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

Important Events and Messages


Summer Schedule Begins, May 28

May 21 will be our last Sunday with two services. Over the Memorial Day weekend, May 28, we will go to our summer schedule of one combined service at 10:00 a.m. Sunday School will not meet over the summer.
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Vacation Bible School, May 30 – June 2

We are looking forward to a wonderful week together! The children will be immersed in the vibrant culture of Peru where they will discover God’s good gifts of love, comfort, patience, peace, and joy for us all. VBS is now full, for more information click here.
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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,
“Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,” says Paul to the church in Rome. (Romans 15:7) We’ve added this statement to our response when we “pass the peace” during our worship services because passing the peace is more than a handshake, more than a brief passing phrase in the aisle. Some translations say “accept” or “receive” for “welcome,” and that is the joy of what happens when the peace of Jesus Christ passes between us and we receive it and accept it.

I would add “listen” to those translations as to the reality of how we welcome one another. Rather than rushing to say “peace be with you” during worship, what if we paused a moment and listened for their name given, our name offered, and connected with each other? Rather than rushing out of worship, what if we lingered in the Atrium and listened to a guest who needs our church, to a friend with whom to share the moment, or simply to our own heart that has been touched by the people around us? Rather than talking about what someone else ought to do, what if we listened to how the Spirit can use us in a particular mission or ministry to help move FPC in ways that answer Jesus’ call to welcome, accept, and receive all those who need us?

The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Thanks and blessings,
Bruce Lancaster, Interim Senior Pastor
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Message from Carol: Beauty and the Beast

My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. I read this tale, of course, to my children when they were young. We had the Disney animated video which they frequently watched. When the Broadway touring company brought the musical to the Classic Center we went to see it. And most recently we enjoyed the Disney live-action version at the movie theatre. The tale was written by a French novelist and published in 1740. But scholars say the story actually originated 4,000 years ago.

As you recall it’s the tale of a girl who, in spite of her initial aversion, falls in love with
an unsightly beast. Her love breaks the spell which a fairy/witch had cast upon him as punishment for his failure to be compassionate. The beast, who has learned kindness, is restored to his human form and turns out to be a prince. He and the girl marry and live happily ever after. There’s more – a widowed father whose fortunes reverse, an enchanted castle, antagonistic characters, a rose, and a magic mirror – just the sort of features you find in fairy tales, but the main plot concerns the power of love to transform.

It seems to me that this is also the story of the gospel: the power of love to transform.
In 1976, the novelist and Presbyterian preacher Frederick Buechner delivered the famous Beecher Lectures on preaching at Yale Divinity School. They were later published as the book, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. One of the points that Buechner makes is that fairy tales are perhaps above all about transformation, “where creatures are revealed in the end as what they truly are – the ugly duckling becomes a great white swan, the frog is revealed to be a prince, and the beautiful but wicked queen is unmasked at last in all her ugliness. They are tales of transformation where the ones who live happily ever after, as by no means everybody does in
fairy tales, are transformed into what they have it in them at their best to be.”

In this Easter season may we be transformed by the power of God’s love shown in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What was initially thought to be an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11) turns out to be the Gospel truth!
-Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
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Music Notes

The month of May brings one of my favorite days at First Presbyterian Church, Scottish Reformation Sunday, which this year will be on May 21. I still remember accepting my position here in 2013 and trying to decide on a starting date. Even though it pushed us a bit to get moved in time, when I learned that First Presbyterian celebrated its Scottish heritage with these great services, I set my kilt aside and said I would be here. I wouldn’t miss it.

Some ask why we have this celebration in May, when Reformation Sunday is the last Sunday in October. That date commemorates Martin Luther’s posting of his famous Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 that started the Protestant Reformation. While the Scots were influenced by Luther’s teachings, Scottish clergyman John Knox was the main leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

Knox’s story is complicated but interesting (look him up on Wikipedia). Due to the turmoil caused by the Reformation, Knox spent time in exile, including in Geneva where he encountered and was influenced by John Calvin. Knox returned to Scotland on May 2, 1559. In August of 1561, Knox and several other ministers presented the Scots Confession to Parliament, where it was approved. The story doesn’t end there, but the return of Knox to Scotland was an important part of our history as Presbyterians. Even as we pride ourselves as “always reforming,” I think it is important that we know our historical roots. One result of our branch of the Reformation is the body of metrical psalmody.

Some of our great hymns are Scottish tunes. Of course it’s also nice to hear the bagpipes and drum, and have a good reason to put on our kilts. There are many reasons I look forward to Scottish Reformation Sunday and I hope you do, too.

