Presbyterian Bill Coop to Receive 2016 Peaceseeker Award for Global & Local Mission
For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Fritz Gutwein, Co-Director
Rick Ufford-Chase, Co-Moderator (845) 608-405
Jan Orr-Harter, Co-Editor (817) 291-3952
STONY POINT, NY - The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship will honor Rev. William Coop with the 2016 Peaceseeker Award at the Peace Breakfast on June 22 at the meeting of the PC (USA) General Assembly in Portland. Founded in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nation-wide community of Presbyterians who seek to follow the nonviolence of Jesus by working to reduce war and violence in the world. The Peaceseeker Award is its highest honor.
Bill, or “Coop” as he is sometimes known, has lived a lifetime of Presbyterian peacemaking. He 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 many ways, the Peaceseeker award to Bill Coop honors both of them. It also stands as a tribute to the work of Presbyterians in mission throughout the world, a multi-generation Presbyterian contribution to education, empowerment, justice and peace across in the globe. As Bill describes his life: “With peacemaking, you just keep on keeping on. The task is to put people together with justice and peace work and watch them blossom.”
For information on the June 22 Peace Breakfast, the ministry of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and opportunities to support and participate in that work, see www.presbypeacefellowship.org.