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

Important Events and Messages

Events

A Word from the Session of First Presbyterian Church

March 25, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace to you and peace in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ! We pray that this letter finds you well and that you stay well.

Yesterday, in a called meeting via video-conference, we extended the church’s current emergency operating plan through April 30. Due to the ongoing national emergency, the church building will be closed through the month of April, and all in-person gatherings are suspended.

However, the work of the church will continue. We will continue to move worship services and education opportunities to online formats. We are in constant communication with our mission partners about how the church might be a resource during these uncertain times. Ministries of pastoral care and compassion continue, and trained Stephen Ministers are available to those who request a partner with whom to walk through these difficult days. The church staff continues to work remotely, and they continue to find new and innovative ways to faithfully carry out their ministries. Thanks to modern technology, the main church office phone will continue to be answered during regular business hours should you need to reach any member of the staff.

We are mindful that this emergency operation plan will dramatically change much of what we had planned for Holy Week and Easter. In some sense, we are getting a small taste of what our ancestors in faith endured in seasons of exile; we are unable to gather together in the house of the Lord, and we long for better days. At the same time, we are mindful that even in exile, our ancestors still found ways to mark holy days and to worship together. As Jesus himself reminds us, wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he is there also. Therefore, we will still observe Palm Sunday at 11:00 a.m. on April 5, Maundy Thursday on April 9 at 7:00 p.m., Good Friday on April 10 at 7:00 p.m., and Easter on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and to the church website about how to engage in these Holy Week observances.

We are mindful that there are mixed messages coming from our elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels about how to best respond to the crisis, but as elders in the church of Jesus Christ, we have taken solemn vows to watch over the people of God and to serve them with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. As much as we long for the day when we can all be together again, we are united in our belief that continuing our emergency operating plan through April is the faithful and prudent thing to do.

We close with these words from the Letter to the Colossians:
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 you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. — Colossians 1:9-14 (NRSV)

May the peace of Christ be with you and yours,

The Session of First Presbyterian Church

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Holy Week at First Presbyterian Church

Click here to access the devotionals and material prepared for Holy Week at home.

Calendar:

WEDNESDAY, April 8
Wed@First Online via Zoom*, 6:30 p.m.

MAUNDY THURSDAY, April 9
Worship Service via Zoom*, 7:00 p.m.
For the Maundy Thursday service you are invited to have available for hand or footwashing a tub of hot water and towel (soap, washcloth, and lotion, optional).

GOOD FRIDAY, April 10
Worship Service via Zoom*, 7:00 p.m.
For the Good Friday Tenebrae service, please round up seven candles (or if you don’t have them, lamps, flashlights, overhead lights) to extinguish as the scriptures are read. Or, if using a smartphone, you can dim the screen.

EASTER, April 12
Online Sunday School via Zoom*, 9:45 a.m.
Worship Service Livestream on Facebook** at 11:00 a.m.

*Zoom: shortly before the starting time of the event, please go to www.zoom.us/j/7065434338 (the same link will be used for all events). The password is 185185. Zoom is a web-based audio and video conferencing tool that can be used through desktop computers, laptops and smartphones.

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!

For more information on how to set up Zoom, please click here.

**Facebook: for instructions to worship with us on Facebook, please click here.

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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:
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!

Facebook:

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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Sundays at First Presbyterian Church

Sunday, April 5 Palm SundayDr. Ryan Baer Preaching

Sunday, April 12 Easter Sunday: Dr. Ryan Baer Preaching

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

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Chair Yoga, Wednesdays 4:30 p.m. (Cancelled)

Chair Yoga meets on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. in Room 310. Come, enjoy gentle stretching. In response to the crisis that has unfolded in recent weeks, this event is cancelled for the next few weeks.

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Envisioning the Future of the Church (Postponed)

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of First Presbyterian Church of Athens, we encourage everyone to share their perspectives about the future of our church and congregation. To that end, there will be two opportunities to participate in “Envisioning the Future of the Church” sessions. The first session will be held during lunch after the 11:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday, March 22 (lunch will be a fundraiser for the Puerto Rico Mission Trip). The second session will be held after the Wednesday@First dinner on Wednesday, March 25 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Reservations are required only for dinner on Wednesday, and can be done through the Fellowship Pad, online, or by contacting the church office by Monday, March 23 at 12:00 p.m. In response to the crisis that has unfolded in recent weeks, this event is postponed to a date to be determined.

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Puerto Rico Mission Trip Update (Postponed)

The Puerto Rico Mission Team will be providing lunch for the “Envisioning the Future of the Church” event on March 22 to raise funds for our upcoming trip in May. In addition to grilled cheese sandwiches, attendees will have their choice of chicken or vegetarian taco soup, and homemade cookies. No reservations are required, and we appreciate whatever amount diners choose to donate. In response to the crisis that has unfolded in recent weeks, this event is postponed to a date to be determined.

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Presbyterian Heritage Trip to Northern Ireland

Join the Presbyterian Heritage Trip to Northern Ireland this September! Information about the trip can be found here. For more information, please contact Sam Thomas.

