…sharing the love of Christ with Athens and the world!

Important Events and Messages


Montreat Worship & Music Conference, June 25-July 1

John Coble will be leading the annual trip to Montreat for the Worship & Music Conference. Please contact him for more information.
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Montreat Youth Conference, July 23-29

Kim Ness will be leading the annual trip to Montreat for the Youth Conference. Please contact her for more information.
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Bruce’s Blog

My Friends,

Wear RED!

Pentecost Sunday is June 4 and we would like to see everyone wearing red for worship. (If your ‘red’ has a G on it, we’ll just assume it stands for Gospel!)

Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit sent the gospel out the door and into the world and the church was born. The story in the Acts of the Apostles is that “tongues, as of fire” (thus, the ‘red’) appeared on the gathered believers, and then the Holy Spirit moved them to proclaim the gospel in all the languages of the world.

The story continues in Acts 2, which describes how the church developed and grew in those first days. In his book, Robert Schnase wrote about Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

I like that he calls them “practices” – things you do over and over, again and again – attitudes you adopt and continue to improve, ministries you develop and enhance. As First Presbyterian Church moves along this road of transition, growing more and more as a fruitful congregation, I ask you to consider how and where you personally put into practice:

1. Passionate Worship. With intense desire and fervent spirit, we honor God for who God is and what God has done, with the purpose of connecting people to God. This type of worship is not performance but rather devotion and celebration, expressing our love of God.

2. Radical Hospitality. We offer the absolute utmost of ourselves, our creativity, and our abilities to offer the gracious invitation and welcome of Christ to others. We pray, plan, and work to invite others, help them to feel welcome, and to support them in their spiritual journeys.

3. Intentional Faith Development. We deliberately and purposefully engage in Bible studies, daily devotion, church school classes, small groups, and retreats to mature in our faith and in our knowledge and love of God.

4. Risk-taking Mission and Service. We cooperate with God in moving out of our comfort zones to engage in work in the church, community, and world that alleviates suffering and injustice to improve the conditions of others in the name of Christ.

5. Extravagant Generosity. We joyfully and sacrificially give and share of all that we have in order to make a positive difference for the purposes of Christ.

Thanks and blessings,
Bruce Lancaster, Interim Senior Pastor
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Message from Carol: The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Recently I framed fourteen post cards of Russian icons, glued them in the shape of a cross, and hung them in my office. They come from the festive row of the iconostasis of the Cathedral of the Annunciation, which is part of the Kremlin in Moscow. I have been intrigued by icons ever since visiting Russia – once with the Friendship Force and twice in connection with Anna’s adoption.

The icons I framed are from the fifteenth century and depict scenes from the life of Jesus. I arranged them in chronological order, beginning with the Annunciation through the Ascension and ending with one titled (on the reverse side) the “Gift of the Holy Spirit.” However, this last one has puzzled me. There are twelve seated, robed, and haloed figures (one wearing red) facing a central figure who is holding a white sash. This figure is wearing a crown, or perhaps has a dove resting on his head; it’s difficult to tell.

Conspicuously absent is any evidence of wind or tongues of fire resting on the disciples’ heads as related by Luke in Acts 2 as he describes the events of Pentecost, which happened fifty days after Easter. It’s also curious that a figure which would seem to be Jesus is in the picture considering that Pentecost occurred ten days after his ascension.

It has occurred to me that perhaps the artist had in mind the other story of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as there are two creation stories in the Bible (Genesis 1 and 2), there are two stories of the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives the disciples the Holy Spirit on Easter night. Though they (minus Thomas) are assembled behind locked doors, the risen Jesus appeared among them with greetings of peace. He then breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:23).

Maybe the white sash in Jesus’ hands is a towel, alluding to what happened in that same room three nights before when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. In the icon, the bare feet of the disciples are quite prominent, with each man extending a foot toward Jesus.Only in John is the Maundy Thursday foot washing story told. On that same occasion Jesus spoke at length about the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-29). He also spoke about love and demonstrated it by example service.

