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First Presbyterian Church of Athens celebrating bicentennial

First Presbyterian Church of Athens will kick off the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of its founding with a ceremonial ringing of the church bell this Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

The community is invited to the celebration, in which children of the church will ring the bell 200 times, once for each year of the church’s existence. The event will mark the start of a yearlong celebration of the bicentennial, with monthly events scheduled to mark the historic year.

“The Bicentennial logo states that this church is a ‘beacon of faith and hope,’” said Diane Adams, chair of the Bicentennial Committee, which began planning five years ago. “For 200 years this congregation has had a mission of helping others in Athens and the world. By learning more about this legacy of service, we hope the congregation will be inspired to a new vision for the future.”

On March 22 and 25, church member and Director of the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development Matt Bishop will lead “Envisioning the Future” sessions.

First Presbyterian Church of Athens was established on Christmas Day, 1820 on the campus of the University of Georgia by President Moses Waddel, an ordained Presbyterian minister. There were 21 members of the first congregation.

The first sanctuary was located on campus near the current site of the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building and The Arch.

In 1856, the church moved into the current sanctuary on Hancock Avenue. The church was renovated with a new Fellowship Hall, atrium and improvements to the Education Wing in 2010. Dr. Ryan Baer is Senior Pastor and Dr. Carol Strickland the Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, which is a member of the Presbyterian Church USA.

Some of the events scheduled for 2020 are:

* Congregational participation in 200 hours of volunteer service in January;

* A blood drive and weekday school canned food drive in February;

* Collecting 200 pairs of eyeglasses in March;

* Planting 200 perennials or bulbs in April;

* Dedication of a plaque to recognize founder and original members in April:

* A ceremony to place a headstone of Moses Waddel on his grave at Oconee Hill Cemetery in July;

* A display of memorabilia and items from 200 years of church history in Fellowship Hall in August:

*An event at the UGA Chapel in September to include tours of the site of the original sanctuary;

* A service of rededication to the future of the Church in December.

First Presbyterian Church of Athens is located at 185 E. Hancock Ave.

(706) 543-4338,

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