Greetings First Free Family,

In an effort to contain the spread of Covid19, and for the safety of all citizens, Governor Pritzker has issued a “shelter in place” safety order to begin today, Saturday, March 21 and running through Tuesday, April 7. As church leaders we encourage you to cooperate fully and respectfully.

According to the order it is still permissible to leave your home for essential activities which include: health care visits, necessary supplies/services, outdoor activities such as walking (while maintaining appropriate social distancing), and taking care of others.

Choosing Faith Instead Of Fear

While the events of the Covid19 pandemic are shocking and serious to us, thankfully they are not surprising nor insurmountable to the Lord. When everything is upended it is difficult not to panic, especially when there is uncertainty about the extent or duration of the crisis. Nevertheless, we have great reasons to live in faith instead of fear. Here are just a few words from Jesus to hold on to in the coming weeks:

        “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” —Matthew 26:34 (NIV)

        “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” —John 14:27 (NIV)

Let us trust Jesus and choose faith instead of fear.

Choosing To Help Instead Of To Hide

Mr. Rogers once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” 

Jesus said: “Be the helpers!”

After telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said: “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” —Luke 10:36-37 (NIV)

As Christians choosing faith instead of fear, we want to move from alarm to action. This pandemic is an opportunity to show and speak the Gospel to those around us. Be in prayer for and look for opportunities to serve others, especially those without resources which you yourself may have. Here are a few simple suggestions to get you started.

  • Helping your church
    • Pray for the health and safety of your church community.
    • Stay in contact with each other for mutual encouragement through phone calls or video chats. 
    • Volunteer to do a grocery run for church community members who are elderly, infirm, or otherwise constrained from doing so themselves. (Note: we have started a “check-in team” to make regular check-in phone calls to parishioners, and “care groups” that connect parishioners in their respective neighborhoods. If you would like to assist/participate in these initiatives, please email Pastor Del at dshimandle@firstfree.com presently.)
    • Continue to contribute to First Free Church’s benevolence fund which helps church community members who need emergency financial assistance. (https://firstfree.com/give/)
  • Helping your neighbor
    • Pray for the health and safety of your neighbors (even let them know you are praying for them).
    • Drop off a meal or bake them some cookies once a week (you can leave it at the door).
    • Volunteer to do a grocery or diaper run, or walk their dog if they are unable (and share a few rolls of your stash of toilet paper ; ) )
  • Helping your city
    • Pray for the health and safety of Chicago: including our government leaders, social services agencies, doctors and nurses, and the citizens of the city.
    • Volunteer to help a senior at The Schneider Building near church, where First Free Church has been serving and helping for several years. Email seniorcare@firstfree.com for details.
    • Call your Alderman’s office to see if there are other people or initiatives in your neighborhood with which you might help (find your alderman here chicago.gov/city/en/about/wards.html).
    • Watch for future updates on ways to help…

Choosing Health Amidst Hysteria

With God’s help, having faith instead of fear, and helping instead of hiding are possible. But it won’t be easy. Social distancing through the closing of schools, businesses and churches, no matter how temporary, will take a psychological toll on each of us. 

Here are some suggestions for how to maintain spiritual, psychological and emotional health, even amidst the hysteria swirling around us. 

  • Pray, read your bible, and even keep a diary. Doing these things individually as well corporately (if you have roommates or a family) will help you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. (Bonus! Listen to a free audio Bible on Streetlights or Biblica.)
  • Get good sleep. By avoiding sleeping in and going to bed late you will minimize your chances of getting anxious and depressed.
  • Eat healthy meals at regularly scheduled times, and avoid too much snacking and junk food.
  • Be constructive and intentional with your time with a variety of free options online:
  • Finally, be selective and think critically about any media that you read, watch, or listen to. When it comes to social media, consider “muting” those voices/channels that are amplifying fear. Stick with sources that are factual and constructive, and avoid those that speculate or editorialize.

We will be praying for each of you, and doing our best to keep you up to date and encouraged. Watch for future updates and information…

Grace & Peace to you all,

Pastor Del, on behalf of the Elders and Staff