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

Important Events and Messages


Limited in-person worship registration

If you would like to join us for a limited in-person worship on Sunday, April 11, click here (link will be live on Monday, April 5 at 9:00 a.m). Alternatively, you can contact the church office at (706) 543-4338 and we will add you to the list.

Please make sure to read the additional instructions that are posted on the website. If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk for severe complications from the virus, we encourage you to stay home and join us via Facebook or YouTube.

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Limited in-person worship to resume November 8

Dear friends in Christ,

The session has been closely monitoring the latest available public health data and relying upon recommendations from our own COVID-19 Task Force. Based on the latest available information, the session has approved a plan for resuming in-person worship on a limited basis beginning Sunday, November 8.

It’s important to note that Governor Kemp’s public health emergency orders remain in effect statewide, and until the emergency passes, in-person worship will necessarily be different. The current plans are as follows:

  • Anyone who is feeling ill, has been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days, or is considered to be at high-risk from adverse effects of COVID-19 should continue participating in the life of the church online until the public health emergency has passed.
  • Governor Kemp’s latest emergency orders limit indoor gatherings to a capacity of 50, and while religious organizations are exempt from this limit, we will abide by it. Should there be high demand for in-person worship in the month of November, the session will consider adjusting the schedule for December.
  • Each week, online registration for in-person worship will open at 9:00 a.m. on the prior Monday morning and will close at 10:00 a.m. on the prior Saturday morning. Every attendee must pre-register.
  • All persons except for infants and toddlers are required to wear a mask over the nose and mouth while on church property. (Worship leaders may be exempt from this policy at the discretion of the Senior Pastor.)
  • Children of all ages are welcome, but nursery care and children’s church are suspended until the public health emergency has passed.
  • While the parking decks along Dougherty Street will be open, all attendees must enter and exit the church through the Hancock Avenue entrance, where greeters will check in your party and conduct temperature checks.
  • While on church property, all persons are required to practice appropriate physical distancing from anyone who is not a member of their immediate household. To ensure appropriate distancing, the balcony and some pews will be closed.
  • In-person attendees are asked to refrain from singing and participating in responsive readings.

We close with these words of encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be know to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

May the peace of Christ be with you and yours,

The Session of First Presbyterian Church of Athens

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Spring 2021 Pastoral Letter from Dr. Ryan Baer

April 2021

Dear friends in Christ,

In April 1970, a Saturn V rocket carrying three American astronauts was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, bound for the surface of the moon. Halfway through the journey, the spacecraft suffered an emergency that required the crew to shut off all power to have any chance at a safe return to the earth. A few days later, the craft was approaching the earth’s atmosphere, and the mission controllers and the crew had to work creatively and carefully to restore the power to each system in the correct sequence at the correct time. An error in the sequencing and timing of the restart could have resulted in disaster even with the landing zone in view. The name of the mission was Apollo 13, and it was dramatized in a movie by the same name.

It appears that we are finally approaching the end of the pandemic, for which all of us give thanks to God. A little over a year ago, seemingly every institution across the world shut down or severely curtailed their operations in response to a global health emergency. However, every institution has had to determine their own procedures for a restart, and the sequence and timing varies greatly from one to another.

Our FPC COVID-19 Task Force of Matt Crim, Denise Laboon, Lawton Stephens, Sarah Bryan, Roger Burbage, Carol Strickland, and Elaine Johnson continues to monitor all the latest guidance from local, state, and federal officials and to make recommendations to the Session regarding any possible changes to our protocols. As the “landing zone” of the pandemic comes into view, please be in prayer for this group and for the elders and staff of the church. We are navigating issues that have only come up about once a century in the 200-year history of our church, and your prayers, encouragement, and patience are coveted by us all.

Let us all remember the words of the letter to the Ephesians, which exhort us to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph: 4:1b-3)

Peace be with you and yours,

Dr. Ryan Baer
Senior Pastor

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Livestream Calendar

Upcoming services:

April 11 – Luke 24:13-35 – Dr. Carol Strickland, “The Road to Emmaus”
2nd Sunday of Easter
Service will be live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube. For instructions on how to follow services through our Facebook page, click here. For YouTube, click here. To join in-person, click here.

