Important Events and Messages
Prayers for Healing
Meets every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Members and friends gather in the sanctuary to pray for needs in the congregation and beyond.
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Holiday Benevolence Market, December 16, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
This year’s Holiday Benevolence Market will be back in our Fellowship Hall. Come visit the nearly 30 local non-profit agencies that will have booths set up so you can learn more about the great work being done in our community.
For 24 years, the Holiday Benevolence Market has provided a way to give symbolic gifts to friends and families while helping non-profit agencies continue their work.
For those who want to shop early, “shopping lists” will be available in the Narthex and church office.
Denise Horton, Mission & Outreach Commission
A Festival of Lessons and Carols, December 16, 8:45 & 11:00 a.m.
This special service will include Advent and Christmas carols led by the Chancel Choir and Celebration Singers with guest instrumentalists.
Christmas Joy Offering, December 23
“Every generous act of giving…is from above.” James 1:17 Christmas is a time for giving in the spirit of Christ. Giving to this annual special offering assists church workers in their time of need and students in their time of promise. Please be generous on December 23.
Christmas Eve Services, December 24
We will have our traditional Christmas Eve services with the child-friendly service at 4:00 p.m. and candlelight services at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Please plan to join us on this most holy of nights as we celebrate the birth of our savior.
Called Congregational Meeting, January 6, 11 a.m.
The Session has called a Congregational meeting for January 6 to act on a recommendation from the Pastor Nominating Committee. There will be one worship service at 10:00 a.m. with the meeting immediately following the service. A brochure with information about the Senior Pastor/Head of Staff candidate to be presented by the PNC will be available on January 6.
Mardi Gras Mission Gala, March 3
Can you donate an item, service, or experience for the silent auction at our Mardi Gras Mission Gala next March? Maybe a treasure in your attic, an hour of professional services, cooking for a dinner party, or a weekend at your vacation home? Donation forms are online and in the church office.
Christmas Pageants are a wonderful way to tell the story of the season!
I’ve seen my share of them over the course of my ministry, and long before I wore a minister’s robe, I wore the costume robes for many a Christmas Pageant.
I was tall for my age, and I was ‘type-cast’ as Joseph. I guess I looked serious enough to pass for a righteous Joseph!
Always Joseph…never a Wise Man. I sure envied those silky robes and sequined crowns that the Wise Men wore. I just stood there silently jealous on the inside as they made a big show of presenting their glitzy gifts. They looked so cool; all I had was my father’s faded terry-cloth robe!
I am reminded of this every Advent season as we get so stressed out and wrapped up in all the personal pageantry and glamor and glitz of our Christmas.
We become so focused on making sure everything is perfectly in place for us that we forget who and what the story is all about. We become so wrapped up in our Christmas story that we neglect the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths.
Let us remember that that we come to the season with our gifts and our songs, our pageants and our Christmas memories, all to stand around a manger in a stable, to worship and celebrate, to rejoice in the birth of the Christ child.
I pray God’s blessings for you this Advent season.
Thanks and blessings,
Bruce Lancaster, Interim Senior Pastor
A Message from Carol: Incarnation
Christmas is all about incarnation, God “now in flesh appearing,” as we sing in the carol. Flesh is messy. Flesh is painful. Flesh is vulnerable. Just ask Mary, who gave birth in a barn. Or any woman who has given birth, even in a modern hospital. Or any human being, for that matter. The human experience is messy, painful, and vulnerable. God becoming one of us is a profoundly radical move on God’s part. Beneath all the tinsel and eggnog, this is what we celebrate: a drooling baby swaddled in a feed trough, a man weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus, a convict executed by the Roman state. In the very human Jesus we see the fulfillment of God’s love and desire to be present and living among us, complete with all its blood, sweat, and tears.We see God’s compassion em-bodied.
