There is strong fellowship happening right here in a historic Old Gretna church!
First, let’s welcome the Coopers, Reverend Edward Cooper and Reverend Jo Ann Cooper! The names aren’t a coincidence, the Coopers are a happily married couple.
Reverend Ed Cooper is the new pastor of Boynton United Methodist Church (UMC) in Gretna, as well as the pastor of Aurora United Methodist Church in Algiers.
Reverend Jo Ann Cooper has served as pastor of the Gretna UMC located at 1309 Whitney Ave. in Terrytown since February 2020. Locals know all about GUMP, the preschool.
“The United Methodist Church assigns their pastors and I was assigned to Boynton Methodist, a predominately black church, as well as the Aurora Methodist, a historically white church,” Pastor Ed said.
The assignment of pastor-sharing included the hiring of Boynton’s talented African-American Musical Director, Frank Thompson as the new musical director of Aurora. Frank’s style of music at Boynton is his self-proclaimed ‘funky gospel’ style. Until now, Aurora UMC has tended to enjoy a more traditional choir. Frank plays his own style of the traditional songs “Oh Happy Day” and “Amazing Grace.” He encourages humming if singing doesn’t work wearing a mask.
Pastor Ed said, “Before I came to Boynton, I had concerns about whether or not I could reach an African-American congregation if I could fill their needs.” “In a Zoom meeting with about 14 congregants when I first arrived, one of the members expressed concern about whether I would be able to lead them since I was of a different culture. She said she was concerned and I told her I was concerned as well.
“I don’t preach like a black preacher, although I truly wish I could. I can quote Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman and James Baldwin all day long, but it doesn’t give me an ounce of credibility. That is something that I must earn. If you will give me that opportunity, I think you will discover that I will be a pastor that you can embrace and who will embrace you,” he said.
It is working wonderfully. Voices from the congregation:
- “Pastor Ed Cooper arrived with a wonderful spirit of enthusiasm and excitement about ministry and service to God at Boynton. He is passionate, very effective in his delivery of the Word, personable and we are excited to work with him to grow our ministry. It is a new season for change at Boynton, a predominately African American congregation that has a “white” Pastor for the first time in its history. While united in service to the same God, there were hints of concern regarding whether or not this would be a “good fit,” especially in a season of racial unrest in our communities. We are moving forward in our ministry without seeing color, all of us in God’s image.”- Janet R. Jackson
- “We are blessed to have a servant leader that is spirit-filled, caring, genuine, humble and so giving. He’s a gifted Pastor and he’s excited to be here with us and we are equally excited to have him!” – Brandon Williams and Family
- “What I love about Pastor Ed is his spirit of love and zeal for God’s word. He is very passionate about God and the bible. That love is reflected in his love of others, in his teachings and through his leadership. It is a joy to be around his awesome energy.” – Lynette Berry“
- “Pastor Ed’s energy and genuine excitement while delving into Scripture during our Thursday morning Zoom discussions is infectious. We’re enjoying it!” – Staphenae Carey
- “Pastor Ed Cooper is very sincere, compassionate and aware that having a white UMC pastor in a traditional black church is still unique. However, Pastor Ed has made it known that he is committed to finding unity in purpose and is planted at Boynton UMC ready to work and grow and serve our family of God.” – Andria Palmer
- “There’s a time and season for everything and Boynton is in another season. It’s going to be great with Pastor Ed. I’m loving Thursday morning virtual “Prayer Call” with him.” – Carrie Roy
- “Our introduction of Pastor Cooper’s arrival was a pleasant and spiritual experience. Designated as the incoming pastor, it was an honor for my wife and me to give him a heartfelt welcoming tour of Boynton UMC.” – Mr. & Mrs. Harry Hall
- “Praise God for our new anointed pastor. In the three weeks, on both Thursdays and Sundays, that I’ve had the opportunity to hear Pastor Ed, a true man of God, he has delivered meaningful and powerful biblical messages based on scriptures from the Bible. May God continue to bless and keep Pastor Ed in His care.” – Karen Clark Hunter
- “My impression of Pastor Ed Cooper is that he is a true God-fearing man who loves the Lord and has a true passion for sharing God’s word. He is willing, and I might even say anxious, to learn more of our culture. I believe our congregation has embraced him, is and willing to learn more about him and accept the man he is. It is a different situation for all of us, but what he has displayed to us at Boynton so far, the compassion, the knowledge of God’s word, and his desire to be an integral part of this church, I think we will be fine. I love his messages, his excited way of delivering them and how you can almost feel what he is feeling when he preaches.” – Darlean S. George
- “I have stood in that Boynton sanctuary and felt fully and totally embraced. In fact, yesterday I took home a homemade lasagna in a black iron skillet. It was out of this world,” Pastor Ed said.
- “And just today, I had a visit from an 88 year-old Aurora church member who stopped by to tell me that he had been watching the live stream of our Sunday service. He boisterously said, “Who is our new piano player? I like that man!”
