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

Important Events and Messages


Prayers for Healing

Prayers for Healing will change its time starting September 18 at 5:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary, followed by the Wed@First dinner.

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Fall Schedule

On August 18 we resumed two worship services at 8:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Sunday School resumed on on August 25 at 9:45 a.m. In August the church office hours returned 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.

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Bookless Book Group, September 24, 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. For more information please contact Polly Erickson at . Our next meeting will be September 25 at White Tiger (217 Hiawassee Ave).

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Fellowship@First: Picnic with UGA Redcoat Band, September 20, 5:30 p.m.

Pack your picnic basket, blanket, frisbee, and chairs and join friends of all ages at the intramural practice fields to enjoy hearing and watching the UGA Redcoat Marching Band practice. FPC’s own Brett Bawcum is Associate Director of the band. Come early for parking, if desired.

Directions: From College Station Road, turn onto Lake Herrick Drive (between East Campus and Loop 10). Go 1/2 mile and turn left past the tennis courts. Look for the FPC tent in the field. Park here or at the Intramural Parking Deck you passed at 0.2 miles.

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Blessing of the Animals, September 28, 10:00 a.m.

Join us for the Blessing of the Animals, held this year in the Courtyard. Dr. Carol Strickland will offer a blessing for our furry and feathered companions. All pets are welcome. Invite your animal-loving neighbors and friends!

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Puerto Rico Informational, September 29

Next summer our church will send a group of high school students and adults to Puerto Rico to serve with Taino Volunteers. We will be working in a mountainous area of the island in the municipality of Utuado. This region is still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Maria. Some families remain without running water, have leaking roofs, and debris littering the surrounding land. If you are interested in joining the mission team, you must attend an informational meeting on Sunday, September 29, following 11:00 a.m. worship. The trip will be May 31-June 6, 2020. For more information visit here or email Kim Ness.

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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.

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Family Promise (Formerly IHNA), October 27 – November 3

Thank you to everyone who made our August Family Promise (formerly IHNA) host week a success!

First Pres will have its next host week October 27 – November 3. If you are interested in volunteering, please sign up in the narthex or contact Susan Boatwright at or Frank Sherrill. We need you!

Orientation for all new volunteers will be offered on September 5 at 5:30 p.m. and October 3 at 12:30 p.m. at the Family Promise Office & Day Center at First Baptist Church (355 Pulaski Street). Please let Susan or Frank know if you are interested in becoming a volunteer.

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Ryan’s Reflections

Dear friends in Christ,

Our youngest son Joshua started kindergarten last month, and while this milestone marks the beginning of his “school career,” he is no stranger to the classroom. When he was two years old, he began attending the Early Learning Center at the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, Texas, and when we moved to Athens last winter, he enrolled in the Weekday School at the First Presbyterian Church of Athens.

My wife Amy and I have seen firsthand the value of quality early childhood education. When Joshua arrived at Timothy Road Elementary School last month, he was “Kindergarten Ready,” and he is already thriving at “big school.”

On the afternoon of August 18, it was my honor to welcome the parents and guardians of the 134 children who have enrolled in the First Presbyterian Church Weekday School this year. These families have entrusted us with their most precious gifts because Director Elaine Johnson and her 26 faculty members have positioned the First Presbyterian Church Weekday School as the leader in early childhood education in Athens.

Even though the Weekday School operates with its own budget and board of directors, the school nevertheless falls entirely under the umbrella of First Presbyterian Church. Education, whatever the level and whatever the setting, is an expensive investment, and although the Weekday School generates revenue through tuition, many of the school’s expenses are met through the church’s operating budget, and some Weekday School families receive need-based financial aid.

When you give to First Presbyterian Church, you’re not just giving to a budget or a building; you’re investing in quality early childhood education in our community. But even more importantly, you’re fulfilling the words of Jesus, who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Thank you for your faithful generosity, and even more, thank God for you.