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

April and May tend to be the busiest for youth ministry. We have spring breaks, Easter and Prayer Stations, Youth Sunday, Graduation Sunday, end-of-year exams and end-of-year parties. For some youth it also marks the end of important chapters in their lives as they move from elementary to middle to high to college and then to graduation. As we wrap up another great year in The PIT, I wanted to give a shout out to my wonderful team! Thank you Alyssa, Nettie and Jordan for all you’ve done behind the scenes to share God’s love with our youth!
This semester has been a crazy one for me. I was accepted to Georgia’s Master of Accountancy Program for the fall, so this spring I have been finishing up my requirements for my undergraduate degree as well as working on a graduate class. The first half of this semester I had a tax internship in Aiken, South Carolina. Not only was I able to learn a lot from this internship, I also received graduate school credit for it. I got back to Athens after spring break and started on my half-semester class. While I am not graduating until May 2018, I have been working on checking off some things on my Athens bucket list, such as taking pictures of the bulldog statues around Athens. This summer I will be studying, taking parts of the CPA Exam, as well as doing some traveling: Hawaii with my family! I am also looking forward to heading back to Montreat with the youth! Next year I will be working on graduate school classes and taking the rest of the CPA Exam.
I am so happy to share that I will be serving in Belize this summer spreading the good news of the Gospel and being the Lord’s hands and feet through Mission to the World! This has been a huge passion of mine and after much thought and prayer, God has called me to further explore the life ministry offers. I will help local churches reach their neighbors through VBS, music, Bible studies, sports clinics and a variety of other projects. Before I leave, I would love to build my support team. I can’t do any of this without both your prayers and support. If you feel called to be part of my team, learn more here. I am so blessed to grow in my faith and learn more about Him and His amazing grace. I pray to be a vessel of His gracious love and to serve His purpose spreading His light with the children and families in Belize. Keep me in your hearts and minds this summer as I embark on this journey full heartedly trusting God to lead, equip, and sustain me.
This past year I have been serving the church as a Children’s Ministry Fellow through the Waddel Fellowship program at the Presbyterian Student Center and have loved working with the babies, all the way through the 5th graders. Working under Natalie has given me real insight into what it means to work in ministry and explore different stories of faith through the Godly Play curriculum. I have also had the opportunity to work alongside Kim with some of the behind-the-scenes planning and set up for different youth events, primarily the Lenten Prayer Stations. Next year, I have decided to switch from the Children’s Ministry Suite to The Pit because when working with children, Bible stories are exactly that, stories. I’m excited to work with the middle schoolers where the Bible stories become more than stories, but lessons and opportunities for discussion and questions. I am excited to help the youth begin a more introspective phase of their faith journey while continuing to grow in my own faith. Thanks for letting me stick around.
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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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“Our Church Family” Pictures

Thanks to Rick Simpson for capturing so many moments from the life of the church with his wonderful photography. Check out his online photo gallery here.

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Easter People

The great writer Barbara Johnson said, “We are Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” Evidence abounds of God’s Easter people at work at FPC. It is seen each time we host IHN homeless families or prepare and serve a meal at Our Daily Bread or hammer a nail in the Habitat for Humanity home. It is seen on food Sundays when food is brought to help stock the shelves of Athens Area Emergency Food Bank and at Christmas when we contribute to Casa de Amistad Christmas food baskets.

It can be seen as clothes and toys are purchased for approximately 150 “angel” children each Christmas and meals are prepared for Project Safe clients. It is seen when Meals on Wheels are delivered and through One Great Hour of Sharing. It can be seen when visits are made to those who find it difficult to get out of their homes or when the Mellows bring joy through music to those in assisted living or nursing homes. It is seen as we wrap our arms around those who are grieving and those who are sick or in despair. It is seen as we meet for Sunday school to study God’s word. Indeed, Easter people living in a Good Friday world!

Peace be with you all,
Jayne Bailey
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Outreach Spotlight: Athens Nurses Clinic

The Athens Nurses Clinic is a non-profit health care clinic providing free evaluation, treatment, and education for acute and chronic medical and dental conditions to uninsured low-and-no income residents of Athens-Clarke County and the surrounding communities. The Clinic provides expanded primary care services (office visits, laboratory testing, medications, disease management education, vision screening services, and mammograms) and some specialty care services (dermatology, EKGs, gynecology, and basic dental services) to over 1,000 unique patients in over 4,500 visits in FY 2015/2016. In April 2016, the Clinic relocated to an expanded facility at 240 North Avenue, the Athens Resource Center for Hope, where it is located and collaborates with four other agencies serving the indigent population of this area. An outreach grant from First Presbyterian Church (along with our 2016 Christmas Eve offering) helps support a Patient Pharmaceutical Assistance Coordinator.
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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. Wasn’t the Easter Brunch beautiful and delicious? While you were enjoying it, did you consider the time it took to make that much food for approximately 400 people? You probably know that Darryl Magrino and his team prepared it, but did you know that he donates his time to cook the Easter Brunch, as well as our Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners, and other special events during the year?

How about the pictures on the website and in our newsletter of not only Easter, but most church activities throughout the year? Rick Simpson captures these moments for our enjoyment and as a record of our church history. You can find all of these pictures at Rick’s online First Presbyterian Church gallery.

To see the full collection of Rick’s photo albums, click on the house icon on the top left of the screen. Take a minute to let Darryl and Rick know you appreciate them! 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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Session Highlights

The Session met for its regular monthly meeting on April 10. The meeting was opened with prayer by Dr. Lancaster. Minutes from March’s meeting were reviewed and approved. Along with the ordinary review of Commission reports, the Session:
-heard from the Rev. Tara Bulger, Moderator of the Presbytery’s Committee on the Preparation for Ministry, concerning our care of Isaac Toney who has been approved as an Inquirer in the process as a Candidate for Ministry;
-approved the 2017-18 budget for the FPC Weekday School;
-discussed a presentation by Dr. Lancaster on Stewardship as a year-round ministry;
-heard a report from Mike Morris on the status of the Capital Campaign at the end of Phase 2;
-approved Denise Horton as a commissioner to the May 16 Presbytery meeting in Monticello and noted the need for four other Ruling Elders to volunteer.
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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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