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

Important Events and Messages

Events

Limited in-person worship registration

If you would like to join us for a limited in-person worship on February 28, click here (link will be live on Monday, February 22 at 9:00 a.m). Alternatively, you can contact the church office at (706) 543-4338 and we will add you to the list.

Please make sure to read the additional instructions that are posted on the website. If you are over 65 or have underlying health conditions, we encourage you to stay home and join us via Facebook or YouTube.

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Limited in-person worship to resume November 8

Dear friends in Christ,

The session has been closely monitoring the latest available public health data and relying upon recommendations from our own COVID-19 Task Force. Based on the latest available information, the session has approved a plan for resuming in-person worship on a limited basis beginning Sunday, November 8.

It’s important to note that Governor Kemp’s public health emergency orders remain in effect statewide, and until the emergency passes, in-person worship will necessarily be different. The current plans are as follows:

  • Anyone who is feeling ill, has been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days, or is considered to be at high-risk from adverse effects of COVID-19 should continue participating in the life of the church online until the public health emergency has passed.
  • Governor Kemp’s latest emergency orders limit indoor gatherings to a capacity of 50, and while religious organizations are exempt from this limit, we will abide by it. Should there be high demand for in-person worship in the month of November, the session will consider adjusting the schedule for December.
  • Each week, online registration for in-person worship will open at 9:00 a.m. on the prior Monday morning and will close at 10:00 a.m. on the prior Saturday morning. Every attendee must pre-register.
  • All persons except for infants and toddlers are required to wear a mask over the nose and mouth while on church property. (Worship leaders may be exempt from this policy at the discretion of the Senior Pastor.)
  • Children of all ages are welcome, but nursery care and children’s church are suspended until the public health emergency has passed.
  • While the parking decks along Dougherty Street will be open, all attendees must enter and exit the church through the Hancock Avenue entrance, where greeters will check in your party and conduct temperature checks.
  • While on church property, all persons are required to practice appropriate physical distancing from anyone who is not a member of their immediate household. To ensure appropriate distancing, the balcony and some pews will be closed.
  • In-person attendees are asked to refrain from singing and participating in responsive readings.

We close with these words of encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be know to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

May the peace of Christ be with you and yours,

The Session of First Presbyterian Church of Athens

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Lent 2021 Pastoral Letter from Dr. Ryan Baer

February 2021

Dear friends in Christ,

Vince Lombardi was a legendary coach in the National Football League. (The trophy awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl each year is called the Lombardi trophy.) Coach Lombardi’s teams were filled with incredible athletes, many of whom were veteran players who had achieved enormous success over many years.

Nevertheless, every summer, when the team gathered together to begin training for a new season, Coach Lombardi always started the first practice of the new season the same way. He would stand in front of those seasoned, experienced players, most of whom who were at the pinnacle of their careers, and he would hold up a football before their eyes. Then he would say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The point that Coach Lombardi was making was that no matter the endeavor, no matter how seasoned and successful people may be, from time to time, everyone needs to review and return to the basics.

The season of Lent is just such a time. In the early days of the church, most people weren’t born and raised as Christians; they were converts from other religious traditions or came from no faith background at all. Lent developed in the early church as a time of intensive study and preparation for these new converts, who were usually baptized on Easter Sunday. During the season of Lent, the pastor or bishop would sit with the converts and instruct them in the basic tenets of the Christian faith (sometimes using the Apostles’ Creed as an outline), while the converts’ sponsors and other members of the church community would listen over their shoulders. Thus, Lent became a season of preparation and review not just for the “rookies,” but for everyone.

Your church staff has prepared these resources for you in hopes that they will guide and strengthen you and your family during this season of Lent as you prepare for Easter. Rather than thinking of this season of Lent as one of “giving things up,” we encourage you to approach it with a spirit of “returning to and remembering the basics.”

We close with these words from Colossians 1:9-10.
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

May God bless you and keep you,

Dr. Ryan Baer
Senior Pastor

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Livestream Calendar

Upcoming services:

Feb. 24, 1:00 p.m. – A Service of Witness to the Resurrection and Thanksgiving for the Life of Frank Wade Sherrill
Service will be live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube. For instructions on how to follow services through our Facebook page, click here. For YouTube, click here.

Feb. 28 – Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Fruits of Repentance”
2nd Sunday in Lent
Many terrible tragedies fell upon the Jews. While some believed it was their own fault for their lack of repentance, Jesus had a different message. Repent, not to escape tragedy, but that they might bear good fruit.
Service will be live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube. For instructions on how to follow services through our Facebook page, click here. For YouTube, click here. To join in-person, click here.

