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

Important Events and Messages


IHN Host Week, April 2-9

We had a successful but somewhat unusual IHN host week in February with just one lovely family to host and a new van that never left our garage! Nonetheless, much hospitality was provided by our many wonderful volunteers. Our church will host again April 2 – 9, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our guests with love and warmth. We continue to be so grateful for each volunteer who gives their time and care to make sure our guests have the best week possible.
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Lenten Prayer Stations, April 9-16

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 22:37-40

During Holy Week, everyone is invited to spend time in The PIT exploring the great commandments as you prepare for the mystery of Easter. What does it mean to be a neighbor? How do we show love to all our neighbors, both those like us and those who are very different? Inspired by the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, youth requested more interfatih experiences. For this year’s Lenten prayer stations, one of our wonderful Waddel interns, Jordan Osborne, has created a dozen prayer stations taking elements of the spiritual practices of our brothers and sisters from around the world.

From our Jewish neighbors, a ‘wailing wall’ will receive your written prayers.
From our Muslim neighbors, prayer mats will be set up in a meditation room.
From our Buddhist neighbors, using mala or prayer beads you can make your own string of blessings.

There will also be opportunities to write postcards to PC(USA) missionaries, a labyrinth, candles, a Jesus chalk wall, and a community art project.

The doors to The PIT (the basement youth space), will be open Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., on the evening of Maundy Thursday and starting at 8:00 a.m. on Easter.
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Holy Week Services & Activities

Palm Sunday, April 9
Worship Services, 8:45 & 11:00 a.m.
Palm Sunday Procession, Upper Parking Lot, 10:40 a.m.

Prayer Stations, April 9-16, The PIT
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Maundy Thursday, April 13
Dinner (donations accepted) & Communion Service
Recognition and welcome of 1st and 2nd graders to the Lord’s Table
Each worshiper should bring a cup or glass that is special to you.

Good Friday, April 14
Presbyterian Student Center, 7:00 p.m.
Presbyterian Community Service, 1250 S. Lumpkin St.

Easter Egg Hunt at The Hill, Saturday, April 14, 11:00 a.m.
The Hill, 1800 Crescent Lane, 11:00 a.m.

Easter, April 16
8:45 a.m. Worship Service
9:30 a.m. Easter Brunch, Fellowship Hall
11:00 a.m. Worship Service
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Maundy Thursday Service & Dinner, April 13, 5:30 p.m.

Our informal Maundy Thursday service will be held in Fellowship Hall following dinner. As we remain around the dinner tables we will remember the events of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples and celebrate Communion. Please bring a cup or glass from home which has special meaning for you, for example your favorite coffee mug or grandmother’s goblet. We will welcome to the Table our first and second graders.

Donations will be accepted for the dinner. Please RSVP to the church office at frontdesk@firstpresathens.org or 706-543-4338 by Monday, April 10 to help us plan. Nursery will be provided.
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One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering, April 16

The One Great Hour of Sharing Easter special offering enables the church to share God’s love with our neighbors in need around the world by providing relief to those affected by natural disasters, food to the hungry, and empowerment to the poor and oppressed. For example, through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance gifts, OGHS rebuilt 40 apartments and houses destroyed during the Syrian civil war, so that those made homeless by its violence could return to a home of their own.

PDA has also provided essential support to refugees throughout this crisis, including education for refugee children, emergency supplies for refugees journeying to new lands, and assistance for US congregations receiving refugees into their communities. Please give generously.

Mental Illness & Recovery Education Program, March 20 – April 28

Our church will be hosting a free education program for family members of individuals affected by mental illness, presented by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More information is available at nami.org/f2f. To register please email Jane at namihallga@gamil.com or call her at 770-225-0804, ext. 700
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FPC Women’s Retreat, April 21 – 23, 2017



Contact Carol Strickland about scholarships.

