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Rev. Bill Coen retires after 50 years of music ministry
W Rev Bill Coen
The Rev. Bill Coen, the minister of music at Statesboro First Baptist Church, is retiring from ministry this week. - photo by Special

The Rev. Bill Coen, the minister of music at Statesboro First Baptist Church, is retiring from ministry this week after serving for half a century.

Coen spent the last 13 years at First Baptist leading worship, directing the 120-voice Celebration Choir and Orchestra and encouraging the love of music and gift of song.

The church will hold a reception for Coen and his wife, Dorothy, from 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday in the Perry Fellowship Hall. The reception will be followed by “A Night for Bill and Dorothy Coen” in the worship center at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited.

A talented singer and occasional dabbler with guitar, piano, horn, and handbell, Coen is most passionate about choirs.

“It’s biblical and allows people to use their gifts,” he said. “Choirs honor the Lord, and they’re multigenerational.”

In addition to leading choirs, Coen sings in the Sons of Jubal choral group and recently performed with the group in North Korea.

Coen shared his love of music with several generations. He often could be found strumming his guitar and singing for or with toddlers in the nursery or church preschool program. He supported the graded choirs of all ages of children and directed the youth choir. He assisted with small ensembles, encouraged soloists and musicians, led several generations in choir ministry, and wrote and directed a musical performance each December, titled “Christmas Celebration,” as his gift to the community.

Equally important to Coen is his passion for people. Coen misses few opportunities to visit the infirm in the hospital or at home, and he delights in serving others. With a contagious smile, he brightens the lives of those who know him and often has a corny joke to share with the teenagers who dote on his every word in choir.

Coen will certainly be missed at First Baptist and in this community, but he says he’s not through serving.

“I love the Lord and His ministry now more than ever, and I plan to continue until the Lord calls me home,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the ‘youth of my old age,’ so I hope to stay with it another 10 or 15 years.”

During his “retirement” — for lack of a better word — Coen hopes to work in churches around the state and nation, rebuilding music programs that have declined. He says those are the gifts God has blessed him with, and he hopes the Lord will use him for many years to come.

Bill and Dorothy Coen, will move to Cleveland, Ga., in early summer to be closer to his three children. The Coens have three married children, Bill Jr., who works with Turner Broadcasting System; Bob, a business owner in Atlanta; and Dori, a Cleveland businesswoman. They have five grandchildren and a great-grandson on the way.

Married for 48 years, Bill and Dorothy Coen met in high school and married during college.

“She’s been my partner in ministry all these years,” he said.

With Dorothy by his side, Coen served as minister of music in churches throughout the Midwest and Southeast. He began his career in 1964 at his home church in Kansas City, Mo., when the music person left and Coen was asked to take his place.

After completing his education at Central Missouri State University, William Jewell College and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Coen served as music minister of churches and traveled extensively for a number of years as music evangelist, concert soloist or other musical event participant in the U.S., Europe, Israel and Russia.

Coen has recorded four personal albums and numerous group ones.

He is comfortable singing to thousands of people at an Atlanta Braves game, 500 or 600 at an evangelism event, or a small group gathered for a wedding or funeral. No matter the number, he says he looks into the crowd and knows each person has a story.

“Christ takes our meager gift and He ministers with it how He chooses,” Coen said. “It always amazes me how the Lord takes one song and ministers to each person hearing it – that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.”

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