April 18 – Luke 24:36-43 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “What’s for Supper?”
3rd Sunday of Easter

April 25 – Luke 24:44-53 – FPC Athens Youth
Youth Sunday, 4th Sunday of Easter

May 2 – Acts 1:1-11 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Witnesses”
5th Sunday of Easter, Communion Sunday, Scottish Reformation Sunday

May 9 – Acts 1:12-14 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Together”
6th Sunday of Easter, Mothers’ Day

May 16 – Acts 1:15-26 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Sometimes Ministry Chooses You”
7th Sunday of Easter

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

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Spring@First Worship Schedule

April 11 – Luke 24:13-35 – Dr. Carol Strickland, “The Road to Emmaus”
2nd Sunday of Easter

April 18 – Luke 24:36-43 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “What’s for Supper?”
3rd Sunday of Easter

April 25 – Luke 24:44-53 – FPC Athens Youth
Youth Sunday, 4th Sunday of Easter

May 2 – Acts 1:1-11 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Witnesses”
5th Sunday of Easter, Communion Sunday, Scottish Reformation Sunday

May 9 – Acts 1:12-14 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Together”
6th Sunday of Easter, Mothers’ Day

May 16 – Acts 1:15-26 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Sometimes Ministry Chooses You”
7th Sunday of Easter

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

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“Sunday Conversations” will resume on April 18

Join Dr. Ryan Baer for “Sunday Conversations” as we reflect on the morning worship service and take a deeper dive into the Bible texts read and proclaimed from the pulpit.

Sundays at 11:30 a.m. (Sunday Conversations will resume on April 18)
Zoom ID: 706-543-4338 – Password: 185185
Led by Dr. Ryan Baer

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Josephine Paine Bible Study

The Josephine Paine Bible Study will begin January 14 and meet 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. on 2nd and 4th Thursdays via Zoom (ID: 706 543 4338, PW 185185). The scripture passage for each class will be the same text addressed by the upcoming Sunday’s sermon. These passages are all from the Gospel of Luke and follow the “Narrative Lectionary.” Carol Strickland will lead the study which is open to all.

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Chair Yoga

Join Mel Berzack for a Yoga practice via Zoom on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. You will need a practical chair (preferably no arm rests or side restrictions) and (if you have one) a mat for a small amount of standing poses. The practice will be around one hour-long. All are welcome.
Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. via Zoom
Zoom ID: 558-324-3907 (New PW: 6136)

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Downtown Prayer Walk

This Holy Week you are invited to participate in a prayer walk through downtown Athens, GA. We have adapted the spiritual practice of walking, pausing and praying the Stations of the Cross. Our stations, however, are fourteen stops around our city where Jesus surely weeps and where our compassion and prayers are needed. Palms and printed copies of the prayer map will be available outside the church office or you can print your prayer walk handout here. Click here to participate in a virtual prayer walk.

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One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS), Easter Special Offering

This week we continue to receive the OGHS special offering. The three programs it supports are Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and Self-Development of People. These all work in different ways to serve individuals and communities in need. From initial disaster response to ongoing community development, they provide people with safety, sustenance, and hope. To make a donation, please mail your check to the church office with “One Great Hour of Sharing” noted on the bottom, or go to firstpresathens.org/home/giving/ (please select “General Fund” under “Select a Fund,” and in the optional memo write “One Great Hour of Sharing”).

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Books for Keeps Book Drive

Since 2009, Books for Keeps has given more than half a million books to children from low-income families in grades Pre-K through 12. FPC has become a large supporter of Books for Keeps with our annual book drive (due to COVID-19, we had to cancel in 2020). You can help make sure no child in our community goes a summer without great books to read. Please bring your used books to the bins in the Atrium or church office. Books of all kinds will be accepted, then sold by Books for Keeps with proceeds used to buy new children’s books. To learn more about the organization, click here. Thank you!

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Our Daily Bread

Volunteers (ages 18-70) needed to prepare lunch for those in need on the 1st Wednesday of the month. We also have a team (ages 18-70) to fix and distribute breakfast on 2nd and 4th Tuesdays. Safety protocols will be used. Contact Patty Whiten at 678-371-1757 to help with breakfast, and Fran Lane (706-543-1074) to help with lunch.

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Montreat Women’s Connection Conference

In hopes that enough of us will be vaccinated by the end of summer to make a gathering possible, Montreat is planning its 2021 Women’s Connection Conference.