Regardless of exactly when and how the Holy Spirit was given to his disciples and comes to be active in us today, it is clearly manifested in acts of love and service. So, in the traditional words of charge and benediction, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and may the…fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever more.”

Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
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Music Notes

This season of the year brings many changes. Some things come to an end, like school, and that means graduation for many, a time of ending one chapter of life and beginning another. This can bring both sadness and joy, anxiety and excitement. Summer gives some of us a chance to travel, to take a vacation, to attend camps and to learn in different environments. Fourteen children, youth, and adults will attend the Montreat Worship & Music Conference where we will sing, learn, and enjoy some time in the mountains.

We have been blessed this year to have Geneva Stonecipher as our Church Music Intern. Her time with us ended in May as she graduated from the University of Georgia and begins a new position as Director of Music/Organist at Commerce Presbyterian Church this month. We wish her well and look forward to hearing of her future accomplishments.

June brings the unique holiday of Pentecost. Unlike Christmas and Easter, there is no secular celebration, there are no trees or bunnies or gifts exchanged. While we sometimes hear “the first Christmas,” “the first Palm Sunday,” or “the first Easter,” there are no such things; those holidays were not set or given those names until much later. But, we do read in Acts, “When the day of Pentecost had come,” so this unique holy day did have that name. Pentecost was fifty days after Passover. On that day the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, and it’s now considered the birth of the church. So, wear red and come celebrate this special day in the church year.

Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the Glory),
John Coble, Director of Music and Organist
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Youth Ministry Update

We closed out an amazing school year in the absolute best way – a mega dodgeball tournament at Rush followed by hot Krispy Kreme donuts! Thank you to everyone for your support of our youth program. Thank you to those who provided dinner on Sunday nights. Thank you to van drivers, chaperones and extra sets of hands. Thank you to parents for making sure your children made it to Sunday School and youth group each week. Thank you to my interns Alyssa, Nettie and Jordan. And most of all, thank you to each middle schooler and high schooler who make this job pure joy! See you this summer!

Kim Ness, Director of Youth Ministries

Middle School Mission Week
Our first all-middle-school mission week, focused on the call in Matthew 25, is under way as you receive this newsletter. We have 19 youth signed up for a week of service at our church and around our community. From being tour guides during VBS, to compiling food boxes at the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank, to pulling weeds at the Salvation Army community garden, to making crafts with residents of Iris Place, to sorting clothes with Project Safe, we know
that the Holy Spirit will be at work through them. And we ask for your prayers for a safe, meaningful, memorable experience.

DOOR Mission Trip
On June 9, 14 youth and 12 adults will drive to Atlanta for a weekend of service with DOOR. We will focus on the issues surrounding homelessness and explore how we can better serve the homeless men and women in our own hometown. We ask for your prayers that we will see the face of God in all whom we serve.
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Youth Sunday

If you missed this year’s Youth Sunday, you can read what our amazing youth wrote here.
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Outreach Spotlight: Samaritan Center

You are not alone. Fortunately help is close at hand, only steps from First Presbyterian Church – at the Samaritan Center for Counseling and Wellness on North Lumpkin Street. I found my way there and it changed my life. The professional and caring staff knows how to give help and guidance; all we have to do is ask. Our church supports this spiritually-sensitive counseling service of trained, qualified therapists. They provide confidential, compassionate mental health services to individuals, families and community groups with respect for personal beliefs and values, without regard for ability to pay. For all of us stress is a natural part of life. However, the effects of stress can accumulate over time and take their toll on the mind and the body. I always thought I could handle everything, until I couldn’t. I am thankful the Samaritan Center was available. I am proud that First Presbyterian Church supports mental health. If you or someone you know could use a listening ear and some guidance check out Samaritan’s website or call 706-369-7911.

