…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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Bookless Book Group, October 23, 11:30 a.m.

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 all women interested to join us. For more information please contact Brenda Glasscock. Our next meetings will be:

  • October 9, DePalma’s, 2080 Timothy Road.
  • October 23, Ted’s Most Best, 254 Washington St.

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AthHalf Pre-race Service and Water Station, October 27

FPC will staff the last water station on the AthHalf race on October 27, as is our tradition. Helpers of all ages are needed to pour and hand out water and Gatorade. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Emmaline Michael, our Outreach Waddel Fellow.

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Trick or Treat for UNICEF, October 27

Children are invited to wear “church friendly” costumes as we “Trick or Treat for UNICEF.” Be sure to join them before and after the 11:00 a.m. worship service in the Atrium as they collect for UNICEF and provide refreshments.

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Family Promise (Formerly IHNA), October 27 – November 3

The next Family Promise (formerly IHNA) host week is October 27 – November 3. If interested in volunteering for that week, please sign up on the calendar in the atrium or contact Susan Boatwright or Frank Sherrill for more information.

All volunteers are required to attend a one-hour orientation. The next will be held on November 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Family Promise Day Center (355 Pulaski St). Please let Susan or Frank know if you have any questions.

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Calling all Gardeners!!, November 5, 6, 7

In celebration of our church’s 200th anniversary this spring, the Weekday School children will plant 200 bulbs early this November in our courtyard and in beds around the church! The children are SO excited to participate in this special way… BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! If you could come in the mornings of November 5, 6, and/or 7 with spade/bulb planter tool to assist, please email the WDS. We so appreciate your help!

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Ryan’s Reflections

Dear friends in Christ,

When we first arrived at the care facility, there were only a handful of residents in the room. All of them were well-advanced in years, and most of them were seated in wheelchairs or had walkers stationed nearby. Dr. John Coble, Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church, arranged us in position near an upright piano, and then he introduced us to the small group of residents and caregivers. He explained that we were a group from First Presbyterian Church of Athens called “The Mellows,” and with a wink and a smile, he said, “We only practice once a year, and we’re so good they won’t let us sing in our own church, so we came here.”

We sang hymns like “In the Garden,” and “Blessed Assurance.” We sang old popular songs like “In the Good Old Summertime.” As we sang, more and more residents and staff members began to fill the room, and with Dr. Coble’s encouragement as our “front man,” many of them began to sing along with us.

The closing set was a series of patriotic songs, and when we began sing to “God Bless America,” most of the residents who were able rose to their feet with smiles on their lips and even a few tears in their eyes. We were only in the facility for about an hour, but over the course of that hour, the Spirit began to fill that little room.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that when we visit the sick and the lonely, or even when we offer so much as a cold drink of water to one who is thirsty, we’re ministering to him.

When you give to First Presbyterian Church, you’re not just supporting an operating budget. Without your faithful gifts to First Presbyterian Church, ministries like The Mellows simply would not happen. Your gifts make it possible for First Presbyterian Church to employ people like Dr. John Coble, a world-class musician with a servant’s heart. Your gifts put gas in the church van and keep it in top running condition so The Mellows can go forth sharing the love of Christ with Athens and the world.

Thank you for your faithful generosity, and even more, thank God for you.

May God bless you and keep you,
Ryan, Senior Pastor

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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

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Music Notes

I’m not a big social media user compared to some, but I post things on Facebook occasionally. A few of my posts get shared by others, maybe 1 or 2 times, if at all. Imagine my surprise when an article I posted recently was shared 494 times, and it was one of my geeky church music/organist articles called “The Four Functions of a Church Choir.” I’m pleasantly surprised to find that many people enthusiastic about the topic of church choirs!

So, what are the functions of a church choir? The first and most important job is to lead and enliven congregational singing. Many people think of choirs as a groups who perform beautiful anthems and other bigger pieces of music. Choirs do that too, but it’s not the most important thing. First and foremost, we are to lead the people singing in worship, and we do rehearse hymns and congregational music too. (The same is true for organists too, by the way.)

Second, a church choir sings music the congregation cannot. There is a lot of beautiful sacred choral music that is more intricate and requires rehearsal. Choirs are made up of people who give of their time and talents to rehearse and prepare music that is an offering to God on behalf of the congregation.

Third, a choir serves as a small group within the church for faith formation. Our rehearsals are a time of fellowship as well as the work of rehearsing music. We also talk about the words that we are singing, and about why we are singing them in a particular service. It is important to understand what we are singing and why, so that we can communicate the message in music. Choirs are usually a bit like families. We share each other’s joys and sorrows, we pray, laugh, cry, talk to, and support each other.

Fourth, church choirs sing beautiful and challenging music to praise God, and also to edify the congregation. We sing to God first and foremost, but in the process, we hope to touch and move people in worship closer to God.

On Choir Dedication Sunday, October 20, we will celebrate the six wonderful choirs in our church, recognize their hard work, and have a ceremony where those choir members will pledge themselves to faithful service in the 2019-2020 season. And, of course, we will sing. Come celebrate our choirs, enjoy their musical leadership, and thank them for their hard work.

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

July 18, 2019

The Congregational Care Commission has set up a Meal Train for the Kipps. 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

Contact Us