Those of us who attended the Women’s Connection Conference at Montreat in 2018 and 2019 found it so stimulating and rewarding that we are planning to do it again.

The dates are August 13 – 15, 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 of the conference registration is $237 before June 28 and $262 after. The cost of lodging and meal arrangements have yet to be determined. We will do our best to keep them as reasonable as possible. In 2019 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 and registration for the Women’s Connection Conference can be found at https://montreat.org/events/wc2021.

Please email Carol McKay at carol_mckay@att.net if you would like to attend. Click here for a flyer with additional information, and click here to register if you are interested in staying at the Georgia Lodge.

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Family Promise of Athens Volunteers Needed, April 4-11

The upcoming Family Promise Host Week for FPC is April 4-11. The families will be at the Milledge Avenue Baptist Church static site. There are multiple preventive measures in place to keep everyone safe and socially-distanced. If you are interested in volunteering, sign up here or contact Susan Boatwright or Jean Bock.

New volunteers need to complete an online training/orientation. Click here for a virtual tour of Milledge Avenue Baptist Church.

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Bereavement Group

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) Are you doing the hard work of processing grief following the death of a loved one? Let us walk that road together. We are mindful that bereavement has been uniquely challenging for those whose loved ones have died amidst the pandemic. We also know there is no neat timeline for processing grief, so we welcome all who grieve, no matter how long it has been. If you are interested in receiving additional group/individual support in processing such a loss, please contact Rev. Margaret Davis. Once we know who is interested, we’ll consult together on the ideal format, via some combination of phone, zoom, and socially distanced masked outdoor visits.

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I am excited and grateful for the sabbatical leave the Session approved for me this summer. In his book, Planning Sabbaticals: A Guide for Congregations and Their Pastors, Robert C. Saler states that a pastoral sabbatical is “an extended period of time in which the pastor is away from the congregation pursuing a variety of intentionally renewing activities.” (p. 4). He contrasts pastoral sabbaticals, which are about regaining energy and focus and connection to inner spiritual resources, with academic sabbaticals which are product-oriented (like writing a book or undertaking research).

Alas, the pandemic has clipped my initial plan to travel to Iona, Scotland. That trip will have to wait for another time. Instead, my base camp will be our new mountain house in Meadows of Dan, located in beautiful, rural, southwestern Virginia. I have planned excursions to visit family and friends and enrolled in classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. Also, I hope to draw and paint, tapping into the creativity the Great Creator calls forth, as well as enjoy Nature, God’s marvelous creation, plus read some good books.

I will be away from First Presbyterian June 7 – September 7. What a loving gift! Many heartfelt thanks to the congregation and staff for this time of renewal.

Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor

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21 Day Challenge

Feeling overwhelmed with the state of our world? Unsure how to help? Don’t know where to start? You are invited to participate in a 21 Day Challenge to raise your awareness of race, power, and privilege. You will be introduced to voices and perspectives different than your own through articles, videos, and podcasts. Each day you will choose one way of engagement and reflect in a journal. From the countless resources available, we have pulled together a list of 50 options, with additional resources listed at the bottom of the site. For more information and to sign up, visit sites.google.com/view/fpcathenspit/21- day-challenge.

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Resources for Such a Time as This

Reconciliation:  The Heart of the Gospel
What Our Church Affirms

In the Presbyterian Church (USA) we are guided by our confessions, i,e, historical statements of faith which make up part of our constitution.  Below are excerpts from “The Confession of 1967”* which speak to and for us in this current time.

In each time and place, there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act. The church, guided by the Spirit, humbled by its own complicity and instructed by all attainable knowledge, seeks to discern the will of God and learn how to obey in these concrete situations. The following are particularly urgent at the present time.

God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, God overcomes the barriers between sisters and brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all people to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.

God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ embraces the whole of human life: social and cultural, economic and political, scientific and technological, individual and corporate. It includes the natural environment as exploited and despoiled by sin. It is the will of God that the divine purpose for human life shall be fulfilled under the rule of Christ and all evil be banished from creation.

Biblical visions and images of the rule of Christ, such as a heavenly city, the household of God, a new heaven and earth, a marriage feast, and an unending day culminate in the image of the kingdom. The kingdom represents God’s triumph over all that resists the divine will and disrupts God’s creation. Already God’s reign is present as a ferment in the world, stirring hope in all people, and preparing the world to receive its ultimate judgment and redemption.