Paul came up with a striking turn of phrase for the church. He called it the “body of Christ.” Hence, Christians continue to embody divine love as we are compassionate toward others. When life’s slings and arrows assault our flesh and our spirit, the church is present not just with comforting words but food (think soup kitchens), medicine (think medical missions), and shelter (think programs like Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens). In the wake of hurricanes this fall, members of this congregation gave $500 to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (as well as many members who contributed directly to PDA), $3,000 to relief efforts in Flint River (GA) Presbytery, and through members of the New Voices Sunday School class, approximately $2,200 to West New Bern (NC) Presbyterian Church for its ministry to those devastated by Hurricane Michael. In these and so many other ways, we are embodying the love of God in very tangible terms.
Christmas grace and peace,
Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
I wrote earlier about this past summer’s Worship and Music Conference at Montreat, “Sacraments and Seasons,” in which we were led through the liturgical seasons. Going through the liturgical calendar, the story of God’s people is read or told and heard. We repeat our story (as we should), year after year. At Montreat, I was particularly struck by the Advent and Christmas stories, with Mary and Joseph, poor refugees fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt for their lives and the life of their child. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities with current events. When I asked the conference preacher about this, he made a good point. He said we read these same familiar stories every year. The stories don’t change but we change, and we hear the stories from a new perspective.
The Advent/Christmas season brings traditions that many of us love. Music of the season is particularly meaningful. It brings memories, hopefully good, and it brings comfort and beauty into our lives. We are living in troubled times. Recently we celebrated Armistice Day, the anniversary of the cessation of hostility in World War I in 1918. A great Christmas tradition, Lessons and Carols, was started at King’s College in 1918 by a former chaplain who had served in World War I. People then were living in troubled times, dealing with grief over the thousands who died in that war. Many felt their faith shaken. That former chaplain, Eric Milner-White, wrote of Lessons and Carols, “the main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God, from the Creation to the Incarnation.”
My hope is that the music we make in this church during this season will offer hope and comfort to all. As Edmund Hamilton Sears wrote in It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, “And you, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing: O, rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.”
Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the Glory),
John Coble, Director of Music and Organist
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Holiday Meals on Wheels
Every Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day volunteers from First Presbyterian Church deliver nutritional meals to homebound seniors. By assisting on these days, we allow year-long volunteers to take a break during the holiday season. FPC also pays for the meals on these three days. The cost is generally around $1,000. Volunteers meet at the Council on Aging at 10:00 a.m. The routes take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
If you are interested in delivering meals, please contact Sally Vandiver or contact the church office at 706- 543-4338. Since this is a popular family event, please be sure to sign up early as the slots fill quickly.
Donations can be made by writing a check to First Presbyterian with “Meals on Wheels Holiday Donation” noted on the bottom.
Commitment Sunday Update: Stories of Generosity
The early responses to Commitment Sunday were very good. Thank you to everyone who has already pledged.
There are still a number of members from whom we hope to hear. It will help our Sessions plan the 2019 budget if we can receive commitment cards prior to year-end. You may turn in your pledge in the offering plate on Sunday, in the church office, or online. Additional commitment cards are available in the Narthex or in the church office. Thank you for prayerfully considering your pledge as we share our stories with Athens and the world!
Thank you to Yamini Pulusu, who has just completed one and a half years with us as our Website Technician. During her time at FPC she was invaluable in the maintenance of our website. Yamini also implemented much of our new emphasis on Facebook. We congratulate her on her graduation from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia with a degree in Management Information Systems. She will begin a position in January as a consultant at Manhattan Associates in Atlanta.
Pavani Gadde joined us in November as our Website Technician. She is currently in her fourth year at the University of Georgia seeking a degree in Management Information Systems and Finance. Pavani grew up in India and moved to the United States in the fourth grade. She loves to hike, look for new places to eat, and spend time with her family.
The very successful term of First Presbyterian IHNA Co-Coordinators Patty Whiten and Michelle Clendenen- Shaw will be coming to a close at the end of December. They have coordinated eight successful weeks hosting a total of 24 IHNA families over the past two years and have facilitated the efforts of an average of 70 volunteers for each week.
We thank them for a job well done and for the time and effort they put forth on behalf of FPC. They contributed to the improvement of the lives of these families and the Athens community. Thank you, Patty and Michelle!
Susan Boatwright and Frank Sherrill, Incoming IHNA Co-Coordinators
Our Church Family
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: