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

Important Events and Messages


A Word from the Session of First Presbyterian Church

May 21, 2020

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope this letter finds you well and that you are staying well. As you are aware, Governor Kemp has lifted some of the executive orders related to COVID-19, and many businesses and organizations in Georgia are beginning to reopen. However, at its stated meeting via video-conference on May 14, the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Athens extended our current emergency operating plan through June 30.

In making this decision, the Session relied upon the expertise and counsel of an ad-hoc committee convened to help us better understand how the virus is impacting Athens and our surrounding communities. The ad-hoc committee members are:

Dr. Matt Crim, Cardiologist, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center
Mrs. Denise LaBoon, Registered Nurse, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center
Hon. Lawton Stephens, Superior Court Western District of Georgia
Mrs. Sarah Bryan, MSW, Oconee County School District
Dr. Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor
Mr. Roger Burbage, Church Administrator
Mrs. Elaine Johnson, Weekday School Director
Dr. Ryan Baer, Senior Pastor

We remain hopeful that as the publicly available data becomes more clear here in Georgia, we will soon be able to begin phasing in a plan for a return to in-person church activities. As Elders, each of us has made a solemn vow “to watch over the people of God and provide for their worship, nurture, and service,” and the safety, health, and well-being of the people entrusted to our care will remain our top priority.

May the Lord watch between you and me while we are apart one from the other. (Genesis 31:49)

Peace be with you and yours,

Ryan Baer
Senior Pastor

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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 and Facebook 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!


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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Sundays at First Presbyterian Church

Sunday, May 24 Dr. Ryan Baer Preaching

Sunday, May 31 Pentecost – The Reverend Margaret Davis Preaching

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

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Pentecost Offering, May 31

A gift to the Pentecost Offering helps the church encourage, develop, and support its young people, and also address the needs of at-risk children. Forty percent of the Pentecost offering will go to All God’s Children, a local adoption agency that concentrates on placing children who have been waiting the longest with foster or permanent caring families. The remaining 60% is used to support children-at-risk, youth, and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. You may mail your check or donate online here (please select “Pentecost Offer”). Thank you for your generosity!

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Envisioning the Future of the Church (Postponed)

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of First Presbyterian Church of Athens, we encourage everyone to share their perspectives about the future of our church and congregation. To that end, there will be two opportunities to participate in “Envisioning the Future of the Church” sessions. The first session will be held during lunch after the 11:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday, March 22 (lunch will be a fundraiser for the Puerto Rico Mission Trip). The second session will be held after the Wednesday@First dinner on Wednesday, March 25 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Reservations are required only for dinner on Wednesday, and can be done through the Fellowship Pad, online, or by contacting the church office by Monday, March 23 at 12:00 p.m. In response to the crisis that has unfolded, this event is postponed to a date to be determined.

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Puerto Rico Mission Trip Update (Postponed)

The Puerto Rico Mission Team will be providing lunch for the “Envisioning the Future of the Church” event on March 22 to raise funds for our upcoming trip in May. In addition to grilled cheese sandwiches, attendees will have their choice of chicken or vegetarian taco soup, and homemade cookies. No reservations are required, and we appreciate whatever amount diners choose to donate. In response to the crisis that has unfolded, this event is postponed to a date to be determined.

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Puerto Rico Mission Trip Postponed

Due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus, we are postponing the Puerto Rico Mission Trip to next summer. We are grateful for all the support our church family has shown and hope to have a even bigger group join us next year! If you have questions, please contact Kim Ness.

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Presbyterian Heritage Trip to Northern Ireland

Join the Presbyterian Heritage Trip to Northern Ireland this September! Information about the trip can be found here. For more information, please contact Sam Thomas. We are monitoring the pandemic situation and will inform if there are any changes made to the schedule.

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Bookless Book Group, Cancelled

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. For more information please contact Polly Erickson. In response to the crisis that has unfolded, this event is cancelled for the rest of the month.

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Saving Vision Month Update

Thank you so much for helping many who are in need of vision correction receive a true “twenty-twenty” gift in the year 2020. Our goal was 200 pairs, and we collected more than 370!

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The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents Geneva Stonecipher-Overbaugh, Organist, Postponed

The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents Geneva Stonecipher-Overbaugh in an organ recital on Sunday, April 5, 5:00 p.m. Geneva is a member and a former Church Music Intern at First Presbyterian Church, and is completing her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In response to the crisis that has unfolded, this event is postponed to a date to be determined.