With an urgency born of this hope, the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God.

*Sections 9.43, 9.44, 9.53, 9.54, 9.55 quoted from “The Inclusive Language Text of The Confession of 1967.”

Other resources: A Prayer, a Hymn, and other Resources from PC(USA)

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Helping the Local Community During COVID-19 Crisis

April 22, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

The worldwide pandemic calls us to great compassion to meet the great need. Many of you have wondered how you can help.

Of course, social distancing, handwashing, and wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) are crucial to stem the tide of the coronavirus. You can also pray for those whose health and/or livelihood are adversely affected by this crisis as well as those working extra hard to address its many ramifications.

Beyond safety measures and prayer, we encourage you to be generous. Perhaps you don’t need any or all of the forthcoming stimulus check or can give out of your own surplus.

Below you will find a list of organizations that our church has vetted and supports with an Outreach Grant. Invariably they are in the business of helping “the least of these, our brothers and sisters,” (Matt. 25:40) folks whose lives were already difficult before COVID-19. They all would welcome an online donation or check in the mail. Some have told us of other specific needs.

However, before making an over-and-above gift to other organizations in these dire times, please be sure you are honoring your 2020 financial commitment to First Presbyterian Church. After all, our entire budget, including the Outreach Grants and other benevolences we have pledged, depends upon the faithful giving of our members. So, assuming you are able*, please keep giving even though you cannot come to church. Thank you!

In faith,

Your Outreach and Mission Commission

*Should your financial situation change for better or worse, you are always able to adjust your pledge by contacting Roger Burbage, our Church Administrator, at rburbage@firstpresathens.org.

Athens Community Council on Aging
135 Hoyt Street, Athens, GA 30601

Funds will be used to purchase additional meals, as well as things like liquid laundry detergent, dish washing soap, hand soap and hand sanitizer, Lysol, Clorox, and toiletries.

Athens Nurses Clinic
P.O. Box 1732, Athens, GA 30603

To continue to provide medications and home-health-management kits.

Bethlehem Ministry
P.O. Box 48387, Athens, GA 30604

To buy hand-washing soap, which is sorely lacking in Haiti, from the economic development project which makes it from native jatropha trees.

Casa de Amistad
P.O. Box 841, Athens, GA 30603

To assist those in the underserved Hispanic community who have lost income due to the COVID-19.

Family Promise (formerly IHNA)
P. O. Box 581, Athens, GA 30603

To buy groceries for families to prepare breakfast/lunch (congregations are providing dinners). Also need paper towels, Windex, 409 cleaner, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer.

Our Daily Bread
Sponsored by Downtown Ministries
165 Pulaski Street, Athens, GA 30601

To provide grab-n-go sack lunches M-F at First Baptist Church.

Also need bottled water and “Blessing Bags,” which are 1 gallon Ziplock bag filled with baby wipes, bar soap, washcloth, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, 8 tampons/maxipads, 4 granola bars. Drop off at FBC lobby, Tues or Thurs, 9:00-10:00 a.m.

The Ark United Ministry Outreach Center
640 Barber Street, Athens, GA 30601

To pay rent/utilities assistance for workers whose jobs are impacted by COVID-19.

Additionally, many of our members are participating in the Facebook group, Mask Making for Athens. You can volunteer to sew, deliver, or donate supplies for protective face masks.

Also, the Red Cross needs donors. Go to redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment.

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Zoom 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:

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!

If you have any questions, please e-mail Paulo Santos.

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Facebook Instructions

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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FPC YouTube Channel

As we work to improve our online worship experience, we launched a YouTube channel. If you don’t have Facebook, this is a way for you to follow worship live.

Please Subscribe to our Channel: click here to access the channel and click “Subscribe.” If you have any questions, please contact Paulo Santos.

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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 to have Dave Beck in our team of church photographers! Please visit his photo gallery where you can find his FPC album. Here are some of his recent pictures:

FPC 200th Drive-by Celebration, December 20
Live Nativity Drive-by, December 8
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

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Worship With Us

Worship Times

Sunday Worship Livestream: 10:00 a.m. (Facebook and YouTube)

Sunday School
Click below for more information about Sunday School:

Children’s Sunday School
Youth Sunday School
Adult Sunday School

Contact Us