Mar. 7 – Luke 15:1-32 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Lost and Found”
3rd Sunday in Lent
Through the parable of the lost sheep and coin, and the parable of the lost son, Jesus showed how repentance is about returning what was lost and repairing damaged relationships.

Mar. 14 – Luke 16:19-31 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Lazarus and the Rich Man”
4th Sunday in Lent
Nothing external could change the hearts and minds of the rich man or his brothers as they selfishly ignored the needs of those around them. Change comes from within.

Mar. 21 – Luke 18:31-19:10 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Zaccheus”
5th Sunday in Lent
A man’s blindness was punishment for his sin. Another man’s sin had yet to be punished. But Jesus welcomed them both with compassion, forgiveness, and a new lease on life.

Mar. 28 – Luke 19:28-40, 22:1-23:56 – “Holy Week”
Palm Sunday
We travel with Jesus into Jerusalem.

Apr. 1 – Luke 22:1-27 – “Supper”
Maundy Thursday
When Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, he prepared them the best he could for what was coming next. For now, they would feast and celebrate.

Apr. 2 – Luke 23:32-47 – “Cross”
Good Friday
The community was divided, and Jesus’ life was near its end. Tonight, we feel the pain of division and conflict, and our own failure that sent Jesus to the cross.

Apr. 4 – Luke 24:1-12 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Resurrection”
EASTER SUNDAY
Mary, the women, and Peter were amazed and perplexed by the empty tomb. Clearly, Jesus’ story is not finished. He is alive!

In response to the crisis that has unfolded, services will be live-streamed via the church Facebook and YouTube. Members and friends are encouraged in the strongest possible terms to stay home and worship online.

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Holy Days@First Worship Schedule

Feb. 28 – Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Fruits of Repentance”
2nd Sunday in Lent
Many terrible tragedies fell upon the Jews. While some believed it was their own fault for their lack of repentance, Jesus had a different message. Repent, not to escape tragedy, but that they might bear good fruit.

Mar. 7 – Luke 15:1-32 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Lost and Found”
3rd Sunday in Lent
Through the parable of the lost sheep and coin, and the parable of the lost son, Jesus showed how repentance is about returning what was lost and repairing damaged relationships.

Mar. 14 – Luke 16:19-31 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Lazarus and the Rich Man”
4th Sunday in Lent
Nothing external could change the hearts and minds of the rich man or his brothers as they selfishly ignored the needs of those around them. Change comes from within.

Mar. 21 – Luke 18:31-19:10 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Zaccheus”
5th Sunday in Lent
A man’s blindness was punishment for his sin. Another man’s sin had yet to be punished. But Jesus welcomed them both with compassion, forgiveness, and a new lease on life.

Mar. 28 – Luke 19:28-40, 22:1-23:56 – “Holy Week”
Palm Sunday
We travel with Jesus into Jerusalem.

Apr. 1 – Luke 22:1-27 – “Supper”
Maundy Thursday
When Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, he prepared them the best he could for what was coming next. For now, they would feast and celebrate.

Apr. 2 – Luke 23:32-47 – “Cross”
Good Friday
The community was divided, and Jesus’ life was near its end. Tonight, we feel the pain of division and conflict, and our own failure that sent Jesus to the cross.

Apr. 4 – Luke 24:1-12 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Resurrection”
EASTER SUNDAY
Mary, the women, and Peter were amazed and perplexed by the empty tomb. Clearly, Jesus’ story is not finished. He is alive!

In response to the crisis that has unfolded, services will be live-streamed via the church Facebook and YouTube. Members and friends are encouraged in the strongest possible terms to stay home and worship online.

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“Sunday Conversations”

Join Dr. Ryan Baer for “Sunday Conversations” as we reflect on the morning worship service and take a deeper dive into the Bible texts read and proclaimed from the pulpit.

Sundays at 11:30 a.m.
Zoom ID: 706-543-4338 – Password: 185185
Led by Dr. Ryan Baer

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Josephine Paine Bible Study

The Josephine Paine Bible Study will begin January 14 and meet 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. on 2nd and 4th Thursdays via Zoom (ID: 706 543 4338, PW 185185). The scripture passage for each class will be the same text addressed by the upcoming Sunday’s sermon. These passages are all from the Gospel of Luke and follow the “Narrative Lectionary.” Carol Strickland will lead the study which is open to all.

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Chair Yoga

Join Mel Berzack for a Yoga practice via Zoom on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. You will need a practical chair (preferably no arm rests or side restrictions) and (if you have one) a mat for a small amount of standing poses. The practice will be around one hour-long. All are welcome.
Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. via Zoom
Zoom ID: 558-324-3907 (PW: 3636)

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Montreat Women’s Connection Conference

In hopes that enough of us will be vaccinated by the end of summer to make a gathering possible, Montreat is planning its 2021 Women’s Connection Conference.

