Important Events and Messages
Prayers for Healing
Meets every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Members and friends gather in the sanctuary to pray for needs in the congregation and beyond.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, May 26, we began our summer schedule of one service at 10:00 a.m. Sunday School will not meet over the summer. The church office will close at 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoons through July 26. Our office hours are: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Friday. If you need assistance on Friday afternoons, please refer to the Church Life App to contact Dr. Baer.
On August 18 we will resume two worship services at 8:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Sunday School will resume on August 25 at 9:45 a.m. In August the church office hours return to 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you need assistance after hours, please refer to the Church Life App to contact Dr. Baer.
Choir Rehearsals Resume
Here is the Choir Rehearsals schedule:
Handbell Choir Mondays at 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Youth & Adults
Chancel Choir Wednesdays at 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Adults
Cherub Choir First on Sunday, August 18 at 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. Age 4 – Grade 1
St. Andrews Choir First on Sunday, August 18 at 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. Grade 2 – Grade 5
Celebration Singers First on Sunday, August 25 at 5:30 – 6:00 p.m. Grade 6 – Grade 12
Bookless Book Group, August 14 & 28, 11:30 a.m.
A group of women meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month to enjoy lunch and conversation. We meet at a variety of restaurants and invite anyone interested to join us. Our next meetings will be:
August 28, Taziki’s, 227 Prince Ave.
Fellowship@First: Fall Kickoff Brunch, Sunday, August 18, 9:30 a.m.
Join us for brunch in Fellowship Hall as we begin two worship services and look forward to the beginning of our fall activities. Sunday School information will be available.
Family Promise (Formerly IHNA) Host Week, August 18-25, Sign-up today!
Thank you to all our volunteers. Please pray for our guests and volunteers as we show God’s love this week through hospitality.
Stephen Leader Retirement/Commissioning, Sunday, August 25
This Sunday, August 25, we will recognize during worship retiring Stephen Leader Larry Gray and commission two new Stephen Leaders, Bob Frisch and Lisa Oelke. Please offer your thanks to them at the reception following in Fellowship Hall.
Project Safe Work Day, August 27
Please join our team from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. sorting clothes and other items for sale to benefit victims of domestic violence. To volunteer or for questions contact Kitty Donnan. The Project Safe Thrift Store is located in the Bell’s Shopping Center, 955 Hawthorne Ave.
FirstThings in Moses Waddel Room (3rd floor), Sunday, September 8, 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Child care is available upon request
FirstThings is an opportunity to learn about First Presbyterian Church, to meet the staff and other newcomers, and for us to have some conversations about what it means to live out our discipleship as members of Christ’s church.
Sunday, September 15, 4:00-5:00 p.m.
After attending FirstThings, if you’re feeling called to become a member of FPC, you’re invited to the New Member Tea to meet the session and be received into membership. The New Member Tea is informal and will be hosted by Ed and Shannon Ferguson, 1790 Lakewood Manor Drive, Athens, 30606. Children are welcome!
Sunday, September 22, 8:45 or 11:00 a.m.
New members will be introduced to the congregation during the morning worship services, and receptions will be held after both services to welcome the newest members of FPC.
Please confirm your attendance by Wednesday, September 4 by emailing Lucy Bell Johnson or calling the church office.
Dear friends in Christ,
Shortly after I arrived in Athens, Dr. John Kipp invited me to accompany him on his morning “rounds” as he visited the homebound members of our church. For three hours, we crisscrossed greater Athens, visiting nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, apartment complexes, and private homes. John knew the quickest way to every facility, how to find every stairwell and driveway, and never once looked at a map.
When our homebound members would see John, their faces would light up, and John would flash them that million-watt grin. We didn’t often linger; he offered a kind word and a short prayer, and then we were on to the next place, but it was clear to me that John was called by God to the ministry of visitation, and he delighted in it.
As you may know, because of health concerns, John has felt the call of the Holy Spirit releasing him from his ministry at First Presbyterian Church. While there is no replacing a pastor like John, the leadership of the church is hard at work developing plans to ensure that the ministry he stewarded so faithfully will continue.
I am grateful for you and your faithful support of First Presbyterian Church. Your stewardship of God’s resources made it possible for John to exercise his incredible gifts in our community, and even though he must now step back from his role, because of you, the mission of Jesus Christ will continue in Athens and beyond.