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Bookless Book Group, Cancelled

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. In response to the crisis that has unfolded in recent weeks, this event is cancelled for the rest of the month.

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Saving Vision Month

Your donation of old but useful eyeglasses will help many who are in need of vision correction receive a true “twenty-twenty” gift in the year 2020. Donations accepted include prescription glasses, reading glasses, and sunglasses (prescription or plain). Our Bicentennial goal is to collect 200+ pair of glasses. You may drop off your donations in the church office from 9:00 a.m. until noon, Mondays through Fridays.

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The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents Geneva Stonecipher-Overbaugh, Organist, Postponed

The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents Geneva Stonecipher-Overbaugh in an organ recital on Sunday, April 5, 5:00 p.m. Geneva is a member and a former Church Music Intern at First Presbyterian Church, and is completing her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In response to the crisis that has unfolded in recent weeks, this event is postponed to a date to be determined.

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Montreat Women’s Connection Conference, Aug 14-16

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

The dates are August 14-16, 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 this year for lodging and meal arrangements have yet to be determined. We will do our best to keep them as reasonable as possible. Last year 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 the Women’s Connection Conference can be found here!

Please email Carol McKay if you would like to attend. Registration form is available here.

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Messages

Ryan’s Reflections

Dear friends in Christ,

The final scene of the 1984 film Places in the Heart depicts a half-empty sanctuary on a typical Sunday morning. The preacher stands before the congregation and begins to read from 1 Corinthians 13, while at the same time, ushers begin to pass plates of cubed bread and trays with cups of juice among the people. It’s quite clear that the congregation is celebrating Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist.

But something remarkable happens next. The camera zooms in on the plates and trays, and it becomes clear that as the sacrament is being celebrated, the previously half-empty sanctuary is suddenly quite full, almost to overflowing. Each parishioner reverently passes the plates and trays to their neighbor and says to them lovingly, “The peace of God.” In the final shot of the film, two characters who died tragically in the movie’s opening scene are now very much alive, sitting side by side, sharing together the bread and cup.

When we celebrate Communion, I’m often mindful of that closing scene in Places in the Heart and these words from Revelation 7:9 – “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” When we come to the Lord’s Table, there are far more saints gathered around Christ’s table than can be seen with the naked eye.

However, because of age or infirmity, some of our sisters and brothers have a hard time coming to the Lord’s Table. In those cases, the Elders of First Presbyterian Church are bringing the Lord’s Table to them. On the Sundays when we celebrate Communion in morning worship, that same afternoon, pairs of Elders take the bread and the cup to homebound and members in Senior Care Facilities. This is never a “private” celebration of the sacrament, but rather an extension of the church’s corporate worship, remembering that wherever two or more are gathered in Christ’s name, the Lord is always present.

I am grateful to serve alongside such faithful Elders who serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, and I am so very grateful for the ways in which you support the work of the church. When you give to First Presbyterian Church, you’re doing so much more than supporting an operating budget. You’re seeing to it that the marks of the Church show forth clear and true –where the Word of God is rightly preached and heard, the sacraments are rightly administered, and disciples of Jesus Christ are formed and sent into the world. Thank you for all the ways in which you support this ministry, and even more, thank God for you.

Peace be with you and yours,

Ryan, Senior Pastor

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A Message from Carol: Montreat Women’s Connection Conference

Women from First Presbyterian of Athens (and their friends) will attend the Women’s Connection Conference at Montreat the weekend of August 14-16 and invite you to join us! The theme is “Word Wise: Encountering the Word that Draws Us In and Sends Us Out.” The keynoter is Jen Hatmaker. She is a dynamic speaker who is especially popular among younger women. Therefore, it is possible that spaces will fill up fast. So, don’t put off committing to an enjoyable and enriching opportunity with new and old friends. If you’ve never been to Montreat in the NC mountains, now is your chance.

We have reserved the Georgia Lodge, a convenient location for our group to stay together (shared bedrooms and baths). Though the lodging cost has not yet been determined, we hope to keep it well under $100 for the weekend, including breakfast. We are considering options for other meals including taking food and eating in Black Mountain. We will do our best to keep costs as reasonable as possible. Last year we shared the Georgia Lodge with another church. We would like to have enough FPC women sign up to use the entire lodge ourselves this year. To sign up for lodging, follow the link on FPC website home page.

You must register separately for the actual conference here. On the website you will see that the registration cost of $237 before July 3 and $262 after that. If you plan to stay with FPC women at the Georgia Lodge, you will choose the “Conference Only” option. It will guide you through. Although it will look as though you are registering for accommodations, you are not.

If you need any further information, email Carol McKay. Please contact me if you need scholarship help.

Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor

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Music Notes

I found it interesting to learn that the old Celtic calendar is in the form of a circle. We tend to think of our calendars as something flat and rectangular. Whether on our electronic devices or on the printed page, each month is somewhat of a block with beginning and an end. The idea of a circular calendar is that it continuously turns. It is never ending. With the passage of time, seasons eventually cycle back around.

