Minister holds Packer and beach weddings
At Lambeau Field she is known as “The Rev,” while in Algoma she is often referred to as “the minister on the lake.”
To Gloria Butler, an ordained minister, it doesn’t matter what her title is as long as she can perform her favorite rite: weddings.
Whether in her lakeside living room, on her Algoma beach or in the atrium of her beloved Packers’ stadium, Butler wants to “make the bride and groom happy and create a joyful atmosphere” for family and friends.
“I will marry them anywhere, but first they have to come for a long visit with me at Shepherd by the Lake,” she said.
Since she moved to Algoma 18 years ago, Butler estimates that she has performed more than 700 weddings, many at her Shepherd by the Lake wedding chapel and home on Wisconsin 42 in Algoma.
The nondenominational minister insists on a Christian ceremony, but “everything else is an open door,” she says.
Her typical service is 30 minutes long and performed in the backyard with stunning views of Lake Michigan.
Butler grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., where her father was a Baptist minister and her mother played the piano at church.
“I loved living across from a church when I was a child,” she said. “My dad performed lots of weddings, and my mother played the music and I decorated the church with magnolias,” she said. “But my favorite weddings were often those held in our home across the street, because I liked the more intimate family atmosphere.”
She said her family spent most of their summers doing revivals across the Southern states, but the happiest times she remembers in summer were the weddings.
When she grew up, Butler was ordained as a minister but never wanted to pastor a church because of all the church politics, she said.
Instead, she married and lived in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, as well as other locations throughout the South, as she and her husband managed a hearing aid business. Each time they moved, she and her three sons joined a different church. Throughout the years, she taught Sunday School and sang in the choirs of Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal churches.
Each summer they spent a few weeks in Door County, where her husband’s family owned a home in Ephraim.
After their children were grown, she and her husband decided that they wanted to buy a place in the area and stayed in Algoma one weekend.
“I heard the strains of ‘Amazing Grace’ coming from the Lutheran church and turned to him and said, ‘this is where I want to live,’” she said.
They saw a home on Wisconsin 42 that was for sale and in 1997 purchased it from the LaFond family, who has owned a fishing business in Kewaunee County for many years.
“It was their grandmother’s house, and I married one of her grandsons here,” she says.
After the couple renovated the house, they were divorced, but Butler stayed on, donating the home to the Shepherd by the Lake church in Algoma. She continues to live in the house and use it for her business.
“I not only do weddings, but baptisms, marriage vow renewals and memorial services,” she said.
She said that many couples want to hold the wedding on the lawn or beach, but like knowing they can get married in her living room if the weather makes exchanging vows outside difficult.
She said most of the services include 30 to 40 people, but she can accommodate up to 150.
“I do a lot of second weddings, because I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” she said. Most are performed during the summer, but she has several scheduled late into October this year.
Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day are also popular wedding days, she said. She is frequently called to marry people at Lambeau Field and, as an avid Packer fan, is only too happy to oblige.
“I had one couple where the bride was a Packers fan and the groom was a Vikings fan,” she said. “I wore a referee shirt and had to wave a flag, blow a whistle and announce ‘no challenges’ before the ceremony.”
She keeps a record of all the couples she marries, and many of them return to her to have their children baptized or to renew their wedding vows, she said.
Many brides and grooms and their families stay at area hotels and host their reception at area restaurants and banquet halls, she said. She also refers the couple to florists, photographers, dress shops and bakeries in the area.
Several years ago, Butler purchased an old bar and restaurant in downtown Algoma that had been on the market for several years.
She called her son, Chris, who owned several restaurants in Utah at the time and told him what she had done.
“Mother, you rarely drink and would never buy a bar,” said Chris.
“Oh yes, I have, and I want you to come and run it,” she said, suggesting that she would name it “The Preacher’s Kid.”
He said he would come, but didn’t like the name.
“Then name it Scalawags,” she said. “Because you have always been a scalawag.” She said that both definitions of a scalawag – that of a “rascal” or that of a Southern Republican – fit her son. .
Alhtough he changed the spelling to Skaliwags, today it is one of the most popular restaurants in Algoma, known for its fish that Chris has flown in from the Pacific.
“I wanted him to offer burgers and brats, but he knew better,” she said.
Her two other sons live in the South, but visit often, according to Butler. When not meeting with couples to plan their wedding, she finds time to sing in St Mary’s Catholic Church choir.
She recently married her granddaughter and now is a great-grandmother.
“I loving being a part of all life’s big events,” she said. “And after the weddings, I pray for all of them.”
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Minister holds Packer and beach weddings