Kitty Donnan, Mission & Outreach Commission
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Jubilee Partners Remodeling Project

At the recommendation of our Mission & Outreach Commission and with the approval of the Session, First Presbyterian Church will be assisting in renovating one of the family houses at Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community in nearby Comer. Your help is needed!

Jubilee’s primary on-site ministry is the Refugee Program, which began in 1980 when the first fourteen Cuban refugees arrived. Over 3,000 refugees from more than 30 countries have come to Jubilee, eager for a new beginning but often scarred and exhausted by their ordeals, anxious about how they will survive in this new culture, and frequently unable to speak much, if any, English. Hosting people, typically for two months, from all over the world, Jubilee becomes a safe place for the refugees where they can study English, get acquainted with their new country, rest, play, regain their health, and begin their new lives in an environment of love and support.

Our hands-on project will be remodeling the kitchen and living space and adding a bedroom to one of the houses. We will work on Tuesdays, as well as some Thursdays and Saturdays, throughout the summer. Our workday will be 9:00 a.m. (please note time change) until mid-afternoon. No lunch will be provided so please bring a brown bag lunch. If you’d like to join in this effort, please email Richard Lane at rlane@uga.edu so that he can send you announcements about work times and tasks. Come partner with us!
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IHNA 2016 Support Totals

We continue to be so grateful for our fantastic IHNA volunteers and would like to share these impressive 2016 congregational statistics:
Hosting weeks: 4
Number of guests:8
Number of volunteers: 81
Volunteer hours:940.6
Financial value of volunteers
hours ($12/hr):$11,287.20
Meals Provided: 280
Financial Value of Meals Provided
($12/person per day): $1,680
Financial Value bed nights
Provided ($35/per night):$4,900
Mission & Outreach Commission
Grant: $2,500
Thank you all! This would have been impossible without your committed support. The IHNA ministry is a blessing to both the guests and the volunteers in the Athens community, so join us! Mark your calendars for our next host week, August 13 – 20 and contact Patty Whiten at pattywhiten@windstream.net to learn more.

Michelle Clendenen-Shaw and Patty Whiten, IHNA Co-Coordinators.
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Behind the Scenes

We have a wonderful staff that is supported by many volunteers contributing their time to enhance our worship and fellowship experience. What kinds of things do they do? Many of these things are almost invisible to most of us because they are “behind the scenes.” But the visible fruits of their labor are needed, useful, and enjoyed by all of us. They do not do these things as part of a church committee or commission, but as individuals who have seen a need and give. Please check out more “Behind the Scenes” in up-coming Columns issues to “meet” them and learn more about what they do.

The winter/spring schedule of Wednesday@First has concluded with good attendance. I hope you attended and enjoyed the good meals! When you came in, some of your friends greeted you and served as cashiers for the dinner. Did you notice that they remained there until everyone was served before they served themselves? We appreciate their willingness to “put others first.” Maybe you would like to volunteer next fall? John and Joan Duffett were greeters/ cashiers several Wednesday nights during January and February and they are being recognized for graciously volunteering for the entire month of March.

After choosing your meal at the buffet, wasn’t it a treat to sit down to tables with placemats and tableware already in place? Pat and Faye Marshall came to the church each Wednesday and set the tables. I can’t tell you how many years they have done this for us! Please tell these friends how much they are appreciated.

If you have suggestions for other volunteers who keep things working “Behind the Scenes” please let me know at evjstewart@charter.net or 706-543-2071.
-Ella Stewart, Chair, Fellowship & Evangelism Commission
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Our Church Family

We are blessed to have wonderful photographers in our church! Rick Simpson is always on hand to take beautiful photographs of church services, volunteer programs, and other activities. Please be sure to visit his photo gallery where you can find an album with many pictures from our church.
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Worship With Us

Worship Times

Summer Worship Schedule
Worship at 10:00 a.m.
Sunday School
Does not meet in the summer.

Children's Sunday School
Youth Sunday School
Adult Sunday School

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