Those of us who attended the Women’s Connection Conference at Montreat in 2018 and 2019 found it so stimulating and rewarding that we are planning to do it again.

The dates are August 13 – 15, Friday through Sunday. Again this year we have reserved the Georgia Lodge for any of our members who would like to go to the conference.

The cost of the conference registration is $237 before June 28 and $262 after. The cost of lodging and meal arrangements have yet to be determined. We will do our best to keep them as reasonable as possible. In 2019 we shared the Georgia Lodge with another congregation. We would like to have enough people sign up to use the entire lodge ourselves this year. In order that we might know whether that is feasible, we would like to get a preliminary count of those of you who plan to come this year.

The keynoter is Jen Hatmaker. More information about and registration for the Women’s Connection Conference can be found at https://montreat.org/events/wc2021.

Please email Carol McKay at carol_mckay@att.net if you would like to attend. Click here for a flyer with additional information.

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Bereavement Group

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) Are you doing the hard work of processing grief following the death of a loved one? Let us walk that road together. We are mindful that bereavement has been uniquely challenging for those whose loved ones have died amidst the pandemic. We also know there is no neat timeline for processing grief, so we welcome all who grieve, no matter how long it has been. If you are interested in receiving additional group/individual support in processing such a loss, please contact Rev. Margaret Davis. Once we know who is interested, we’ll consult together on the ideal format, via some combination of phone, zoom, and socially distanced masked outdoor visits.

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Messages

21 Day Challenge

Feeling overwhelmed with the state of our world? Unsure how to help? Don’t know where to start? You are invited to participate in a 21 Day Challenge to raise your awareness of race, power, and privilege. You will be introduced to voices and perspectives different than your own through articles, videos, and podcasts. Each day you will choose one way of engagement and reflect in a journal. From the countless resources available, we have pulled together a list of 50 options, with additional resources listed at the bottom of the site. For more information and to sign up, visit sites.google.com/view/fpcathenspit/21- day-challenge.

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Resources for Such a Time as This

Reconciliation:  The Heart of the Gospel
What Our Church Affirms

In the Presbyterian Church (USA) we are guided by our confessions, i,e, historical statements of faith which make up part of our constitution.  Below are excerpts from “The Confession of 1967”* which speak to and for us in this current time.

In each time and place, there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act. The church, guided by the Spirit, humbled by its own complicity and instructed by all attainable knowledge, seeks to discern the will of God and learn how to obey in these concrete situations. The following are particularly urgent at the present time.

God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, God overcomes the barriers between sisters and brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all people to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.

God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ embraces the whole of human life: social and cultural, economic and political, scientific and technological, individual and corporate. It includes the natural environment as exploited and despoiled by sin. It is the will of God that the divine purpose for human life shall be fulfilled under the rule of Christ and all evil be banished from creation.

Biblical visions and images of the rule of Christ, such as a heavenly city, the household of God, a new heaven and earth, a marriage feast, and an unending day culminate in the image of the kingdom. The kingdom represents God’s triumph over all that resists the divine will and disrupts God’s creation. Already God’s reign is present as a ferment in the world, stirring hope in all people, and preparing the world to receive its ultimate judgment and redemption.

With an urgency born of this hope, the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God.

*Sections 9.43, 9.44, 9.53, 9.54, 9.55 quoted from “The Inclusive Language Text of The Confession of 1967.”

Other resources: A Prayer, a Hymn, and other Resources from PC(USA)

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Helping the Local Community During COVID-19 Crisis

April 22, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

The worldwide pandemic calls us to great compassion to meet the great need. Many of you have wondered how you can help.

Of course, social distancing, handwashing, and wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) are crucial to stem the tide of the coronavirus. You can also pray for those whose health and/or livelihood are adversely affected by this crisis as well as those working extra hard to address its many ramifications.

Beyond safety measures and prayer, we encourage you to be generous. Perhaps you don’t need any or all of the forthcoming stimulus check or can give out of your own surplus.

Below you will find a list of organizations that our church has vetted and supports with an Outreach Grant. Invariably they are in the business of helping “the least of these, our brothers and sisters,” (Matt. 25:40) folks whose lives were already difficult before COVID-19. They all would welcome an online donation or check in the mail. Some have told us of other specific needs.

However, before making an over-and-above gift to other organizations in these dire times, please be sure you are honoring your 2020 financial commitment to First Presbyterian Church. After all, our entire budget, including the Outreach Grants and other benevolences we have pledged, depends upon the faithful giving of our members. So, assuming you are able*, please keep giving even though you cannot come to church. Thank you!