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Montreat Women’s Conference Update

Due to safety concerns, we have decided to delay our FPC group housing and attendance of the Women’s Connection Conference until 2021.  Though conference registration is now open and individuals who wish to attend may do so “on their own,” it is likely the August 14 – 16 event will ultimately be cancelled.  Please contact Carol McKay or Carol Strickland with any questions.

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Ryan’s Reflections

Dear friends in Christ,

The final scene of the 1984 film Places in the Heart depicts a half-empty sanctuary on a typical Sunday morning. The preacher stands before the congregation and begins to read from 1 Corinthians 13, while at the same time, ushers begin to pass plates of cubed bread and trays with cups of juice among the people. It’s quite clear that the congregation is celebrating Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist.

But something remarkable happens next. The camera zooms in on the plates and trays, and it becomes clear that as the sacrament is being celebrated, the previously half-empty sanctuary is suddenly quite full, almost to overflowing. Each parishioner reverently passes the plates and trays to their neighbor and says to them lovingly, “The peace of God.” In the final shot of the film, two characters who died tragically in the movie’s opening scene are now very much alive, sitting side by side, sharing together the bread and cup.

When we celebrate Communion, I’m often mindful of that closing scene in Places in the Heart and these words from Revelation 7:9 – “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” When we come to the Lord’s Table, there are far more saints gathered around Christ’s table than can be seen with the naked eye.

However, because of age or infirmity, some of our sisters and brothers have a hard time coming to the Lord’s Table. In those cases, the Elders of First Presbyterian Church are bringing the Lord’s Table to them. On the Sundays when we celebrate Communion in morning worship, that same afternoon, pairs of Elders take the bread and the cup to homebound and members in Senior Care Facilities. This is never a “private” celebration of the sacrament, but rather an extension of the church’s corporate worship, remembering that wherever two or more are gathered in Christ’s name, the Lord is always present.

I am grateful to serve alongside such faithful Elders who serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, and I am so very grateful for the ways in which you support the work of the church. When you give to First Presbyterian Church, you’re doing so much more than supporting an operating budget. You’re seeing to it that the marks of the Church show forth clear and true –where the Word of God is rightly preached and heard, the sacraments are rightly administered, and disciples of Jesus Christ are formed and sent into the world. Thank you for all the ways in which you support this ministry, and even more, thank God for you.

Peace be with you and yours,

Ryan, Senior Pastor

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A Message from Carol: Montreat Women’s Connection Conference

Women from First Presbyterian of Athens (and their friends) will attend the Women’s Connection Conference at Montreat the weekend of August 14-16 and invite you to join us! The theme is “Word Wise: Encountering the Word that Draws Us In and Sends Us Out.” The keynoter is Jen Hatmaker. She is a dynamic speaker who is especially popular among younger women. Therefore, it is possible that spaces will fill up fast. So, don’t put off committing to an enjoyable and enriching opportunity with new and old friends. If you’ve never been to Montreat in the NC mountains, now is your chance.

We have reserved the Georgia Lodge, a convenient location for our group to stay together (shared bedrooms and baths). Though the lodging cost has not yet been determined, we hope to keep it well under $100 for the weekend, including breakfast. We are considering options for other meals including taking food and eating in Black Mountain. We will do our best to keep costs as reasonable as possible. Last year we shared the Georgia Lodge with another church. We would like to have enough FPC women sign up to use the entire lodge ourselves this year. To sign up for lodging, follow the link on FPC website home page.

You must register separately for the actual conference here. On the website you will see that the registration cost of $237 before July 3 and $262 after that. If you plan to stay with FPC women at the Georgia Lodge, you will choose the “Conference Only” option. It will guide you through. Although it will look as though you are registering for accommodations, you are not.

If you need any further information, email Carol McKay. Please contact me if you need scholarship help.

Carol Strickland, Associate Pastor

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Music Notes

I found it interesting to learn that the old Celtic calendar is in the form of a circle. We tend to think of our calendars as something flat and rectangular. Whether on our electronic devices or on the printed page, each month is somewhat of a block with beginning and an end. The idea of a circular calendar is that it continuously turns. It is never ending. With the passage of time, seasons eventually cycle back around.