Our liturgical calendar has brought us back around to the season of Lent. I have found the liturgical calendar and the seasons and special days we observe in the church year to be very educational. It helps us understand our story as God’s people. At one Montreat Worship and Music Conference, we focused on the liturgical calendar. We learned that there are two main cycles: the Christmas cycle, and the Easter cycle. Each of those has a time of preparation, a celebration of the event itself, and a time of follow-up and reflection. So, we have had Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Now we have moved to the penitential season of Lent, which will culminate with Holy Week, then we celebrate Easter for a day and a season of fifty days, which will lead us to Pentecost. We also sing some familiar hymns (it wouldn’t be Palm Sunday without “All Glory, Laud, and Honor!”). Some may ask why we need to repeat the same things every year. We’ve heard these stories and sung these hymns before and we know how the story goes. But, at that Montreat conference, I noticed as we read familiar stories that they seemed to sound coincidentally similar to current events in our world. I asked the conference preacher if that was intentional. He told me the scriptures, sermons, and services had all been planned over two years. They didn’t know what would be going to be in the news at the time of our conference.

He also explained that while we hear the same stories repeated, we hear them with new ears each time because we have changed as people by the time these stories come around again. As we hear the old stories during Lent and Easter, let us hear them with new ears.

The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents Geneva Stonecipher in an organ recital on Sunday, April 5, 5:00 p.m. Geneva is a member and a former Church Music Intern at First Presbyterian Church, and is completing her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

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

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Bicentennial Notes

Thank you to John Coble; The Chancel Choir; Ron Bogue, presenter; Dallas Bono, guest soloist; Bulldog Brass Society; and members of The Handbell Choir who performed an outstanding concert on February 16.

Matt Bishop will facilitate two Envisioning the Future sessions to look to the future of First Pres as we move forward into the next 200 years. The first is on Sunday, March 22, when we will have a lunch meeting following the 11:00 a.m. service. This lunch will be a fundraiser for the Puerto Rico Mission Trip. The second opportunity is at the Wednesday@First dinner on March 25.

Madie Fischetti and Mary Attaway have plans to enhance the garden this Spring with additional bulbs and perennials. When you come to the Envisioning sessions bring a start of plants labeled in plastic bags. There will be boxes at the atrium doors. If you have questions, please e-mail Madie.

Diane Adams, Chair

Mission and Outreach Goals:

March * Save Your Vision Month (Goal: 200+ pairs of glasses).
Coordinators: Elaine Thacker and Julie Hayes

April * Earth Day, 4/22 (Goal: Plant 200 perennials or bulbs).
Coordinators: Mary Attaway and Madie Fischetti

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Happy Anniversary Ryan!

On February 11, when Ryan walked into his office, he was greeted with an array of decorated stuffed animals, a colorful umbrella, and a background tapestry of tropical vegetation – a happy welcome by the staff to remind him of his one year anniversary at First Pres. It is hard to believe that it has only been a year, and we look forward to many more to come!

Congratulations, Ryan!!!

FPC Staf
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Stephen Ministry

An important theme of the Lenten season is the humanity of Christ. In Jesus, God became human and fully experienced the wide range of emotions we all encounter in life. Jesus experienced times of loneliness, sadness, hurt, anger, disappointment, grief, and abandonment. That is part of being human. Another part of being human is needing help from each other. God never intended us to be completely self-sufficient. Part of God’s plan is for each of us to turn to others for help when we need it. So when you are experiencing difficult times, don’t struggle alone.

Our Stephen Ministers will walk with you, listen to you, encourage you, pray with you, and provide confidential one-to-one care to help you through tough times. Stephen Ministers can bring the love of Jesus back into your life or the life of someone that you know. Our Stephen Ministry team works with church members and non-members. Stephen Ministers are ready to care for you!

Contact a Stephen Leader for more information:

Bob Frisch: rpfrisch@aol.com, 914-262-1078

Dawn Frisch: dawnmfrisch@aol.com, 914-255-3447

Lisa Oelke: lisakoelke@gmail.com, 706-540-4251

Carol Strickland: cstrickland@firstpresathens.org, 706-765-7671

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Puerto Rico Mission Trip Update

Last month Rob and Susan Haire travelled to Puerto Rico. They arrived the same morning as the 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the southern part of the island and flew out later that week just after another earthquake struck. During their visit they were able
to spend a day with Ashley Wright, Founder of Taino Volunteers, in the region where we will be serving this summer (May 31 – June 6). Rob shared, “the people of Puerto Rico want and need our help – physically, but as importantly – emotionally and spiritually. They feel like they are “on their own.” Our presence will be such a shot in the arm for them! They are welcoming and look forward to our visit!”

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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:

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
Festival of Lessons & Carols and Holiday Benevolence Market, December 15
Live Nativity, December 10
Christmas Pageant & Dinner, December 8

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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

Directions
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