Important Events and Messages
Limited in-person worship registration
If you would like to join us for a limited in-person worship, click here (link will be live on Monday, November 23 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.
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
Holidays 2020 Pastoral Letter from Dr. Ryan Baer
When my wife Amy was pregnant with our twin boys, her doctor told us to expect them to be delivered on May 31. With that information in hand, I began clearing my schedule for the month of June so that my responsibilities at church would be covered while I helped Amy and bonded with our newborn sons.
However, the babies had not been briefed about the importance of my work schedule. Amy went into labor late the night of May 11, and the twins arrived in the wee morning hours of May 12, a Thursday, and I was still scheduled to preach that following Sunday morning. My carefully laid plans had to be reworked on the fly!
I’m mindful that in 2020, we have all been required to rework our most carefully laid plans, sometimes more than once. Such is life in the midst of a global pandemic.
The document in your hands represents the current plan for observing the holidays at First Presbyterian Church of Athens. Your church leadership and staff continue to amaze me with their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome the many challenges that 2020 has thrown our way, and this document is a testament to their resilience, imagination, and love.
As we prepare once again to celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us remember that Joseph and Mary did not plan to deliver their son in Bethlehem, much less to place him in a manger! However, they, too, learned to improvise and adapt and to count on the sustaining grace and providence of God, and all these years later, we’re still singing their songs!
May God’s peace be with you and yours,
Dr. Ryan Baer
Fall Worship Schedule at First Presbyterian Church
In our worship life this Fall, we’ll be following a schedule of readings called the Narrative Lectionary, a schedule of readings that seeks to present the broad arc of the biblical story over the course of nine months. This Fall, we’ll be reading and preaching stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). From Christmas through Easter we’ll read and preach through the Gospel of Luke, and from Easter to Pentecost we’ll read and preach through Acts and Galatians.
Sunday, November 22 – Jer. 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28; 31:31-34 – Dr. Ryan Baer – “A New Covenant” – Stewardship Dedication Sunday – Interfaith Thanksgiving Worship Service Livestream, 4:00 p.m.
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.
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., September 13 – November 22
Zoom ID: 706-543-4338 – Password: 185185
Led by Dr. Ryan Baer
Salvation Army Angel Tree
The need in our community is great this year. You have the opportunity to provide Christmas gifts for a child (or children) from birth to age 14.
These children’s families have applied to the Angel Tree Program sponsored by the Salvation Army. The gifts you provide will ensure these children (angels) have a new outfit, coat, under-garments and other needed clothing items. The children have also identified a toy they would like. (These toys are supplemented by the Toys for Tots so providing one toy is sufficient.)
This year angels are being adopted online. Here is how to do it:
- Click here. This will take you directly to the children (angels) to which our church has committed, though “First Presbyterian Church” will not appear anywhere.
- Select male or female and the age group of child you would like to provide “adopt”.
- Continue on and list your personal information (name, address, phone number, etc.). This will not be given to the family. It is for clerical purposes in case we need to get in touch with you.
- Next a screen will show you the listing of children available for us. This list also gives you a brief indication of the child’s wants and needs. Click the child (children) you would like to adopt.
- You are then asked to choose a site for drop off. It gives you only one option (Salvation Army Distribution Site – Old Kmart on 2000 S. Barnett Shoals Road), but you may take your gift there, to Salvation Army on 484 Hawthorne Avenue, or leave at FPC office during business hours before December 15.
- A detailed information list for your child (children) will give you the child’s clothing needs and sizes. It will also list some of the toys the child has requested. NOTE: Clothing is paramount for the child. (If you provide a toy, know that Toys for Tots will supplement what you have chosen.)
- Print out the Angel information.
- Go shopping! Please do not wrap the items. Put them all together in a large bag. Include the printed angel information sheet inside your bag.
- Please return your package before December 15. When you return your package it will be put in a Salvation Army bag with your printed information affixed to the inside of the bag. You can return the angels direct to the office at Salvation Army on 484 Hawthorne Avenue during business hours, the Salvation Army Distribution Site (Old Kmart) on 2000 S. Barnett Shoals Road OR return them to the church office during business hours. Pat and Eunice Tritt will be in the church parking lot to take your bags each Wednesday afternoon from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Questions? Contact Eunice or Pat Tritt at 706-543-0801.
Holiday Meals on Wheels Delivery
For many years First Presbyterian members and friends have delivered meals on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. It makes such a difference to our neighbors–and to those who deliver! It is a great intergenerational activity. Bring your children or grandchildren. The only requirement is that all wear masks.
To volunteer to be a back-up driver, please contact Kitty Donnan at email@example.com or call the church office 706-543-4338. If you would like to make a donation (FPC pays for the meals, with the cost generally around $1,000), please send a check to the office with “Meals on Wheels Holiday Donation” noted on the bottom, or donate here (please select “Meals on Wheels” under “Select a Fund”).
Thornwell Special Offering, November 22
Your gift will help prevent child abuse and neglect, build up and reunite families, and support healthy communities in the name of Jesus Christ. Begun as an orphanage in Clinton, SC, Thornwell now has multi-faceted programs to help children including foster care, residential care, family services, and child development services. Please send a check to the office with “Thornwell” noted on the bottom, or go to firstpresathens.org/home/giving/ (please select “Thornwell” under “Select a Fund”).
