Reverend Buff Coe, pastor at Vicksburg United Methodist Church, will be retiring after a 40-year career in ministry. Coe’s first appointment with the denomination in 1977 served two churches, in Dryden and Attica in Michigan’s Lapeer County.
Coe reminisced that he first started preaching as an elementary boy playing church. He arranged chairs with dolls and bears in the chairs then sang hymns, read scripture and said prayers. His mother would accompany Coe on the piano. Coe has had a lifelong interest in music that has weaved throughout his career as a pastor.
Rev. Coe gave his first sermon on a New Year’s Eve when he was 12. His pastor had chosen a few young people to mentor who were showing interest and promise in the ministry.
The key turning point came when Coe attended a conference with his pastor in Albion. During the closing worship song, Bishop Marshall Reed asked those who had made a decision at the conference to go into ministry to come down to the altar. The young Coe had made that decision.
Coe attended Michigan State University with a major in music. “I thought if ministry didn’t work out, I would have some other vocational avenues.” Coe then attended Methodist Theological School in Ohio. His love of music paid off there. He was able to pay for his education and expenses by working as the chapel organist. He graduated in 1977 with a MA degree in church music and a second Master’s in divinity.
Coe then received his first appointments to the United Methodist churches in Dryden and Attica. He pastored those churches until 1983, when his interest in music and history took him to Boston University where he obtained degrees in Worship Music and Church History.
Coe was in Boston for seven years where he was an associate pastor and music director at Central United Methodist Church in Brockton, Massachusetts. He also was the organist for a Reformed Jewish synagogue.
Coe graduated from Boston University in 1990 and returned to Michigan as an associate pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Redford, Michigan. The next call was to the First United Methodist Church of Hastings, where he was senior pastor until December of 2000.
The United Methodist Church District Superintendent called in the fall of 2000 and Reverend Coe’s next appointment would at Vicksburg. Coe said, “I have been here 16 ½ years. When I received the call to Vicksburg, I thought Vicksburg would be my second to last appointment. I did not think I would retire while in Vicksburg.”
Rev. Coe met somebody in Hastings that would come into his life while in Vicksburg, Lisa. Lisa was a member at the Hastings church. They reconnected years later while directors of a couple of different boards. They began dating in 2002 and married in 2004.
Coe said, “The experiences that have meant the most to me are not the big Easter services or a home run Sunday message, but the intimate experiences shared with members and families. A lot of ministry is being there, my presence with the family in their darkest moment. A lot of my time is spent as an administrator and on meetings. Hands-on ministry is what really gets my juices flowing.”
Rev. Coe and Lisa have bought a home in Vicksburg and plan to stay here after Coe’s retirement. Lisa works at Vicksburg High School as a para-pro. Coe is looking forward to attending church as a parishioner instead of a pastor and employee for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Coe already has some teaching engagements booked, will be a mentor to United Methodist pastors and still will be serving on some boards. His last day at VUMC will be June 25.