” And it came to pass, that everyone which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle.” – Exodus 33:7
While Waldheim United Methodist Church was formally dedicated in 1875, the German settlement of Waldheim had held meetings for the faithful for decades. Records from this time are sketchy at best, but the few that have survived support the theory that a Methodist mission was in this area as early as 1860. Since 1840, thousands of German immigrants have found their way to America, many through the port of New Orleans. These individuals came mostly due to political oppression and wished the quest for freedom of religion. (Some areas of Germany at that time enforced a state religion, which did not include Methodism.)
Rejoicing in their newly found religious freedom, these immigrants eagerly established communities with worship centers for the faithful. A few of these hearty German settlers founded a settlement here in the piney woods of St. Tammany Parish. Many different names have graced our little church. Boniface, German Mission, German Methodist Settlement, Talisheek Mission, and St. Tammany Mission Church are all believed to be references to our current house of worship. We have a long and full history, but the most historically significant events were the annual camp meetings that were held for decades upon the grounds, which drew hundreds from the surrounding area.
People from as far away as Mississippi would come to hear various ministers and sing the beautiful songs of the faith. Services were held several times a day, many times lasting more than two hours. The “Grand Camp Meeting of the German Settlement” could last as long as a week or even longer. A large covered shed was built on the site and called “The Tabernacle”. The building had no sides and a dirt floor covered with pine needles. Night services were illuminated only by kerosene lanterns and exterior fires around the edge of the building. Individual families would camp out, or men and boys could pay to sleep in a series of bunkhouses if the desired to stay overnight. Restaurant concessions were also available for 25-cents a meal. People would travel from great distances in simple wagons to hear God’s Holy Word. Christenings, baptisms, weddings, and even final funeral services were held long after the dearly departed were laid to rest so family and friends could all have time to gather.
Although decades have passed, the welcoming spirit established by our forefathers continues on. For generations, the dedicated faithful who love the Lord have assured that this church would continue to spread His Word by though and by deed. As we move forward, let us remember those hardworking settlers who sacrificed so much to establish a place of worship in the wilderness.