Important Events and Messages
MLK Day/Month of Service and FPC Bicentennial Initiative
As part of our Bicentennial celebration, we have an initiative each month in 2020 to recognize our 200 years as a church. We will kick off these initiatives in January by looking to our congregation to collectively pledge 200 hours of work during the month towards service projects in honor of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and our bicentennial. There are several ways to help us reach our goal of 200 pledged hours. We will be volunteering at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia on Tuesday, January 14 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and at Project Safe Thrift Store on MLK Day from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can also find ACC sponsored projects here.Once you have a project and your pledge hours established, please use this link to register your project and hours pledged. For more information, please contact Rob Haire or (706) 201-6530.
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Prayers for Healing
Prayers for Healing now meets on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary.
Chair Yoga, Wednesdays 4:30 p.m.
Chair Yoga meets on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. in Room 310. The cost per class is $10. Come, enjoy gentle stretching.
2020-2021 Weekday School Registration, Begins January 13
Our Weekday School Registration for Fall 2020 begins on January 13, with community registration the following week. Anyone wishing to schedule a tour should email our Director, Elaine Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration forms are found in the WDS lobby or online at firstpresathens.org. Our Weekday School serves ages 3 months through 5 years. Note: In previous years, classes have been full with waitlist on the first day of registration. Early is definitely best! Questions? Please contact Elaine at (706) 206-8180.
Annual Martin Luther King Ecumenical Service, January 19 5:00 p.m.
The Athens Area Human Relations Council, Inc., in partnership with Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens Presents an Ecumenical Service Commemorating the Life & Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All are invited to join our Athens friends and neighbors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (165 Pulaski St.) where the Honorable Judge Patricia Barron will deliver the keynote message to the attendees.
Project Safe Work Day, January 20
Please join our team from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. sorting clothes and other items for sale to benefit victims of domestic violence. To volunteer or for questions contact Kitty Donnan. The Project Safe Thrift Store is located in the Bell’s Shopping Center, 955 Hawthorne Ave.
Our Daily Bread, January 21
A team from FPC buys, prepares, and serves lunch to our neighbors in need on the first Wednesday of each month at First Baptist Church. In January, our congregation will begin serving breakfast once a month on the third Tuesday of each month. For details and to help with lunch on January 1, please contact Ann Dunn or Fran Lane.To help with breakfast on January 21, please contact Patty Whiten or (678) 371-1757.
Bookless Book Group, January 8 and January 22
A group of women meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month to enjoy lunch and conversation. We meet at a variety of restaurants and invite anyone interested to join us. Our next meetings will be:
January 8 – Peking, 2725 Atlanta Highway
January 22 – Chops & Hops, 2 South Main St, #112, Watkinsville
Annual Congregational Meeting & Lunch, Jan 26, 12:00 p.m.
Please join us for our Annual Congregational Meeting & Lunch on Sunday, January 26. We will receive the Annual Report, Treasurer’s Report, 2020 Budget, and elect members at large to serve on the Nominations and Elections Committee. There is no charge for lunch, but reservations are requested online or in the church office by January 22.
Red Cross Blood Drive, Feb 9, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Sign up in the Atrium, reserve an appointment at redcrossblood.org (sponsor code AFPC), or contact the church office. In celebration of FPC Bicentennial, our goal is to reach 31 units of blood, one for each founding member and former FPC Minister. Please join us in the Fellowship Hall Break Out Area and help save a life!
The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents “Through the Church the Song Goes On”, Feb 16, 4:00 p.m.
Join us for a musical celebration of the bicentennial of First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Georgia. Led by FPC Chancel Choir with special guests.
Dear friends in Christ,
The choir loft was filled at both services as the Celebration Singers, the Chancel Choir, and members of the Handbell Choir led our annual Service of Lessons and Carols under the direction of Dr. John Coble. One of the singers was born in 1928, and just a few seats away was a singer born in 2008, and together, they sang praises to God. The nine lesson readers ranged in age from 10 to 84, and together, they faithfully proclaimed the story of God’s salvation history.
In between services, I passed through Children’s Ministry Suite where children and adults were gathering to engage the story of God’s love in Godly Play. I passed through the nursery to the sound of giggling toddlers, and I made my way upstairs to Fellowship Hall, where over 20 different mission partners in our Athens community were on hand for our 25th Holiday Benevolence Market. After I browsed for alternative Christmas gifts, I enjoyed some delicious treats alongside members and friends of our adult Sunday School classes.
That evening, I gathered in the Moses Waddel Room with the Session and the men and women you elected to serve as Elders in the coming years as the Elders-elect shared their personal statements of faith. It was a powerful time of testimony and preparation for leadership in the church.
After the Session meeting, we gathered in the Sanctuary for the Service of the Longest Night. We sang, we prayed, we lit candles, and we held one another in the light of God’s love. Just as the service was concluding, I encountered one of our youth in the narthex. He and a guest had been at the youth Christmas party in the PIT, and he was proudly giving his friend a tour of his church. As I made a final walk through the building before I left for the night, a support group was just beginning their meeting in one of the upstairs classrooms, sharing with each other their experience, strength, and hope.
