There will be a memorial service for Bill at the Stony Point Center, as Bill requested, on September 10 at 10:30 a.m. A lunch will follow. Click here to RSVP (you may make overnight accommodation arrangements at that link as well).
Rev. William “Bill” Coop was one of the longest members of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) when he passed away in May 2019. It was an honor for PPF to count Bill among its members for six decades, and countless activists of all ages have been shaped by Bill’s friendship and mentorship over the years.
When we found out that Bill was nearing the end of his life, several PPF Activist Council members wrote messages to Bill. These are just a few that begin to capture what he has meant to PPF and to many people personally:
You have inspired me from the moment I met you and that inspiration has grown ever since. The world is better because of you and so am I.
I looked forward to your smiling face, your twinkle of grace. I was never disappointed.
Bill, I am grateful for the courage and love you’ve cultivated in this world and for the joy you’ve shared with me. Thank you.
You have been in the peace movement longer than anyone I know and your faithfulness and sticktuitiveness have been a role model for so many of us. Thank you. The Good Book says we have (on average) three score and ten years. You trampled on those odds with way more than four score and you have used those years so unselfishly for Christ’s reign and with such a happy spirit.
You’re one of the people I think of first when I think of elders in the movement who have inspired and encouraged me.
In 2016, PPF awarded the Peaceseeker Award, its highest honor, to Bill Coop. During a conversation with Jan Orr-Harter before that award, Bill described his life in this way: “With peacemaking, you just keep on keeping on. The task is to put people together with justice and peace work and watch them blossom.”
Please read below the article about Bill that Jan Orr-Harter wrote when he received the 2016 Peaceseeker Award. His life is a testament to the “keeping on” of peacemaking and inspiring countless young peacemakers and activists to blossom. One of the last acts that Bill did as a member of PPF was help come up with the vision of getting PPF’s endowment to one million dollars in honor of this 75th year of PPF working for peace with justice. Sadly, Bill will not get to see his vision come to full bloom, but his legacy continues to shape PPF into the future with this endowment campaign and countless other ways. Our prayers are with his children and grandchildren as they continue to grieve. Thank you for sharing your father and grandfather with the world!
Bill, or “Coop,” as many of us called him, first met PPF in 1955 to learn about being a Conscientious Objector. Ironically, his application as a CO was rejected by his draft board because he felt called to the ministry. A veteran of working during his teens at Presbyterian summer camps, Bill joined forces with the international Student Christian Movement. In 1963 he was the Student Coordinator for the historic March on Washington.
On graduating from Pittsburgh Seminary in 1966, Bill served as Assistant Pastor at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, MD, outside of Washington DC. He became involved in anti-draft, anti-Viet Nam and pro-civil rights work. “When Martin Luther King was shot and Baltimore burned,” says Bill, “I stood on street corners in my clergy collar to help keep the peace.”
Then life took a global turn, which was to be emblematic of the contribution that Presbyterians made to world mission as new nations found independence from colonialism. Bill, his wife Roxanne and their children went to the South Pacific to what was then called the New Hebrides, where he served as the Education Secretary for the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides. To Bill, education was empowerment. His task was two-fold: to identify and get in place indigenous church leadership and to tell the missionaries that it was time for them to go home. Bill himself was the last Presbyterian missionary to go out under COEMAR in 1971.
Daily work took place in villages where Bill did skill-building and human relations training. A frequent conversation with a local leader would be: “What does your position do to help the village succeed?” Eventually Bill was asked to create a model to involve the local indigenous church in the struggle for independence in 17 emerging Pacific nations.
In 1977 the Coops returned to the US and Bill signed on at Hudson River Presbytery near New York City as Associate Executive for Education, then later for Leadership and Public Issues. He continued his international mission by joining the Presbyterian Bi-National Servants group. In that capacity, he and another Presbyterian Don Wilson brought to the United Nations the resolution for independence of the former New Hebrides, now the island nation of Vanuatu, which translates “Our Land.”
During the Cold War, Bill joined the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and formed life-long peacemaking friendships with local Hudson Valley-area PPFers like Peggy Howland, Meta, Paul and Amy Ukena, Mary Louise Stearns, Annabelle Dirks and others. He served as Westchester County, New York chairperson for Clergy and Laity Concerned and for the Martin Luther King Institute. His focus at Hudson River Presbytery was to involve local Presbyterians in global peacemaking.
In 1993 Bill and his second wife Joan moved to Syracuse, New York to serve a struggling inner-city congregation that welcomed his vision of the gospel call to social activism. The congregation started a Housing Co-Op and became an open community center for the neighborhood.
Just a few years after retiring to Maine, Bill’s wife Joan Coop, herself a distinguished Presbyterian peacemaker, passed away in the summer of 2015. In 2016, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship awarded the Peaceseeker Award to Bill Coop for his decades-long commitment to working to end war and promote peace through nonviolence in the world.