Rev. DR. Ryan J. BaeR
185 E. Hancock Avenue
Athens, GA 30601
JanuaRy 6, 2019
PASTOR / HEAD OF STAFF
First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Georgia, is seeking a person who is a dynamic preacher and an
experienced leader. We are a historic congregation, having served the spiritual needs of families as well as the
business, professional, academic, public service and medical communities of Athens for almost 200 years.
Our 950-member congregation is in vibrant downtown Athens, home of the University of Georgia.
Our church has outstanding facilities and lay leadership. We continue to attract new members, especially
young families, because of our warm and caring members, stellar staff and location. The adult, youth, children
and music programs are excellent, and the congregation’s dedication to mission and outreach continues to
deepen. Our sense of purpose has been strengthened by our informal but intentional agreement not to allow
political ideaologies to divide us. We instead try to practice the universal language of kindness and sacrificial
giving. The head of staff called to be our pastor will find a busy and willing church eager to move forward in
making both Athens and the world more caring and peaceful.
Dear First Presbyterian Church Family,
Starting almost two years ago with the election of our Pastor Nominating Committee, the members of this
committee have been prayerfully discerning God’s will for our church. This process started with our committee
listening and learning more about our beloved church through the eyes of you, our congregation, as well as
our church staff. We learned more about our church’s history and interviewed community members about
our role in the greater Athens area. We believe our church offers a welcoming, mission-driven, and traditional
place of worship and fellowship for all and we strived to find a candidate primed to continue and expand our
Our process of reviewing over two hundred candidates, listening to many sermons, participating in numerous
Skype and in-person interviews, and visiting with candidates was all grounded in prayer as well as a continual
searching and listening for God’s will for our congregation. We felt and appreciated all of your prayers through
this process. With those prayers and faith as our foundation, it is with joyful and grateful hearts, certain in God’s
call, that we come to you today to present Rev. Dr. Ryan J. Baer with our unanimous nomination that he be
elected as the next Senior Pastor/Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church of Athens.
We anticipate your coming to love Dr. Baer and his family as we already do. Dr. Baer perfectly fit everything
we were looking for in a candidate (see our ad below). He is a scholar as well as a storyteller and his ability to
connect the everyday with scriptural teaching is quite remarkable. He lives his life grounded in his faith and
humbly strives to be an example of Christian love, leadership, and stewardship. He’s passionate about being the
church in the local community and bridging divides to equity and equality for all. He desires to be a steward
of stewards through sharing his personal story of stewardship and listening to how we can all work together to
be stewards of God’s call. God moves in mysterious and wonderful ways at times and even Dr. Baer asked, “Is
God calling us together for such a time as this?” We believe the answer is a resounding “Yes!” and are thankful
that our all-knowing God led Ryan to us and us to him.
We thank you for trusting us with the profound responsibility of discerning a call for our next Senior Pastor at
First Presbyterian Church. We humbly accepted that responsibility and appreciate the love and support given
to us all during this process.
Sincerely and joyfully,
Lewis Hudgins, Chair
Fran Lane, Vice-Chair
Ron Bogue Sarah Bryan Stephen Covington Melinda DeMaria Erika Hermanowicz
A Letter from the Pastor Nominating Committee
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace to you and peace in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ! Words are inadequate
to express the depth of my joy and gratitude to God as my name is placed in nomination
before you to serve as the next Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens,
Through the outstanding work of your Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) and our mutual
colleagues in Northeast Georgia Presbytery, I have been learning about First Presbyterian Church
of Athens for some time now, but it strikes me that most of you are just now learning about me.
I am certain you have many questions, not the least of which is how we have discerned that the
Holy Spirit may be calling us together for such a time as this.
Almost two years ago, I stumbled across your Ministry Information Form (MIF) while doing research on behalf
of the Grace Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. At that time, I was not discerning a call to a new ministry,
but I remember thinking that the form was exceptionally well-written and would make an excellent call for a
very fortunate candidate.
Then, this past August, our Office Manager handed me a copy of The Presbyterian Outlook. Our subscription
was about to expire and she wanted to know if we should renew it. As I stood at her desk and thumbed through
the magazine, I came across a classified advertisement for your Senior Pastor position. I remember thinking to
myself, “I can’t believe that call is still open!”
I went home that night and pulled up your MIF online and read it very carefully. When I read about your
congregation’s commitment to stewardship not just as a code word for an annual budget appeal, but rather as
the experience of all kinds of giving relationships with God and each other, I smiled from ear to ear. When
I read about your vision for your pastor as a steward of stewards, I was deeply moved.
I showed your MIF to my wife, Amy. She read it carefully, and then she said something that I will never forget.
She said, “You should have applied for that yesterday!” Even though my Personal Information Form (PIF) was
not in circulation and even though I wasn’t certain if I was indeed discerning a call to a new ministry, I have
known Amy long enough to know that oftentimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me through her voice. I drafted a
cover letter and updated my PIF, and on September 6, I sent those documents to the PNC.
In the meantime, I began contacting friends and colleagues who I thought might know something about you.
To a person, each of them said some variation of, “First Presbyterian Church of Athens is a fantastic church!”
One of my colleagues, the Reverend Julie Bailey, is the Director of Alumni and Church Relations at Columbia
Theological Seminary. When I contacted her to ask about you, she said, “They just called me yesterday asking
for names. Would you like for me to give them yours?” I replied, “Yes, please!” Two days later, I received a
phone call from Lewis Hudgins.
In every interaction I have had with the PNC, I have never felt like I was sitting for an interview. That is not
to say that we have not asked one another some very direct questions. However, each interaction has felt like a
deep conversation among faithful colleagues in ministry. As a wise mentor advised me, such conversations are
often a very strong sign of a call from God.
For nearly two hundred years, First Presbyterian Church of Athens has been creating community where people
seek the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rejoice in worship, and go forth sharing the love of Christ with
Athens and the world. If the way be clear, Amy, Nathan, Daniel, Joshua, and I can’t wait to become a part of
your wonderful congregation and witness what God has in store for us in the years to come!
May God bless you and keep you,
Rev. Dr. Ryan J. Baer
A Letter from Ryan
We looked hard and trusted God to walk with us through the process of finding a Senior Pastor who had the
attributes we were praying for and someone who would be a good fit for our church. As it happened, this person
wasn’t looking to move until the PNC came calling. During our first communications with Ryan, we felt the
Holy Spirit moving us together. That became clearer as we talked, listened, worshiped, visited, and prayed with
him. We are excited about the future of our Church and are confident that God has called Ryan to lead us.
– Lewis Hudgins, Chair
I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon touring UGA’s north campus with Ryan and Amy when they first
visited Athens. In the space of a couple of hours, it became very clear that this wise, warm, energetic, enthusiastic
man, and his equally special wife, would be a wonderful gift to our church.
– Fran Lane, Vice-Chair
Ryan is a remarkably mature person, with wisdom well beyond his years. When we’ve talked with him about questions
of faith, debates in the church, or problems in daily living, I’ve always come away with a fresh understanding of the
issues at hand and a new sense of what this understanding might mean for us as a community of faith. He is
a very thoughtful person, caring and considerate in the way he communicates with others. He is a warm and
generous person with a great sense of humor.
– Ron Bogue
While Ryan’s statement of faith, resume, and references all convey his theological knowledge, community
experiences, and his personal faith, it is Ryan’s ability to genuinely communicate with you like he’s instantly a