To register click here.
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IHN Training, April 25

If you’ve considered becoming involved with IHN or have wondered how it operates, there will be a training class offered on Tuesday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church. We encourage anyone who has not been a part of the 90 minute class to contact either of us (michelle.shaw@usan.com or pattywhiten@windstream.net) to sign up. We appreciate all who were in prayer with and for us in February and ask for continued prayers for our volunteers and especially for our guests during our April week.
-Michelle Clendenen-Shaw and Patty Whiten, IHN Co-Coordinators
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Children’s Ministry April Events

Palm Sunday, Meet the donkey and join the Palm Procession
April 9, 10:40 a.m.
Children and families are invited to come meet the sweet donkey and join the palm procession on Palm Sunday at 10:40 a.m. outside the Weekday School entrance in the upper parking lot. Children who sing in the St. Andrew’s and Cherub Choirs will rehearse at 10:25 a.m. and then join the Palm Procession. Both children’s choirs will be singing during the 11:00 a.m. worship service. We will not have Sunday School.
Maundy Thursday, Dinner & Communion Service
April 13, 5:30 p.m.
Children of all ages are invited to participate in this special service in Fellowship Hall following dinner (donations accepted). Please bring a special cup or glass from home for each worshiper to use during Communion. We will welcome and officially recognize 1st and 2nd grades as they begin (or continue) to stay in worship and participate in Communion on the first Sunday of each month. Nursery will be provided.
Easter Egg Hunt
April 15, 11:00 a.m.
Join us for our annual Easter Egg Hunt at Lee Epting’s beautiful family property, The Hill, 1800 Crescent Lane. Don’t forget to bring your Easter basket, picnic basket with lunch, and blanket for your family.
Easter Services, 8:45 & 11:00 a.m. & Brunch, 9:30 a.m.
April 16
Please join us for worship and the celebration of the risen Christ at one of our worship services. Instead of Sunday School we will all gather as a church family for our annual Easter Brunch in Fellowship Hall.
Children’s Ministries Thank You Breakfast
April 30, 10:00 a.m.
Our wonderful Nursery, Sunday School, and Children’s Church volunteers are invited to join the children for a special breakfast in the Children’s Ministry Suite. We appreciate the many volunteers who make Sunday mornings so much fun for our children.
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Weekday School 50th Anniversary Celebration, May 7, 11:00 a.m.

The church will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Weekday School during the 11:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday, May 7. Please join us during the service, followed by a reception and school open house. We will have current and former teachers here with us and some special activities in which you may participate for the memorable occasion!

First Presbyterian Weekday School has been a mission arm of First Presbyterian Church since 1966. Early childhood education was in early development at that point and it was groundbreaking to support such an endeavor in our community. The Weekday School philosophy is that each child is a gift from God who brings unique abilities for our care and development. Within this context of God’s love, our school and our teachers make a significant difference in the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual life of each child. Our mission is to provide a loving Christian environment within which they can fulfill their potential in each of these areas.

The church made a commitment to found, grow, nurture, house, and support the Weekday School more than five decades ago. Each year, around a hundred little bodies and minds have been enriched and cared for in this special place called the Weekday School. The school is a testimony every day to our church’s long term commitment of outreach to the community in a way that changes lives. Part of this commitment is scholarships for those in need who would not otherwise be able to afford early childhood education. At the Weekday School, each child realizes for the first time, and hopefully for a lifetime, that learning is FUN, school is a happy, safe place, and their teachers love them! This positive concept of school carries on into their next school situation and, it is our hope, throughout their lives.

Please help us spread the news and invite anyone you think may have interest in attending. We are seeking any memorabilia that former students or teachers may have to display on May 7. If you have something to share, please bring it by the Weekday School, with your name on it, by April 15. It will be returned to you! There will also be an opportunity for anyone who attended or taught at the school to add their “leaf” (handprint) to the large oak tree in the mural at the end of the Weekday School hall. We’ve been adding leaves for several years now, but would love to have those of earlier students and teachers who helped build the school! We look forward to seeing you in church on May 7!
-Elaine Johnson, Director of Weekday School
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Core Godly Play Training, June 8-10


Godly Play has begun to truly transform the Sunday School and Children’s Church hour for our children. To continue to grow this wonderful new program, we need more Godly Play Storytellers. And to become a Godly Play Storyteller, you need to attend a Godly Play Core Training. I am very excited to announce that First Presbyterian Church is going to host a Godly Play Core Training, June 8, 9, and 10.

