Lea: A Short Film

November 09, 2021

Mention the name Lea Joyner to anyone in the Louisiana Conference, and they'll likely tell you the story of a woman who had a giant heart for ministry and left a lasting legacy that still reverberates today.

Rev. Lea Joyner began Southside Methodist Church in Monroe, mainly because, as her District Superintendent told her, "No other church will have you." Joyner was the only female pastor in Louisiana at a time when Methodist churches refused to ordain women. 

In June 1952, the Conference gave her a vacant lot with no people, no building, and half the money generally given for new churches. Lea persevered. In the next two months, 126 people joined. Over the next 33 years, Lea's church grew to include over 2,000 members.  

Her story is one of courage, fearlessness, and bravery. Sadly, it's a story that also includes an untimely death as Joyner was tragically killed in March of 1985, the victim of a random stabbing. 

Her life has been well documented in print and online. Now her life will be celebrated and memorialized with a new film called "LEA," which will premiere Sunday, November 21 at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church named after her, Lea Joyner United Methodist Church in Monroe.

The film is produced by Change Artists, LLC and Lagniappe Entertainment, and  Rev. David Melville has been busy helping to bring the film to bear. While Melville currently serves in the North Texas Conference at Epworth United Methodist Church, the Louisiana elder has long desired to share Lea Joyner's story. 

"Lea's legacy was overcoming obstacles and keeping the main thing the main thing," says Melville. "If we truly want to be fruitful for the kingdom, we might want to consider her model for ourselves, although we may be different than Lea (our age, gender, family commitments), we may face different obstacles, and we are certainly living in different times, Despite differences, we can still emulate her in the most important ways."

Melville says he is hoping people will watch the film and feel the power and Spirit that Lea felt and lived, and then go and do likewise.

Rev. Ben McGehee currently serves as senior pastor at Lea Joyner United Methodist Church and says he is hoping the film introduced the legacy of Joyner to a new generation. 

"Joyner died over 36 years ago, and many of the people who knew her best have already joined her in heaven," says McGehee. "This film is an opportunity for more people to see the impact of a simple life dedicated to loving and serving Jesus. I believe our world would be a much better place today if more people lived like Lea."

McGehee never met Joyner but says his ministry is shaped and formed by Joyner's passion for finding and ministering to the least, the lost and the lonely. 

"Being the Senior Pastor of the church that was started by Lea and still bears her name is a great honor," says McGehee. "While I never had the opportunity to meet her, I've always respected her passion for reaching the lost and serving everyone she met with Christ's love. I often feel a great burden (in a good way) to carry on her legacy into the future." 

Melville says this is also a chance for the Conference, and the denomination itself, to remember its history. 

"I believe a denomination or Conference that does not know its history is not complete," Melville says. "And each generation of pastors and laity have to hear the history, or it will be forgotten."

Lea Trailer


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