Thanks be to God for the good and faithful service of John Kipp, and thanks be to God for you.
May God bless you and keep you,
Ryan, Senior Pastor
A Message from Carol: Mea Culpa
Over the summer Ryan has been exploring the elements of worship with the children of the congregation. I would like to elaborate on one of those elements which I am privileged to lead most Sundays: The Prayer of Confession.
I had a colleague who thought having a prayer of confession every Sunday was a “downer.” He maintained that worship needs to be uplifting and that beginning the service listing our sins was overly negative.
I disagree. I don’t know about you, but I need to confess my sins at least once a week, and if you ask my family, probably a lot more than that! I need to come clean, as we say, to be honest with myself, others, and God. It is significant to me that we pray corporately, as well as individually. (I only give you about twenty seconds for silent, personal confession; if you want more time, I would love to hear it!). Together we admit out loud that we have fallen short. Hopefully saying, “I’m sorry” to God warms us up to say it to flesh-and-blood folks we have sinned against.
Sin isn’t something we modern Presbyterians harp on, but it’s very real. So is grace. And that’s what I have the honor of proclaiming to you after you have bared your mistakes, foibles, and hell-bent ways. I remember as an intern working in the church the chills I got the first time I got to pronounce the Assurance of Pardon. I thought it was the holiest part of the whole service. And I still do.
Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
I’m writing this column from the mountains of Tennessee, in the midst of the Sewanee Church Music Conference, where I’m taking part in beautiful worship services in beautiful spaces. It doesn’t really take much for me, but I am being reminded of the beauty and healing power of sacred music. This morning we had a service of remembrance, partly for a long-time member of the conference, but we also read names of many other loved ones we have died. It was difficult but healing to sing For All the Saints through eyes blurred with tears. Music has a way of moving us like that.
Not long ago, we sang one of my favorite hymns in church, If Thou but Trust in God to Guide Thee, which has been a comfort to me in difficult times. It was written by George Neumark, who lived during the Thirty Years War. He was robbed and lost everything except his prayer book and a little money sewn into his clothes. He searched in several cities before finally finding a job. It was during that time that he wrote the hymn (based on Psalm 55) which reminds us that we are not immune to suffering, but that God will be with us and will give us strength.
Recently, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a storm. I sat up to keep an eye on the weather in case my family needed to take cover. Kate woke up and asked me if everything was okay. I said, “Yes. It’s just a storm.” Then I saw a text message sent earlier by Sara Kipp letting me know that she and John would not be coming to Montreat as planned. John’s doctors had found a tumor.
We’ve all been worried about John for the last few months. He is such a treasure to our church. He’s a pastor, friend, comforter, teacher, scholar, and master jokester. It’s difficult to see someone we love so much suffer. Why does God allow suffering to come to such a good, faithful servant?
As I kept my vigil that stormy night, I remembered that God sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous. The hymn If Thou but Trust in God to Guide Thee, is based on Psalm 55, where in the midst of trouble, the psalmist writes “I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.” We are not promised there will be no storms, but we are assured that God will be with us during those storms. That reminded me of another hymn that our choirs have sung as an anthem, How Can I Keep from Singing? This particular stanza came to mind:
What though the tempest ’round me roars, I know the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness ’round me close, songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake, my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?
The storms of life will always come, but let’s keep praying and singing together.
Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the Glory),
John Coble, Director of Music and Organist
Updates on John Kipp
July 12, 2019
Dear friends in Christ,
I write to bring you important news regarding The Rev. Dr. John Kipp, who has faithfully served First Presbyterian Church in a variety of capacities for sixteen years. The information that follows is shared with the full permission of the Kipps.
As you may know, during worship on Sunday, May 19, John became ill and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Initially, doctors suspected a minor stroke or seizure, but tests were inconclusive, and John was sent home with orders to rest and report for additional testing.
In recent days, John has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. At present, he is in no pain and in good spirits, and John and Sara are in prayer and conversation about what course of action they will pursue. John is neither afraid nor despairing. Sara reports that after receiving the diagnosis, John shook the doctor’s hand and said, “Thank you, my friend.”