Thursday, June 8, 6 p.m. -9 p.m.
Friday, June 9, 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 10, 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Please consider joining the Godly Play circle with our sweet children. If you have not yet had the opportunity to experience a Godly Play story, join us on one of the following Sundays during Sunday School (10:00 a.m.-10:40 a.m.). So that we have plenty of room, we will meet in the Fellowship Hall Breakout area.

Sunday, February 5 – The Holy Family
Sunday, February 12 – Parable of the Good Samaritan
Sunday, February 19 – Circle of the Church Year
Sunday, February 26 – The Mystery of Easter

All are welcome! This training is not just for our members but is also open to anyone who is interested in attending.

For more information regarding the upcoming Godly Play Training or our Godly Play curriculum at First Presbyterian Church, contact Natalie Bishop. To register please click here.
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DOOR Weekend Mission Trip, June 9 – 11

This summer we will send a team to Atlanta for a “Discover Weekend.” Sponsored by DOOR, a faithbased urban network, participants will be challenged to see the face of God in the city as they spend time listening, volunteering, worshiping, and reflecting on their experiences. Lodging will be in a local church. The cost is $130 with partial scholarships available. Our team will be intentionally intergenerational with space for ten adults and ten high schoolers. Beginning Friday evening and ending Sunday afternoon, this is the perfect experience for anyone who can’t spend a week in Haiti or Honduras. Contact Carol Strickland if interested at cstrickland@firstpresathens.org.
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Bruce’s Blog

My Friends,
When the world said, “No” to God’s love in Jesus Christ, God said “YES!” Easter is our celebration to remind us that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ.

On that first Easter morning Jesus broke open the grave, and the one who was crucified on Friday suddenly became more alive on Easter than he had been on Palm Sunday the week before. This Jesus who is alive has changed everything.

I believe we need to be reminded of that more today than ever before: Jesus who is alive has changed everything!

Especially in these days when death and defeat seem to surround us, when bad news seems to be the only news, when anxiety breeds anxiety about anything that might be coming around the corner, we need to be reminded that Easter is God’s judgment day for fear and failure, for death and despair.
Easter is the experience that God’s “YES” in Jesus Christ makes a difference in how we live our lives and deal with our losses. As W.P. Lemon said, “Easter is not a passport to another world; it is a quality of perception for this one.”

The resurrection challenges us to live in this time, to do what must be done for the sake of the world God loves so much, to live with the reality of the resurrection – God’s “YES” in Jesus Christ!

Thanks and blessings,
Bruce Lancaster, Interim Senior Pastor
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Message from Carol: Stephen Ministry is Coming!

Stephen Ministry is a highly effective caring ministry already used in thousands of congregations. Through this program, congregation members (Stephen Ministers) receive extensive training to provide emotional and spiritual care to people experiencing grief, divorce, illness, job loss, or other life difficulties. I am thrilled that our Congregational Care Commission and Session have endorsed Stephen Ministry for our congregation. It will help us live into one of the key slogans of the Protestant Reformation, “the priesthood of all believers.”

We plan to send three people to Stephen Leader training this summer. Those Stephen Leaders will conduct training in the fall for those who feel called to this ministry. Training will include topics such as The Art of Listening, Confidentiality, Ministry to the Dying and Their Family and Friends, and Maintaining Boundaries in Caregiving, fifty hours of training altogether. After they are trained, Stephen Ministers are typically given one care receiver at a time and meet with that person once a week to listen, care, pray, encourage, and offer emotional and spiritual support.