All of the events above happened on just one Sunday in December 2019. As First Presbyterian Church begins our 200th year of mission and ministry, I am mindful that none of this would have happened without your generous financial support. When you give to First Presbyterian Church, you’re supporting more than a budget. You’re creating a community where an 11-year-old and a 91-year-old can lift their voices in praise together, where the seeds of faith in children are tended with thoughtful pedagogy, where youth find a place of nurture and welcome, where spiritual leaders are formed and empowered, where the truth of the gospel is proclaimed, and where the love of Christ is shared with Athens and the world.
Thank you for all of the vital ways in which you support this ministry. Every day, your gifts are making a difference for the cause of Christ in Athens and beyond. But even more, thank God for you. May God continue to bless you and yours in the year to come.
Peace be with you and yours,
Ryan, Senior Pastor
A Message from Carol: Something To Celebrate
Two hundred is a big number. The Romans wrote it as CC. Thanks to the Arabic invention of the zero, we write it as 200. If you are counting your fingers and toes, you’d have to count them each ten times to equal two hundred.
On Christmas Day, 2020, First Presbyterian Church will be 200 years old! We will be celebrating this fact for this whole year. Our republic was only 44 years old when The Rev. Moses Waddel and twenty-one charter members began this congregation. I wonder if they could have possibly imagined the impact of their faithful action on so many people over the years or envision what church would be like in 2020.
Could Moses have visualized our service live-streamed on Facebook? Our teenagers at Montreat doing “energizers” to popular songs? Or a team of members flying to Puerto Rico for a mission trip? Perhaps not.
After all, can we predict what shape First Presbyterian might take in the year 2220?
But what has been constant over the past two centuries and will be for the generations to come are the so-called great ends of the church: the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth, the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.
Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
“Christmas Joy” by Howard Thurman
When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky has withdrawn, When the kings see their prophesy rightly fulfilled, When the princes and shepherds have gone; Then the true work of Christmas begins. To find the lost, To heal the broken hearts, To feed the hungry, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among all brothers, To make music in the heart.
Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the Glory),
John Coble, Director of Music and Organist
Updates on John Kipp
December 18, 2019
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks to God for the life of Dr. John Lewis Kipp, who died and joined the Church Triumphant on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. A Service of Witness to the Resurrection in John’s honor will be held on Friday, December 27, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, with a reception to follow in Fellowship Hall. Dr. Ryan Baer and Dr. Carol Strickland will preside.
The family will receive family and friends at Bernstein Funeral Home, 3195 Atlanta Hwy., Athens, GA on Thursday, December 26, 2019 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Bernstein Funeral Home is charge of arrangements.
Words of condolence may be sent to Mrs. Sara Kipp, 180 Keese Lane, Fair Play, SC 29643-2339, to Dr. Katherine Kipp, 1110 Jeremy Drive, Watkinsville, GA 30677, and to Rachel Hollifield, 2466 Foxy Drive, Bethlehem, GA 30620.
Please keep the Kipp family in your prayers during their time of loss.
A Message from Carol: A Heavenly Visit with the Kipps
On September 12, about thirty First Presbyterians wearing red shirts were welcomed by John and Sara Kipp into their home for a musical pastoral visit. The group, led by our Director of Music John Coble, was comprised of members of The Mellows plus others from our Sunday morning choir and one off-key interloper (me). Beginning with old-time gospel hymns like “The Church in the Wildwood,” then Tin Pan Alley tunes like “Hello! Ma Baby,” followed by patriotic songs like “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and ending with “Auld Lang Syne,” we encircled John and Sarah with a wreath of melody and friendship. What might have been a concert was actually a sing-along. John and Sara are regulars with The Mellows. For years, they have donned their red polo shirts every Thursday and stood alongside others serenading folks at senior centers in and around Athens. So, they knew the songs. John, who has become a man of few words since the onset of his brain cancer, sang every syllable of every song.
That evening my husband Jack remarked to me, “That was certainly a cloud of witnesses today.” (see Hebrews 12:1.) How true! We were there on behalf of the whole church testifying together in song to our faith, hope, and love. We were the communion of saints, saints marching in (as we sang so heartily) to heaven.
The heavenly streets of gold and gates of pearl described in Revelation don’t do much for me. But there’s lots of singing in the afterlife, according to that vision. And I’m willing to bet that at least some of the singers will be robed in red shirts.
Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
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
Godspeed Laura McHugh!
We give thanks this month for the good and faithful ministry of Laura McHugh, who retires after ten years of service to First Presbyterian Church as our Accountant. Laura plans to spend more time with her husband, her sons, and their families, one of which is expecting a new addition in 2020! Not only has Laura’s accounting work been impeccable, but she has served the church with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, and she will be sorely missed. Laura’s last day in the office is December 5, but if you’d like to send expressions of gratitude for her service, you may mail them to her at 1220 Nona Dr., Athens, 30606.
Family Promise Of Athens (Formerly IHNA)
Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped with the November host week for Family Promise and those who have served throughout the year. Your help to the 11 families hosted in 2019 was invaluable. Your efforts allowed them the opportunity to get on their feet and most are now living in their own apartment, working, and doing well. THANK YOU! Our 2020 host week kicks off on March 22. If you are interested in volunteering, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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,
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:
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
Atrium Refreshments, November 17
Thanksgiving Food Bag Sunday, December 8
Blessing of the Animals, September 28
Fellowship@First: Picnic with UGA Redcoat Band, September 20
Fall Kickoff Brunch, August 18
Senior Adult Sunday, July 28
Isaac Toney, Guest Preacher, June 30
Vacation Bible School: May 28 – May 29 – May 31