Our liturgical calendar has brought us back around to the season of Lent. I have found the liturgical calendar and the seasons and special days we observe in the church year to be very educational. It helps us understand our story as God’s people. At one Montreat Worship and Music Conference, we focused on the liturgical calendar. We learned that there are two main cycles: the Christmas cycle, and the Easter cycle. Each of those has a time of preparation, a celebration of the event itself, and a time of follow-up and reflection. So, we have had Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Now we have moved to the penitential season of Lent, which will culminate with Holy Week, then we celebrate Easter for a day and a season of fifty days, which will lead us to Pentecost. We also sing some familiar hymns (it wouldn’t be Palm Sunday without “All Glory, Laud, and Honor!”). Some may ask why we need to repeat the same things every year. We’ve heard these stories and sung these hymns before and we know how the story goes. But, at that Montreat conference, I noticed as we read familiar stories that they seemed to sound coincidentally similar to current events in our world. I asked the conference preacher if that was intentional. He told me the scriptures, sermons, and services had all been planned over two years. They didn’t know what would be going to be in the news at the time of our conference.

He also explained that while we hear the same stories repeated, we hear them with new ears each time because we have changed as people by the time these stories come around again. As we hear the old stories during Lent and Easter, let us hear them with new ears.

The Wayne F. Middendorf Memorial Concert Series presents Geneva Stonecipher in an organ recital on Sunday, April 5, 5:00 p.m. Geneva is a member and a former Church Music Intern at First Presbyterian Church, and is completing her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Soli Deo Gloria  (To God alone be the Glory),
John Coble, Director of Music and Organist

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Bicentennial Notes

Thank you to John Coble; The Chancel Choir; Ron Bogue, presenter; Dallas Bono, guest soloist; Bulldog Brass Society; and members of The Handbell Choir who performed an outstanding concert on February 16.

Matt Bishop will facilitate two Envisioning the Future sessions to look to the future of First Pres as we move forward into the next 200 years. The first is on Sunday, March 22, when we will have a lunch meeting following the 11:00 a.m. service. This lunch will be a fundraiser for the Puerto Rico Mission Trip. The second opportunity is at the Wednesday@First dinner on March 25.

Madie Fischetti and Mary Attaway have plans to enhance the garden this Spring with additional bulbs and perennials. When you come to the Envisioning sessions bring a start of plants labeled in plastic bags. There will be boxes at the atrium doors. If you have questions, please e-mail Madie.

Diane Adams, Chair

Mission and Outreach Goals:

March * Save Your Vision Month (Goal: 200+ pairs of glasses).
Coordinators: Elaine Thacker and Julie Hayes

April * Earth Day, 4/22 (Goal: Plant 200 perennials or bulbs).
Coordinators: Mary Attaway and Madie Fischetti

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Happy Anniversary Ryan!

On February 11, when Ryan walked into his office, he was greeted with an array of decorated stuffed animals, a colorful umbrella, and a background tapestry of tropical vegetation – a happy welcome by the staff to remind him of his one year anniversary at First Pres. It is hard to believe that it has only been a year, and we look forward to many more to come!

Congratulations, Ryan!!!

FPC Staf
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Stephen Ministry

In recent weeks our lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus. The degree of this negative impact varies from person to person. Do you have a friend, neighbor, co-worker or relative who has been struggling with life changes due to the virus, loss of a loved one, loneliness, cancer, a layoff, relocation, divorce, a spiritual crisis, recuperation, single parenthood, or any of countless other life changes? Our Stephen Ministers can provide them with the focused care, encouragement, and support they need to make it through the crisis. If anyone you know is hurting, talk with one of our Stephen Leaders.

They can talk with you about how we can connect the person you know with one of our Stephen Ministers. It’s a great way for you to show how much you care. First Presbyterian Stephen Ministers are ready to provide confidential, one-to-one Christian care. Male Stephen Ministers are always matched with men, and female Stephen Ministers are matched with women. Our Stephen Ministry team works with church members and non-members. If you or someone you know is struggling, find out more about Stephen Ministry by talking with one of our Stephen Leaders.

Bob Frisch: rpfrisch@aol.com, 914-262-1078

Dawn Frisch: dawnmfrisch@aol.com, 914-255-3447

Lisa Oelke: lisakoelke@gmail.com, 706-540-4251

Carol Strickland: cstrickland@firstpresathens.org, 706-765-7671

Our Stephen Ministers are here to care!

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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:

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
Festival of Lessons & Carols and Holiday Benevolence Market, December 15
Live Nativity, December 10
Christmas Pageant & Dinner, December 8

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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