a licensed chalice bearer. That reader will read the Prayers of the People if you wish; check with the reader before service.

  • The hymns are chosen in advance and posted on the board, as well as written on a card for you to announce at the time of each hymn.

  • Announcements are minimal, generally related to the flower memorial and the coffee hour. You may do the announcements at whatever place in the service you wish. Please also welcome newcomers and the organist (written on your hymn card). It is an Atonement custom to ask newcomers to introduce themselves and name their home church during the welcome time. Newcomers who introduce themselves will be given a pack of Atonement note cards…the box is in the sacristy. Someone will show them to you and go over announcements before the 8 a.m. service.

The Clergy Cottage

The Clergy Cottage is located at 9390 Cottage Row, Fish Creek, WI 54212. The cottage is available for your use starting the Tuesday before your first Sunday. Phone, with answering machine, is 920-868-2700. Cell phone coverage is sometimes spotty due to the rock bluffs nearby, so be sure to give this number to anyone who might need to reach you during your stay. The cottage has wireless internet service.

Use of the cottage: You are invited to use the cottage from the Tuesday before your first Sunday until the morning of the Monday following your final Sunday. Guests are welcome. Pets are not…no exceptions. The cottage has 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths. Upstairs, there is a full bath plus 3 bedrooms, one with a king, one with 2 single beds and one with a double bed, a twin and a crib. Downstairs, there is full bath and a bedroom with 2 twin beds.

Directions to the cottage: Drive north on Hwy 42 until you get to the stop sign in Fish Creek. Turn left at the stop sign. Go a short distance to the 4-way stop sign, where you will see The Church of the Atonement. Turn left and go about 300 feet. The cottage is on the left side of the street, just as the road curves.

All linens, towels and routine household items are provided in the cottage. The king bed upstairs should be made up with clean sheets before your arrival. A set of sheets should be in a dresser drawer in each room. Extra sheets are in the upstairs hall linen closet. We ask that you make the beds when you arrive and remove and wash the towels and sheets when you leave.

The cottage is offered to clergy guests as a “housekeeping cottage.” We provide linens, towels, a fully equipped kitchen, and a charcoal grill. Starter supplies such as paper products, soap, detergent, and other housekeeping supplies are provided. We do our best to keep things stocked, but we ask you to replace anything which runs out during your stay. Please don’t leave the next guest “high and dry”!

TVs with cable service are in the living room and in the master bedroom. There is a charcoal Weber grill in the shed. There is a great collection of paperback books. The wifi password information is posted in the cottage living room.

We ask that you leave the cottage by mid-morning on the Monday following your final Sunday. Before you leave, please:

  • Remove and launder all sheets and towels

  • Empty the refrigerator, except condiments

  • Empty the trash

  • Be sure the keys are all on the kitchen hook and lock the door on your way out.

Life in Fish Creek & Door County

Door County is known for its beauty, peace and natural charm. We hope you will relax, enjoy the slower pace, and take the time to refresh your soul during your stay. Some walks, sunsets, bike rides, beach days, great meals, golf, tennis, boating, and new friends, as well as time in our lovely little church should send you home refreshed and renewed.

Golf tee times can be arranged when you arrive, or you may call ahead if you have very specific times you want to play. Peninsula State Park Golf Course is a beautiful 18 hole course (920-854-5791) or you may prefer The Orchards at Egg Harbor (18 holes, 920- 868-2483) or the 9-hole Bay Ridge in Sister Bay (920-854-4085). If you are looking for an Episcopalian playing partner, just spread the word; most anyone would love to join you!

Bikes are available for rent at Nor Door Cyclery in Fish Creek. Peninsula State Park has wonderful, safe bike trails for all levels of riders.

Groceries are available at the Fish Creek Market, the Piggly Wiggly in Sister Bay, or Main Street Market in Egg Harbor. There is a Pick ‘n Save in Sturgeon Bay.

Restaurants abound. In Fish Creek, the White Gull Inn next to the church is an elegant treat. Julie’s Park Cafe and The Cookery are less fancy and every bit as delicious. There are so many good restaurants, we probably shouldn’t start listing them, but just ask anyone…we all have favorites.

Beaches are many. The Fish Creek town beach is a nice family spot. Nicolet Bay Beach in the Park is bigger, and has a concession stand, as well as kayak and paddle boat rental. If you go to the Park, be sure to observe the parking pass regulations; a day pass is less expensive than the inevitable ticket.

Arts opportunities range from music to drama to beautiful galleries. Peninsula Players is very popular, and their theater is a treasure. Sunset picnics before a show are a Door County tradition, as are visits to the American Players Theater in the Park, particularly for families with children. Birch Creek Music offers many enjoyable performances. If you are a music lover who visits in August, don’t miss the Peninsula Music Festival.

There is too much to do in Door County to put it all in a list. We suggest you consult the Door County Guides in the cottage, and just ask anyone about anything…we all have opinions and suggestions!

Have a wonderful stay! Thank you for joining us in Door County!

Would you like to join us next season? Contact us and we’d love to tell you more about this opportunity!