In the meantime, John has discerned the voice of the Spirit calling him to bring his years of pastoral ministry with First Presbyterian Church to a close. While John’s formal role as Parish Associate will be dissolved by action of the Session, by no means does it end the Kipps’ relationship with First Presbyterian Church; John and Sara plan to participate in the life of the congregation as they are able. Cards and letters of appreciation and encouragement would be most welcomed. You can write to the Kipps at 1110 Jeremy Dr., Watkinsville, GA 30677.
While there is no “replacing” a pastor like John, the leadership of First Presbyterian Church is hard at work developing plans to ensure that the ministry that he stewarded so faithfully for so long will continue. Please continue to pray for the Kipps, for John’s medical team, and for the members, friends, and leaders of First Presbyterian Church who have been so richly blessed by his ministry among us.
May the peace of Christ be with you,
Ryan J. Baer
July 18, 2019
The Congregational Care Commission has set up a Meal Train for the Kipps. If you would like to volunteer, please click here.
Love Notes and Meal Train for the Kipps
Blank cards are in your bulletin for those wishing to write encouraging notes to John and Sara Kipp, which will be delivered to them. Baskets to collect the cards are in the Narthex and in the Atrium. If you would like to mail a card, please send them to:
1110 Jeremy Dr., Watkinsville, GA 30677. Please keep the Kipps in your prayers.
The Congregational Care Commission has set up a Meal Train for the Kipps. Thank you to all who have volunteered. Please stay posted for new dates.
FPC Welcomes New Parish Associate
Dear friends in Christ,
When I arrived at First Presbyterian Church last February, Dr. John Kipp shared with me that he would gladly serve as Parish Associate for Pastoral Care for one more year, but that at the age of 82, he would soon be ready to take a step back from parish ministry.
I thanked him profusely and told him that we would be glad to have him for as long as he was willing to serve. At the same time, I asked him to begin praying that God would reveal a candidate who might follow him in the ministry he had stewarded so faithfully, and I began to do the same.
Much to our regret, in recent months our transition plan was suddenly accelerated when John was diagnosed with cancer. On Monday, August 12, with thanksgiving for his 16 years of faithful service to First Presbyterian Church of Athens, the Session accepted John’s request to be released from his role as Parish Associate for Pastoral Care.
While we continue to give thanks for John’s service among us and as we continue to lift the Kipps in prayer, we also give thanks to God for leading us to the candidate who will continue to steward our ministries of pastoral care and visitation.
On Monday, August 12, the Session approved a part time covenant with the Reverend Margaret Davis to begin serving First Presbyterian Church as Parish Associate for Pastoral Care effective August 19. While most of her time will be spent visiting in senior care facilities, hospitals, and the homes of our homebound members and friends, Margaret will support the Congregational Care Commission and our lay callers and Stephen Ministers.
Margaret is no stranger to First Presbyterian Church; for several years, she and her husband Ben and their young son Robby have actively participated in the life of the congregation, and Margaret has supplied our pulpit on two Sundays within the past twelve months.
A North Carolina native, Margaret is a graduate of Duke University and Columbia Theological Seminary. Over the past 15 years, she has served congregations in Concord, N.C., Huntsville, Ala., Atlanta, Decatur, and Watkinsville. Dr. Tara Bulger, Senior Pastor of FPC Huntsville, reports that pastoral care was a key piece of Margaret’s ministry portfolio during her time as Associate Pastor there, and to this day, the people of Huntsville still talk about her gifts for ministry with fondness.
Please join me in praying and giving thanks for the ministries of John Kipp, Margaret Davis, and for the members, friends, and leaders of First Presbyterian Church of Athens.
Yours in Christ,
Tuesday Suppers at the Presbyterian Student Center
Sunday Suppers at the PSC are now Tuesday Suppers at the PSC. Student suppers changed days to coincide with our weekly Tuesday evening worship service and the combined program is called Word & Table. If you like to see hungry, appreciative young adults eat a delicious meal prepared by you (or you and some friends), please click here. Providing Tuesday Supper is a fantastic opportunity to meet some amazing students and to learn about the work being done at the PSC. You don’t have to be a student or provide a meal to attend Tuesday worship. All are invited to attend at 8:00 p.m. every Tuesday during the UGA school year. If you have any further questions, please contact Will Norman or Leslye Queen.