- “The uniqueness of our relationship, as well as the relationship of our two churches, affords us the gift of demonstrating the love of Jesus, even within the Body of Christ, to a world in need of “seeing” our love rather than just “hearing” of our love,” the pastor said.
Born and raised in North Carolina, after a tour of duty in Viet Nam, he was stationed at England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana until his discharge in 1973.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, followed by a Masters in Divinity in 1977. He joined the United Methodist Church in 1991.
“Jo Ann and I married in 2006. Between us we have two daughters and a son with seven grandchildren. We love walking the Mississippi River levee. Jo enjoys cooking entrees she can’t pronounce and I love trying them out. We both are avid readers as well as LSU and Saints fans.”
In 2013, he completed a course of study housed at Millsap’s College to be appointed as a licensed local pastor in the annual conference. He served at Brushwood UMC in Dubberly, Louisiana until 2015.
“The Lord allowed that congregation to build a 250 seat sanctuary debt free. The most amazing thing about it all, however, was the spirit and heart of the people for the least, last and lost. Brushwood is a testimony to what God can do with any of us, regardless of the limitations that we may put on ourselves or what others may put on us, as long as we make ourselves available to our loving, gracious Father,” Pastor Ed said.
“In 2015 Jo Ann and I were appointed as co-pastors of First United Methodist in Pineville, Louisiana. Serving alongside Jo in this capacity was the most fulfilling experience of my life. We truly witnessed God doing some amazing things in the lives of people and in the life of a community of faith. We celebrated first-hand what was so visible to many, the outward growth, debt retirement, baptisms, new members, worship attendance, but what we truly celebrated was the “invisible,” the distinct difference which the love, mercy and grace of the presence of our Rising Christ makes in one’s life. We saw it. That’s what ministry is all about and that is what I look forward to experiencing with my Boynton and Aurora UMC families.”
This gifted and talented musician whose deep faith in God influences his musical endeavors is a cancer survivor. He fulfills his calling as he composes, arranges and performs music that is soothing, uplifting and predestined to motivate its listener. His music was submitted as consideration for a Grammy 2020. “My Everything” by Frank Thompson Jr. on youtube.com
“As you sit back and listen to my music, I want it to embrace your heart and allow for it to ease your mind and soul. I strive for you to discover that it is truly inspirational and spirit-filled,” Frank said. “I’ve been playing instruments in the church all of my life. I started out on the drums, bass guitar but now my primary instrument is the organ or piano.”
He toured across the U. S. and in Germany, played bass guitar in the Gospel Tent for Jazz Fest. By the mid-1980’s, Frank played on local recordings. His first original production in 1996 titled Something Old, Something New featured traditional and contemporary gospel. In 2005 Frank wrote, produced and directed a video in titled Show the World You Care and the single “I Miss You So.” He wrote “We Are The Champs” after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV.
In 2011, he released Island Man, a compilation of jazz music that he composed, produced and played all the instruments on. “Being able to work with someone who respects you and have equal love for God’s people is the greatest thing that could ever happen to my music career. I look forward to a great future with Aurora UMC along with Pastor Ed. As we work side-by-side in the kingdom of God setting the example that ‘All’ men are created equal in God’s eyesight,” the musical director said.
Boynton Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the late 19th century by a small group of Christians who worshiped in Casper’s Hall in Gretna. Ae great love for Christ, along with their prayers, zeal and hard work enabled them to purchase the present site at Lafayette and 5th Streets and erect a church building in 1888.
In 1894, the church building was damaged by fire and in 1915, damaged by a storm, restored both times by the dedicated congregation.
In 1952 the church building was totally renovated. The Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church united into the United Methodist Church, creating Boynton United Methodist Church. Evident that a new church building was needed, the present structure was dedicated in early 1982 due to the energetic and strenuous efforts of members and friends of Boynton. The faithful pioneers must be remembered and applauded for their sacrifice and commitments that began the history of Boynton. The mission is to continue to express and live a pure Christian faith in ministry to all of God’s people.
Aurora United Methodist Church, serving in ministry since 1959 is located at the corner of Berkley Drive and Eton Street in Algiers. Over the years, Aurora UMC has become synonymous with Mission and Youth Ministries and is committed to being a Christ-centered church family whose goal is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Willing to ask questions, to wrestle with difficult issues, to do so with grace and compassion, Aurora UMC has historically valued well-informed and passionate preaching. It has a congregation of open hearts, open minds, and open doors, and welcomes anyone interested in learning more about the Christian faith.
Both churches are on Facebook. “I’ve worked with many different denominations throughout my life. Being at Aurora at this time creates a new level of relationship and friendships in the church. Especially working with Pastor Cooper. Our camaraderie and ability to come to one another with respect and love for each other is a great plus,” Frank Thompson said.
“What I so love about the opportunity given to Frank and me is the uniqueness of us ministering together, is that we get to live out God’s Word. The Bible says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8),” Pastor Ed said.