…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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Angel Tree

Will you be someone’s angel this year? There will be a special Salvation Army Angel Tree in Fellowship Hall November 8 – December 8. Please consider purchasing Christmas gifts for one or more of the 150 Salvation Army “angels” (infant –12-year-old child) selected by our church. Detailed instructions are available when you select your “angel.” All gifts are due December 12.

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Thornwell Special Offering, November 24

Thornwell has been helping children and families all across South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida since 1875. Today, Thornwell continues its long history by offering a foster care program and other family and educational support programs. It provides safe and loving homes for children in need, offers hope for a brighter future through education and community-based programs, and encourages wholeness and healing with counseling and support. Kids, stuff your Thanksgiving Turkeys and, adults, give generously to the Special Offering for Thornwell the Sunday before Thanksgiving, November 24.

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Interfaith Thanksgiving Worship, November 24, 4:00 p.m.

All are invited to join our Athens friends and neighbors in the Meeting House at Piedmont College 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.

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Casa de Amistad Baskets

Please help provide low-income Hispanic families with food for a special Christmas meal. Last year First Pres members provided traditional Christmas food for over 100 families. You may write a check to FPC for $40.00 marked, “Casa Baskets” by December 2 and the shopping will be done for you! Or fill a laundry basket, large bucket, or other reusable container with the items listed here. Baskets are due to the church by December 8. Gracias!

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Holiday Meals on Wheels Drivers Needed

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 135 Hoyt St. at 10:00 a.m. The routes take 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

If you are interested in delivering meals, or in making a donation to help pay for the meals on these 3 dates, please contact Sally Vandiver at sally.vandiver@gmail.com 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.

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Project Safe Work Day

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.

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Christmas Pageant and Dinner, December 8, 5:00 p.m.

Everyone is invited to embrace the true meaning of Christmas as told by our children. The pageant will begin at 5:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary and will be followed by dinner in Fellowship Hall. Donations will be gratefully accepted; reservations for dinner are requested on the fellowship pad, via website, or by calling the church office.

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Ryan’s Reflections

Dear friends in Christ,

Last month, at a benefit for Presbyterian Homes of Georgia, I had the honor and privilege of meeting Dr. Charles Hasty, who served as the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church from 1973 to 1994. Also in attendance was Dr. Glenn Doak, who served as Senior Pastor from 1996 to 2016. Both of these men have been so kind and encouraging to me, and I am so deeply thankful for their faithful stewardship of this congregation’s ministry over so many decades of service.

On a Tuesday morning last month, the church staff took a quick trip up to Lake Hartwell to visit Dr. John Kipp, who served First Presbyterian Church in a number of capacities from 2003 until this past summer, when unexpected health challenges moved him to “early retirement” at the age of 82. When we sang the Doxology for our lunch blessing, John joined right in with his beautiful baritone voice and flashed that million-watt grin.

I have been thinking about these three men and the legacy of faith that they represent. I am so thankful for the ways in which they have served the church of Jesus Christ with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.

But even more, I have been thinking about you, and about how thankful I am for the ways in which you practice faithful stewardship of the gifts God has entrusted to you. Dr. Hasty, Dr. Doak, Dr. Kipp, and their families are all beneficiaries of your generosity, because when you give to First Presbyterian Church, you enable the church to make contributions to the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Your faithful gifts see to it that retired clergy and their families have a secure lifetime income from a defined benefit pension plan, supplemental health insurance, and more.

When you give to First Presbyterian Church, your contributions enable us to provide health insurance, life and disability coverage, and pension benefits for all full-time employees. Your gifts are making a vital difference in the lives of so many who have answered God’s call to ministry, both in the past and the present. Thank you for your continued faithful generosity, and even more, thank God for you.

Peace be with you and yours,
Ryan, Senior Pastor

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A Message from Carol: Tell Me the Old, Old Story

Beginning this fall, our Bible texts for Sunday sermons are drawn from a four-year cycle of readings called the Narrative Lectionary. From September through May each year the texts follow the sweep ofnthe biblical story, from Creation through the early Christian church, revealing the breadth and variety of voices within Scripture. During summertime, we will have a break from narrative sermon texts and explore other genres in scripture.

You may have noticed that the readings are much longer than usual in order to give worshipers more of the biblical narrative and hence a deeper appreciation for the overarching story. I must say that a typical ten-verse reading was already very challenging for me as a preacher since biblical narratives though sparsely told are amazingly dense in the number of themes touched upon. So, tackling these long passages in a 17-minute sermon is like being at a church potluck supper with only a saucer-sized plate.

If you would like the chance to examine these long narrative passages in more depth, please feel free to attend the Josephine Payne Bible Study. Twice a month (on the second and fourth Thursday) anyone interested is welcome to join us at 10:00 a.m. in the staff conference room to study the narrative text for the upcoming Sunday’s sermon. You can come once, or every time. We profess that the Bible is God’s Word, and indeed it does speak, if you are listening.

For more about the Narrative Lectionary, please see WorkingPreacher.com.
Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor

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Music Notes

November brings days that are meaningful to me. All Saints’, when we remember those who have died over the last year, (and years past), and Thanksgiving. Both cause us to look back and give thanks for our blessings, including the people in our lives. That can be bittersweet. It also brings a question to my mind: how do we fill the void left when someone is no longer with us? We can’t replace people. God made us unique individuals. But when someone has served in a role, singing in a choir for example, when they are no longer there, who will take up the mantle? Who in the next generation will step to fill the role?

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my father died. He always sat at the head of the table and said the blessing before the meal. I was the last one out of the kitchen, and walking into the dining room, I saw all seats were taken but one, my father’s at the head of the table. I couldn’t begin to imagine filling his shoes. Feeling unworthy, I had no choice but to take the seat. Everyone turned to me to say the blessing. I don’t remember what I said but I do remember the lump in my throat the size of a turkey. Somehow, I got through it. It’s not easy, but work must be carried on. We must continue to sow and reap.

To the singing of the harvest-song goes the life of a year, or of all the years – the summer that is gone, the winter that is coming; the ones who have sown but are not here to reap; the ones who will sow when the reapers that are have been forgotten; the Good Being who makes the sun shine and the corn ripen. There may be the breath of a sigh in that song, but there is also in it a whole storm of rapture. Gladness must come to its own some time; for the sorrows, there are all the times. To the harvest-field go we, then, for life as it ought to be. The sickle is fate, the hand that holds it is ours, for once we will be the conqueror.
Cut we down a sorrow here and a pain there, bind them, and make them our slaves. (Kenneth McLoud, The Road to the Isles)

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

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

October 30, 2019

The Congregational Care Commission has a Meal Train scheduled through December 14. 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:

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 28May 29May 31

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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

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