We already have a caring congregation, but Stephen Ministry will equip members to feel more confident using their God-given gifts to care for others and will provide an avenue, resources, skills, and supervision for doing so. It will be a tremendous help to our church’s ministers as we expand exponentially the pastoral care our church can provide. Most importantly, it will give compassionate Christian care to those who are hurting.

There are many biblical encouragements to care for others. One that seems particularly apt is, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) You may learn more about Stephen Ministry. You are invited to attend one of the interactive presentations that we have planned to show you how Stephen Ministry works and the difference it makes in people’s lives. Please RSVP to me:

Sunday, April 2, 12:00 – 12:30 p.m., Staff Conference Room
Monday, April 24, 5:00 – 5:30 p.m., Staff Conference Room
Sunday, May 7, 9:45 – 10:15 a.m., Staff Conference Room

-Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor

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Music Notes

One of the things I love about Christmas and Easter is the creative telling of the stories, especially through poetry and music. Sometimes we get bogged down worrying over the details of what literally did or did not happen, and I think that’s a shame. God is a mystery. The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus and what that means for us is something we can’t possibly comprehend from our human perspective.

In his book, A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis wrote about asking God what he called “nonsense questions” which are unanswerable. Lewis explains these questions are like asking “How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round?” Lewis was questioning God about the death of his wife, trying to make sense of life after death. He sensed God’s answer was “Peace, child; you don’t understand.” I know I don’t understand but I do believe. For me the symbolic and poetic telling of the Easter story says enough.
Perhaps my favorite depiction of the Easter story is in Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. The evil White Witch has frozen the land of Narnia. Aslan the Great Lion, a symbolic version of Jesus, comes to the rescue and defeats the White Witch. When Aslan comes, winter begins to melt away and spring returns to Narnia, bringing new life.

We didn’t have much of a winter this year in terms of weather, but symbolically it’s not hard to think of cold, dark, bleak times in our lives. We have to remember those times are temporary, and that new life and spring will eventually return. Easter will come. One of my favorite portrayals of this is Awake, O Wintry Earth, an English text paired with music by J.S. Bach (from Cantata 129). Our Chancel Choir will sing it, among other things, this Easter with the joyful sound of trumpets. May it remind us of the hope that Easter brings.

Awake, O wintry earth, fling off your frozen sadness.
With sweetness, flowers bring mirth; bright springtime’s ancient gladness.
Once more we sing the tale; through darkness, sunlight spread
to warm the winter’s pale; and tell that death is dead.
Descended to the grave, three days the Son lay sleeping.
Yet Christ returned to save our hearts from woe and weeping.
O earth, break forth and sing, renew your bright array
to celebrate this spring and mark the Savior’s way.

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

Ski Trip, February 17-18 2017
After last year’s cancelled ski trip due to snow(?!) and the year before’s bus breakdown, I was a little (lot) apprehensive to take our group skiing this year. So this year we did things differently. On Friday night, we met up with over 100 other youth from around NC, SC, LA, FL, VA and GA for Montreat’s Ski Weekend. In addition to a full day of skiing on Saturday, there were two evenings of energizers, games and fellowship led by Montreat staff. And on Sunday morning before heading back to Athens, we hiked up Lookout Mountain for our own worship service. As the wind blew, we gave thanks to God for all our many blessings, namely this awesome group of youth! To see more pictures from our weekend, visit:

Big thanks to my dad chaperones: Dick Ferguson, Kemp Gaskill, Darryl Magrino, and Andy Osborne for your leadership, your driving/navigating skills, your support of our youth, and all the laughter. I could not have done this without you!

Kim Ness, Director of Youth Ministries

Save the Date! Youth Sunday, April 30


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Mary Burton, Honorary Life Member of Presbyterian Women

At the PW Birthday Luncheon on March 26, the Presbyterian Women made Mary Burton an honorary life member in recognition of her faithful service to First Presbyterian Church. Mary and her husband Bob joined the church in 1972. Since that time she has been an active, faithful, and loyal member of a Circle, leading lessons, hosting meetings, and participating in the events of our local Presbyterian Women.

One of Mary’s earliest contributions to First Presbyterian was as a talented soprano in the Chancel Choir, where she continues to sing, as well as with The Mellows choir. In addition to singing, Mary served as an officer in our church for nine years, three on the Diaconate and six as a member of the Session, contributing to the service and spiritual mission of the church.

Perhaps Mary’s greatest contribution to our church has been as a member of the Mission & Outreach Commission, of which she has been a member since 1978. In that time she has been involved in just about every mission project our congregation has undertaken. She and Bob have been to Terrier Rouge, Haiti, to work with Bethlehem Ministry, as well as to Mexico to build houses. She has been involved with Jubilee Partners, The Ark, the Athens Community Council on Aging, the Athens Tutorial Program, the Clarke County Mentor Program, Project Safe, Interfaith Hospitality Network, and Casa de Amistad.
In 1994, Mary shared with the Mission & Outreach Commission an idea of an alternative market that her daughter Amy had brought from Austin, Texas. The first Christmas Benevolence Market was held in our church in December 1994. This outreach project became the Holiday Benevolence Market and has continued every year since. For many years Mary served as its chair and this annual event has expanded to include other churches and religious groups supporting over 30 local agencies. Seeing yet another opportunity to help others, Mary organized our International Crafts Fair for the past three years.
Congratulations, Mary, and thank you for your service to First Presbyterian Church!
-Ann Dunn

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Children’s Ministry Update

Now is the time for the color purple. It is time for preparing. Purple is the color of kings. We are preparing for the coming of a king and his going and his coming again. We are preparing for the Mystery of Easter. The Mystery of Easter, Godly Play Story

The children have learned through Godly Play that the Church tells time by colors as well as by clocks, and it is time for the color purple. It is time to get ready for Easter. To help our children do this and to better understand why and how we observe the season of Lent, all children and families are invited to a special Ash Wednesday family time focused on Lenten Calendars and preparing for Easter. Children and families are invited to meet in the Narthex any time between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. to move through the Sanctuary in small groups. They will experience Lenten stations together, building their very own interactive Lenten Calendars. Dr. Lancaster will spend time with each family to talk about the service traditions of Ash Wednesday and impose ashes. There will be extra Lenten Calendars available in the Children’s Ministry Suite for children and families who are unable to attend on Ash Wednesday.

For more events, click here.

***Registration for VBS 2017 is now open. Click here to register.***

Natalie Bishop, Director of Children’s Ministries

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IHN Host Week April 2-9

Our next IHN host week will be April 2 – 9. Our congregation’s strong commitment helps make this ministry possible and we’re grateful! As your new co-coordinators, we would like to thank all who made our February 19 host week work so well. Having these 2 host weeks so close together is not typical and yet the response from the congregation has been amazing, as always. Please check the sign-up board in the Atrium for a spot that might work for you or check the online calendar and contact Patty Whiten to volunteer. Thanks for helping provide such warm hospitality to our guests.

Michelle Clendenen-Shaw and Patty Whiten, IHN Co-Coordinators

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Outreach Spotlight: Athens Neighborhood Health Center

The nonprofit Athens Neighborhood Health Center began in 1971 with a mission “to provide affordable, high quality primary healthcare to medically under-served individuals in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding areas.” It is one of the oldest individual line items on the FPC Mission & Outreach Commission’s budget, dating back at least to the early 1980s when ANHC staff members made a presentation to the old Church Extension Commission. The clinic itself is only a couple of blocks north of FPC on College Avenue.

ANHC has expanded to include additional clinics on McKinley Drive in East Athens and on Old Jefferson Road. It provides healthcare to the working poor, the homeless, the uninsured and under-insured, children living in poverty, elderly individuals on fixed incomes, and persons with chronic illnesses on a sliding-scale fee based on income.