Update: Bethlehem Ministry Hires New Director
Kristen Pace has become Bethlehem Ministry’s first full-time Executive Director, effective June 1. Kristen’s education and experience make her uniquely qualified to lead the agency in the coming years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship, specializing in nonprofit development and management, both degrees focusing on Haiti. While earning her Master’s, for three years she worked full-time for AmeriCorps VISTA in early childhood development and higher education. Most recently, she was employed as the Marketing and Programming Director for Bold Rock Hard Cider near Asheville, North Carolina.
Kristen’s passion for Haiti and for the work of Father Bruno is outstanding. As a college student, she traveled to Terrier Rouge in 2013 and 2014, returned as a co-leader in 2016 and 2017, and led her first trip, a group of 21, in 2018. She is intentional and enthusiastic about building relationships with Haitian leaders and community members. For the past two years, she has served on the Resource Development Committee of the Board of Directors of Bethlehem Ministry.
FPC has had a longstanding relationship with Bethlehem Ministry whose mission is to provide sustainable solutions that give Haitians the hope and power to change their lives. This is accomplished through a school, health clinic, and programs in economic development and environmental education.
Family Promise (Formerly IHNA)
Remaining 2019 Host Weeks at FPC:
October 27 – November 3
The committee continues to plan a variety of interesting events for the year-long celebration of the 200-years of First Presbyterian Church. Please let us know the time you have available to participate in this exciting and historic milestone. There are many opportunities for all volunteers to be involved.
During the year there will be additional outreach projects in the community with many ways to serve. You will hear more about these very soon. Join us as we honor God and give thanks for His blessings on this church.
Diane Adams, Chair, Bicentennial 2020 Committee
Invitation to Help Families Fostering Children
Children sometimes need a temporary family to care for them until they might be safely reunited with their families. Last year there were nearly 14,000 children living with foster families in Georgia. Families from First Presbyterian Church have responded by providing safe and loving homes for some of these vulnerable young members of our community. In turn, volunteers from our church have been helping to support these families through the organization Chosen for Life Ministries.
Chosen for Life Ministries organizes care teams for foster families. Members of these teams provide support in various roles: bringing busy foster families meals, helping with childcare and transportation, and praying for and providing moral support to these families.
Members of FPC are currently volunteering with two care teams. Can you help? If you would like to volunteer, only a couple of hours per month is all it takes. We have various opportunities available. More information is available here. Please contact Jeremy Praissman for additional information on current teams and needs. Thank you!
Church family is especially important when biological family may live far away or even be deceased. Session’s Congregational Care Commission would like to help facilitate cross-generational relationships within our congregation. We’re calling it “Grand Connections.” If you would like to be paired with a person(s) of another generation for the purpose of occasionally sharing a meal, praying for one another, attending worship together, etc., please fill out the tear off portion of the bulletin on Sunday or e-mail Lucy Bell Johnson.
Our Daily Bread
Books for Keeps Annual Book Sale, August 15-18 & 24-25
Thank you for donating three carloads of books to our Books for Keeps spring book drive! Now it’s time for their annual sale, held this year at 1860 South Barnett Shoals Road (the old Vision Video space next to Publix on the East Side). For details please visit their website.
Intergenerational Mission Trip Meeting, September 29
In June 2020, our church will be sending a team to Puerto Rico for a week of mission. The trip is open to current high school students and all adult church members. We would love to have a big group serve in honor of our 200th anniversary! If you are interested in joining the Puerto Rico Mission Trip Team please attend an informational meeting on September 29 at 12:00 p.m. in Fellowship Hall following 11:00 a.m. worship.
Please contact Kim Ness for more information.
Our Church Family – Photo Gallery
We are blessed to have wonderful photographers in our church! We miss Rick Simpson, who has moved away, but who took beautiful photographs of church services, volunteer programs, and other FPC activities for many years. You can visit his photo gallery to find an album with pictures from our church.
We are also happy that Dave Beck has joined our team of church photographers! Please visit his photo gallery where you can find his FPC album. Here are some of his recent pictures:
Senior Adult Sunday, July 28
Isaac Toney, Guest Preacher, June 30
Vacation Bible School: May 28 – May 29 – May 31
High School Graduate Recognition Sunday
Easter Egg Hunt