Tonya Howard Hamilton, Finnish Lutheran Historical Foundation
The Finnish Lutheran Church of Kreole has stood strong since 1907 at its location at the corner of Bayou Cumbest Road and Finland Drive in Moss Point, MS. Decommissioned as a church and now used as a meeting place, it is administered and maintained by the Finnish Lutheran Historical Foundation. (Photo submitted by Joanne Anderson)
According to Harry McDonald’s “History of Moss Point,” the Swartwout schoolhouse served as the first meeting house.
In 1904, construction started on the church. It was completed in 1907 on land donated by Gideon Laine, who also donated the adjacent land for a cemetery. The church and cemetery were then part of the Laine community (now Kreole).
Lumber cost $50 and the congregation supplied the labor. A pump organ was purchased from Sears Roebuck in 1912 for $50. The pews, inside and outside walls, and the ceiling were built with yellow pine. The structure had never been damaged by a hurricane until Elena in 1985, when it was knocked off its cypress blocks. The Finnish descendants restored the church, putting it back up on concrete blocks and repainting it.
In the early years, services were primarily held in the Finnish language, and it was the custom of the men to sit on the left of the altar, and the women and children on the right side.
As Finnish pastors were in short supply, coming when they could to conduct services, a cherished tradition began as a monthly time of fellowship and devotion called Silver Tea. It consisted of prayer, Bible readings and singing of Finnish hymns. Afterward, refreshments were served with the custom of adults served first and children last. Silver Tea was held in the church or at various homes to make it, at one time or another, more geographically accessible to everyone. (Story Credit: Nelda Martin Kyzar)