In 2012 the ANHC became a Federally Qualified Health Center. This required meeting the stringent requirements of the Bureau of Primary Health Care within the Health Resources and Services Administration. The federal funding positioned the ANHC to grow and expand its services.

In recent months, the ANHC has faced a financial crisis caused primarily by the unpredictable nature of some of its funding streams. ANHC operates on a $4 million annual budget. The funding comes from federal grants, local government support, help from the United Way of Northeast Georgia, and some other dollars that come on a regular and predictable basis. However other funding, including Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, insurance payments, and remittances from self-paying patients are less reliable.

To meet the financial crisis, the ANHC recently announced a 7% employee pay cut and a reduction in employer-provided health insurance. The leadership of ANHC hopes that these painful measures will be temporary. The long-serving medical director of the ANHC, Dr. Diane Dunston, resigned in mid-January, but it is not known if her resignation was related to the financial crisis. The ANHC board is now in the process of replacing Dr. Dunston.

The Mission & Outreach Commission is monitoring the situation at ANHC very closely. We want to do everything we can to support this agency that provides such valuable services to the Athens community. Please keep ANHC in your prayers.
-Tom Wilfong, Mission & Outreach Commission

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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.

When the acolytes come forward to light the candles, it sets the tone for worship and reminds us that Christ is the light of the world! What if the candles didn’t light? You can be assured they will light because each week, either Ann Mattocks, Fred or Linda Wallace fill the candle reservoirs with oil. They also straighten the sanctuary, check the pew pads and replace pens as needed.

The candelabra are kept beautifully polished by Jane McGown who also leads the monthly Prayers for Healing.

Please take a minute to thank these faithful volunteers. 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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Weekday School Garden Mural

A Beatrix Potter-inspired garden is growing at the Weekday School! Lenetta Root, who did our other beautiful murals, has begun work on the wall between the baby room and indoor playroom. Please stop by to visit and for information about how you can help with sponsoring Peter, Mr. McGregor, the white cat, Goldfish Pond, Mouse with the pea, watering can, robin, scarecrow, crows, or your favorite vegetable! The Weekday School would also like to purchase a complete set of Beatrix Potter small books for use in the classrooms. These books are also available for sponsorship. Your child’s name, or the name of a special child in your life, will appear inside the cover of the book of your choice or beside any sponsorship of the mural. Book sponsorships are $25, mural sponsorships are $100. We are all enjoying watching Miss Lenetta paint the radishes and cabbages, and giggling as the mischief of Peter unfolds!

Save the Date! Sunday, May 7, Weekday School 50th Anniversary Celebration

-Elaine Johnson, Director of Weekday School

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Session Highlights

The Session met for its regular monthly meeting on March 12. The meeting was opened with prayer by Dr. Lancaster. Minutes from February’s meetings were reviewed and approved.
Along with the ordinary review of Commission reports, the Session:
1) amended the 2017 Budget to increase the hours for the Director of Children’s Ministries and the Director of Youth Ministries. A pledge gift had been received designated for this purpose;
2) amended the 2017 Budget to add back the position of Website Technician. Savings from the Youth and Children’s Ministries budgets provided the income for this;
3) heard a report from Dr. Strickland on the Stephen Ministry;
4) heard a report on the Bethel Homes Reading Program that will be meeting in our Children’s Suite.

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Stock Gifts to the Church

We are grateful to receive gifts of stock from church members. Sometimes when this happens we are unable to trace who they are from to properly credit the donor. If you donate in the form of stock, it would be helpful if you could please contact me in the church office at rburbage@firstpresathens.org or 706-543-4338 or Ann Austin at our church’s investment firm, Raymond James, ann.austin@raymondjames.com or 706-583-2909. Thank you.

-Roger Burbage, Church Administrator

Worship With Us

Worship Times

Sunday Worship
8:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Sunday School
9:45 a.m.
Children's Sunday School
Youth Sunday School
Adult Sunday School

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