First United Methodist Church of Houma
A Complete History ...
A book was written in 1994 ... Methodism Along the Bayou ... that covers the history of Methodism in the Houma-Terrebonne area. Though it centers around the First United Methodist Church of Houma, it also includes material on other Methodist churches in the area, the MacDonell Center, and the Dulac Mission.
Though the book is available for purchase from the church, the entire text is available on-line at the Louisiana Conference's Archives and History site. Additional UM history can be found at that site, also.
A Brief History ...
In the 1700's, John Wesley started a movement witin the Anglican Church of England. His "plain message to plain people" resulted in the formation of the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church was officially formed in the United States in 1784. Circuit riders (preachers who traveled from place to place) spread the Gospel across the new country. By the mid 1800's, Methodism was the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
While the 1800's saw the church divide into several separate organizations, the 20th century has seen them come together again. In 1939, the Methodist Church was formed from the combination of the Methodist Episcopal Church (South), the Methodist Episcopal Church (North), and the Methodist Protestant Church. In 1968, the United Methodist Church was formed when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined.
History of the First United Methodist Church in Houma, LA
Methodism officially entered Louisiana back in 1805, when circuit rider Elisha W. Bowman was appointed as a missionary to Louisiana. After an unsuccessful attempt at preaching in New Orleans, he headed for the Opelousas area. Although Rev. Bowman by- passed Terrebonne Parish, other circuit riders found their way here by the 1830's. Besides rough travel conditions, the early circuit riders had to contend with a population that was almost entirely Roman Catholic and usually spoke only French. [Elisha Bowman] In 1845, property was bought on the corner of Belanger Street and Goode Street in Houma. Soon the first church in the parish, a Methodist church, was built. Other Protestants contributed to its construction and used the building from time to time. In 1849, a small Methodist Church was built in Gibson. The Gibson church, still located in Gibson, is one of the oldest Methodist churches in the state. Both churches were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Houma church was served by a number of pastors in those early years. Though Houma has "its own" minister at times, the preachers' circuits varied through the years. At its greatest, the circuit stretched from Berwick to Gibson to Houma to Thibodaux to Napoleonville to Donaldsonville. But by the 1880's, the Methodist population in Houma was dwindling. In 1888, with only 2 members officially on the roll, the Houma Methodist Church was sold. One of the problems was that only English-speaking ministers were sent to a population where probably 90% spoke French. For the next 20 years, the only Methodist Church in Houma was the Wesley Methodist Church ... a branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North.
In 1908, due to the efforts of Rev. Martin Hebert of the French Mission, a pastor was appointed to Houma. Under Rev. C.V. Breithaupt, the Methodist Church of Houma was formally incorporated in November of 1909. These two ministers, with the help of Robert Martin and A.D. Martin, resurrected Methodism in Terrebonne Parish. From 1909 to 1914, services were held in rented rooms in downtown Houma and at various locations around the parish. In 1914, a home at the corner of Goode Street and School Street was bought. This house, known as the "Little Green Church" or the "Tabernacle", was used as a church until 1921. It was torn down and replaced in 1922 by the "Red Brick Church" under the leadership of Rev. Franklin J. McCoy. As Houma's population grew in the 1930's and 1940's, so did the church. By the late 1940's, the congregation had outgrown the Red Brick Church.
Soon after Rev. Sam Nader arrived in 1951, property was purchased at the corner of Bayou Black Drive and Boston Lane. The parsonage behind the church was bought in 1952. In April of 1956, the first services were held in the new church ... known as the "Cathedral on the Bayou." Since that time, an Activities Building was constructed (in 1978) and the property on the west side of the church was purchased. The First United Methodist Church of Houma now occupies the entire block.
The Church hopes to build on the contributions of our past to carry us into the future. Over the years, the prayers, presence, gifts, and service of a multitude of people have come together to make this Church what it is today. With God's help, we can take our Church into the 21st century, prepared to help lead the world to Christ.