May God bless you and keep you,
Ryan, Senior Pastor

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A Message from Carol: You’ve Got a Friend

Stephen Ministry is a behind-the-scenes ministry of pastoral care in our congregation and beyond. In this ministry, trained church members meet one-on-one to give confidential Christian care to people who are undergoing difficult situations. Members of our team of seventeen current Stephen Ministers have been paired with folks experiencing chronic illness, grief, a family member with Alzheimer’s, parenting challenges, and cancer, to name a few. Each Stephen Minister meets about an hour a week to provide emotional and spiritual support to his or her care receiver for as long as needed. They are present to listen to, encourage, and pray for people in situations that can be very isolating and discouraging. They communicate God’s love in flesh and blood. Some care receivers have made a point in telling me how much their Stephen Ministers have meant to them. Two have even been so grateful that they gave a special monetary donation to the church in honor of their Stephen Ministers. I cannot say enough good things about the sensitivity, genuineness, and professionalism of our Stephen Ministry team.

I am happy to report that we have begun training our second group of Stephen Ministers. Ten people have committed to fifty hours of classes this fall. We also have two from our program who attended a weeklong training over the summer in Dallas in order to become Stephen Leaders. Stephen Leaders teach the training classes, make the matches of Stephen Ministers and care receivers, oversee the peer supervision groups which Stephen Ministers attend, and coordinate all other aspects of the ministry.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the care of a Stephen Minister, let one of our pastors or Stephen Leaders (Dawn Frisch, Bob Frisch, Lisa Oelke, and me) know. God doesn’t expect us to shoulder our burdens alone, but gives us one another to ease the load.

Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor


We welcome Emmaline Michael as our Outreach Waddel Fellow for 2019-20. Emmaline comes to us through the Presbyterian Student Center Waddel Fellowship Program. She is a member of Roswell Presbyterian Church, president of the PSC student organization, and serves on the PSC board as a student representative. She is a fourth year UGA student from Milton, GA studying Agricultural and Applied Economics. She hopes to attend law school after graduation.

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Music Notes

Why sing in a choir? I asked that question of myself when, at the beginning of our program year, it’s time to rally our troops, and hopefully recruit some new singers. I try to put myself in the shoes of the people I’m talking to, some of whom might be skeptical (I was at one point in my life). Unfortunately, in our consumer-driven society, we often ask, “What’s in it for me?” I think, in church, that’s backwards. To recast a former president, we should ask not what our church can do for us, but what we can do for our church. Being part of a choir takes work, a commitment of time and energy. It’s another kind of stewardship, giving of time and talent (a dangerous word). Some seem to think musical talent, and the ability to read music and sing, is something you’re either born with, or not. What’s actually needed to sing or play an instrument is practice. It may come easier to some than others, but we can all learn and we all need practice.

Something that comes with our culture is the idea of the individual singer, often celebrities, that we listen to and watch. We think if we can’t be a soloist, we shouldn’t be singing. The good news is, in a choir, we sing together. Our music is a culmination of our combined effort. Nobody is a “star.” Nobody is better than anybody else. That’s why we wear robes, so that we are all “uniform” both in our appearance, and in the music we are making. We may sing in different parts, in harmony, but we are still singing together as a choir. In putting in that work, in each of us giving our best to create something more than we could as individuals, in making a musical offering to God as representatives of our church, that is where we do get something. In the words of St. Francis, “it is in giving that we receive.” Choir members do find their work rewarding, and there is something in it for them, but it’s not gained by asking that question first. It’s by offering ourselves to God and ministering to others that we gain our rewards.

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

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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

Senior Pastor

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.

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Love Notes 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 it to: 180 Keese Ln, Fair Play, SC 29643. Please keep the Kipps in your prayers.

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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,

Ryan Baer
Senior Pastor

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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 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:

Fall Kickoff Brunch, August 18
Senior Adult Sunday, July 28
Isaac Toney, Guest Preacher, June 30
Vacation Bible School: May 28May 29May 31
High School Graduate Recognition Sunday

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Worship With Us

Worship Times

Sunday Worship: 8:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Sunday School
Sunday School Begins August 25, 9:45 – 10:40 a.m.

Children’s Sunday School
Youth Sunday School
Adult Sunday School

Contact Us