Live Nativity Drive-in, December 8
FP Weekday School is busy preparing for our 9th Annual Live Nativity Drive-by from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 8! This year it will be a drive-by on the front church steps to promote social distancing at this time. Come enjoy the babe, the camel, donkey, other animals, and of course Mary and Joseph, wisemen and shepherds. We will have live music from Dr. Coble and the Handbell Choir. Teachers will be distance delivering to cars home kits for our ornaments normally made in the classrooms, and Christmas music will be enjoyed by all. So prepare to roll your windows down, and drive through while worshiping Christ, our new born king. Anyone interested in participating as a character (no lines) or in set up or cleanup, please contact Elaine Johnson at (706) 206-8180. As always, much help is needed!
Interfaith Thanksgiving Worship, November 22, 4:00 p.m. via Zoom
All are invited to join our Athens friends and neighbors via Zoom (ID: 943 5058 3240, Passcode: Unity) for this worship experience for all faith groups (Christians, Jews, Muslims, et al.). The sponsor, Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens, includes representatives of more than 50 congregations in the Athens area. In a time when there is so much division, let’s unite in thanksgiving.
Casa de Amistad Christmas Boxes
For the past several years, First Presbyterian members have partnered with Casa de Amistad to ensure our Latino neighbors had the ingredients to prepare tasty holiday meals for their families. Many of you have joined us at Catedral De Fe as we sorted masa, mole and dried chilis into more than 100 boxes that were shared with those in need throughout our community.
As with so many traditions this year, the risk of COVID-19 exposure requires that we modify this gift-giving experience. Rather than buying food in bulk and sorting it into boxes for distribution, we will be providing families a Christmas card with a $40 gift certificate, allowing them to select what they need.
Our goal is to raise at least $4,000 by December 13. Any additional funds will be donated to Casa de Amistad for their ongoing efforts to support Latino families. To contribute by check, please identify your gift as being for “Casa Food Boxes.” noted on the bottom, or go to firstpresathens.org/home/giving/ (please select “Hispanic Ministry (CASA)” under “Select a Fund”). Please send no later than December 13.
So many are in need this year. Thank you for your continued generosity!
…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40
Family Promise Host Week, December 13-20
The upcoming Family Promise Host Week for FPC is December 13-20 and we need you! For the first time this year, the families will be back at our church during our host week plus one additional week (Alps Road Presbyterian will be the lead host church during the week of Dec 20-27; however the families will remain at FPC).
We are honored to be able to offer an “Inn” of sorts to the families during this special time of year. There are multiple preventive measures in place to keep everyone safe and socially-distanced. This includes volunteers being stationed and sleeping in a separate area of the church, using a separate entrance, and others protocols. If you are interested in volunteering, sign up here or contact Susan Boatwright or Jean Bock.
Senior Adult Christmas Tea: 2020 Version
The pandemic has forced us to adapt many traditions, including our lovely Christmas Tea. We’ll miss the December tea party with the festive table decorations, beautiful singing from the Mellows, and inspiring holiday devotional. Mostly, we’ll miss the fellowship! Since we can’t have folks come to church, the Congregational Care Commission is making arrangements to deliver Christmas cookies to our senior homebound members.
“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.
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.
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)
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Athens Community Council on Aging
135 Hoyt Street, Athens, GA 30601
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
To continue to provide medications and home-health-management kits.
P.O. Box 48387, Athens, GA 30604
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
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
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
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
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.
Zoom and Facebook 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:
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!
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.
Subscribe to the new FPC YouTube Channel!
As we work to improve our online worship experience, we recently launched our YouTube channel! If you don’t have Facebook, this is a new way for you to follow worship live.
A number of events for the recognition of this 200th year have been on hold due to the pandemic. I am reminded of the phrase “that life happens while we are making other plans.” We are working to reschedule some of the events, with some possibly being held in 2021. The dedication of the Moses Waddel headstone marker will be on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. at Oconee Hill Cemetery (Update: this event is postponed to a later date). Dr. Ryan Baer will officiate the service. Since this will be held outside, this can take place with proper social distancing. Other details will follow for this and other Bicentennial activities as we consider safety above all else.
Diane Adams, Chair
In recent weeks our lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus. The degree of this negative impact varies from person to person. Do you have a friend, neighbor, co-worker or relative who has been struggling with life changes due to the virus, loss of a loved one, loneliness, cancer, a layoff, relocation, divorce, a spiritual crisis, recuperation, single parenthood, or any of countless other life changes? Our Stephen Ministers can provide them with the focused care, encouragement, and support they need to make it through the crisis. If anyone you know is hurting, talk with one of our Stephen Leaders.
They can talk with you about how we can connect the person you know with one of our Stephen Ministers. It’s a great way for you to show how much you care. First Presbyterian Stephen Ministers are ready to provide confidential, one-to-one Christian care. Male Stephen Ministers are always matched with men, and female Stephen Ministers are matched with women. Our Stephen Ministry team works with church members and non-members. If you or someone you know is struggling, find out more about Stephen Ministry by talking with one of our Stephen Leaders.
Bob Frisch: email@example.com, 914-262-1078
Dawn Frisch: firstname.lastname@example.org, 914-255-3447
Lisa Oelke: email@example.com, 706-540-4251
Carol Strickland: firstname.lastname@example.org, 706-765-7671
Our Stephen Ministers are here to care!
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:
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