In faith,

Your Outreach and Mission Commission

*Should your financial situation change for better or worse, you are always able to adjust your pledge by contacting Roger Burbage, our Church Administrator, at rburbage@firstpresathens.org.

Athens Community Council on Aging
135 Hoyt Street, Athens, GA 30601
accaging.org

Funds will be used to purchase additional meals, as well as things like liquid laundry detergent, dish washing soap, hand soap and hand sanitizer, Lysol, Clorox, and toiletries.

Athens Nurses Clinic
P.O. Box 1732, Athens, GA 30603
AthensNursesClinic.org

To continue to provide medications and home-health-management kits.

Bethlehem Ministry
P.O. Box 48387, Athens, GA 30604
BethlehemMinistry.org

To buy hand-washing soap, which is sorely lacking in Haiti, from the economic development project which makes it from native jatropha trees.

Casa de Amistad
P.O. Box 841, Athens, GA 30603
AthensAmistad.com

To assist those in the underserved Hispanic community who have lost income due to the COVID-19.

Family Promise (formerly IHNA)
P. O. Box 581, Athens, GA 30603
IHNAthens.org

To buy groceries for families to prepare breakfast/lunch (congregations are providing dinners). Also need paper towels, Windex, 409 cleaner, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer.

Our Daily Bread
Sponsored by Downtown Ministries
165 Pulaski Street, Athens, GA 30601
DowntownMinistries.org

To provide grab-n-go sack lunches M-F at First Baptist Church.

Also need bottled water and “Blessing Bags,” which are 1 gallon Ziplock bag filled with baby wipes, bar soap, washcloth, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, 8 tampons/maxipads, 4 granola bars. Drop off at FBC lobby, Tues or Thurs, 9:00-10:00 a.m.

The Ark United Ministry Outreach Center
640 Barber Street, Athens, GA 30601
AthensArk.org

To pay rent/utilities assistance for workers whose jobs are impacted by COVID-19.

Additionally, many of our members are participating in the Facebook group, Mask Making for Athens. You can volunteer to sew, deliver, or donate supplies for protective face masks.

Also, the Red Cross needs donors. Go to redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment.

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Zoom Instructions

Zoom is a web-based audio and video conferencing tool that can be used through desktop computers, laptops and smartphones.

If you’ve never joined a Zoom meeting before, please click here to learn how:
https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362193-Joining-a-Meeting.

To join the conversation, shortly before the starting time of the event, please go to www.zoom.us/j/7065434338 (password 185185). You can either watch from your computer, laptop, or install the app on your smartphone.

If you are using your smartphone, please download the app “ZOOM Cloud Meetings.” Once you click in the link to access the event (www.zoom.us/j/7065434338, password 185185), you will be directed to the meeting in the app. Follow the instructions in your screen to activate your camera or microphone and you are all set!

If you have any questions, please e-mail Paulo Santos.

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Facebook Instructions

1. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, please join.

2. Like & follow First Presbyterian Church of Athens.

3. On Sunday, just before 11:00 a.m., you should receive a notification saying that we’re live. Click on the notification and you will be taken straight to the video. If this doesn’t work for any reason, go to our Facebook page and there should be a post. Click the arrow to play the video.

4. Like, leave a comment, and let us know that you are online!

Past services will be archived on our First Presbyterian Church of Athens Facebook page and on our website Sermon Archive. If you don’t have Facebook, you can find in the Sermon Archive the links to previous services. Please note that once you click the link (or copy and paste to your navigator), a window will pop up asking you to log in or create a Facebook account. If you click in “Not Now,” which is below in blue, you should be prompted to the video.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Paulo Santos.

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FPC YouTube Channel

As we work to improve our online worship experience, we launched a YouTube channel. If you don’t have Facebook, this is a way for you to follow worship live.

Please Subscribe to our Channel: click here to access the channel and click “Subscribe.” If you have any questions, please contact Paulo Santos.

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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 to have Dave Beck in our team of church photographers! Please visit his photo gallery where you can find his FPC album. Here are some of his recent pictures:

FPC 200th Drive-by Celebration, December 20
Live Nativity Drive-by, December 8
New Member Introduction and Reception, March 8
The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents “Through the Church the Song Goes On”, February 16
Youth Sunday, February 9
Stephen Ministers’ Commissioning and Reception, February 2
Annual Congregational Meeting and Lunch, January 26
Ordination of New Elders, January 12
Bicentennial Celebration Ringing of the Bell, January 12

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Worship With Us

Worship Times

Sunday Worship Livestream: 10:00 a.m. (Facebook and YouTube)

Sunday School
Click below for more information about Sunday School:

Children’s Sunday School
Youth Sunday School
Adult Sunday School

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