Important Events and Messages
Limited in-person worship registration
If you would like to join us for a limited in-person worship on January 24, click here (link will be live on Monday, January 19 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 are over 65 or have underlying health conditions, we encourage you to stay home and join us via Facebook or YouTube.
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
Winter 2021 Pastoral Letter from Dr. Ryan Baer
Dear friends in Christ,
One of the things that I value most about our Presbyterian way of being the church is that we believe that leadership in the church of Jesus Christ must always be a shared endeavor. The word “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word for “elder,” and in our way of being the church, pastors and elders lead together in a governing council called the Session (a word which comes from the Latin verb “to sit.”)
The past year has presented incredibly complex challenges for leaders at every level of our society, and many of those challenges look to continue for the foreseeable future. Here at First Presbyterian Church of Athens, God has blessed the congregation with elders who do their best to submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and who take seriously their ordination vows to serve the people of God with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.
In our Presbyterian way of being the church, we also practice rotational leadership, and elders serve a three-year term on the session. This month, the term of the elder class of 2020 comes to an end, while the term of the class of 2023 begins.
The elders in the class of 2020 have seen the congregation through the arrival of a new senior pastor, the bicentennial anniversary of the church, the emergence of a global pandemic, and marches for social justice in downtown Athens, to say nothing of leading the regular business of the church. As their terms come to a close this month, I hope you will take a moment to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for their faithful stewardship and drop them a note of appreciation for a job well done.
They are Jeff Bangle, Meghan Bawcum, Bob Burton, Julie Hayes, Sydney Jackson, Avery McLean, Jeanne Nadinecek, Carl Nichols, Judy Scanlon, and Tom Reigle.
Peace be with you and yours,
Dr. Ryan Baer
Jan. 24 – Luke 5:1-11 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Go Deeper”
Third Sunday After Epiphany
Peter was weary after a long night of fishing with nothing to show for it. But when a traveling preacher stepped into his boat, he would never be the same.
Jan. 31 – Luke 6:1-16 – Dr. Carol Strickland, “Change”
Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
Jesus ruffled feathers by eating and healing on the Sabbath. But he knew the laws had outgrown their purpose. It was time for God’s laws to serve people, and not the other way around.
Feb. 7 – Luke 7:1-17 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Surprised by Grace”
Jesus was busy healing and teaching throughout the countryside. When a Roman centurion asked for Jesus’ help, it took Jesus by surprise.
Feb. 14 – Luke 9:28-45 – Dr. Ryan Baer, “Transfiguration”
The Transfiguration of Jesus was one more event indicating that Jesus would be leaving the disciples soon (and leaving his work to them, too). Still they failed to understand.
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.
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.
Zoom ID: 706-543-4338 – Password: 185185
Led by Dr. Ryan Baer
Red Cross Blood Drive, Sunday, February 7, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Please join us in the Fellowship Hall and help save a life! Reserve an appointment at redcrossblood.org (sponsor code AFPC), or contact the church office.
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. The January 14 lesson will be on Luke 4:14-30.
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 (PW: 3636)
Annual Congregational Meeting via Zoom, Sunday, January 31, 11:30 a.m.
Please join us for our Annual Congregational Meeting via Zoom (ID: 706 543 4338, PW 185185) on Sunday, January 31. We will receive the Annual Report, Treasurer’s Report, 2021 Budget, review the pastors’ terms of call, and elect members at-large to serve on the Nominations and Elections Committee.
To join the meeting, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7065434338. Please follow any additional instructions that might show on your screen, like opting to join the meeting through the browser or the Zoom app on your phone or computer, and add your name when prompted. If it asks for a password, it is 185185. After that you should join the waiting room, where the host will accept you in the meeting.
Alternatively, you may dial into the meeting via telephone by calling 346-248-7799, and when prompted, enter the meeting ID: 706 543 4338
Call for Volunteers: Our Daily Bread
First Presbyterians have resumed helping at Our Daily Bread Community Kitchen which serves meals to those in need. On the first Wednesday of the month, our volunteers prepare and package lunches in the First Baptist kitchen. Volunteers are needed both for kitchen duty and later to hand out the meals on the sidewalk beside the church. Veteran volunteer Patty Whiten assures us that both activities “are conducted very safely by Downtown Ministries, and I’ve felt no threat at all to my health. If you have an interest in giving some time to either of these endeavors, please get in touch and I will provide details. Several of you are already on board with this and I’m grateful for the time you’re giving to serve our Athens community.” To volunteer, please reach out to Patty at 678-371-1757 or Fran Lane at 706-543-1074.
Patty reports that breakfast service is still on hold for several reasons. COVID-19 is a primary reason as the guests are still not allowed inside First Baptist Church and the thinking is that, especially for the guests who live outdoors, there won’t be great interest in coming to a sidewalk for a cold take-away breakfast if they’re in a warm sleeping bag or even in a home somewhere. Another reason is a lack of volunteer groups who are willing and able to participate while the pandemic continues. Please be patient as it’s the goal to resume the service in the future but there’s no timeline yet.
“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.
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.
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)
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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.
Subscribe to the new FPC YouTube Channel!
As we work to improve our online worship experience, we recently launched our YouTube channel! If you don’t have Facebook, this is a new way for you to follow worship live.
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