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Here’s an assortment of relevant information for our church family. This was current as of Tuesday afternoon, March 17.

 

How many can gather?

**The following information was posted before the stay-at-home order from Friday, Mar. 20, 2020.**

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended limiting all public gatherings to less than 50 people for the next eight weeks, until May 10. On Monday, President Trump recommended limiting gatherings to 10 people. Our main office is closed until further notice as of Mar. 21, 2020.

The Illinois governor’s office over the weekend ordered (not just recommended) a 50-person limit for our state. The governor’s order applies to gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, private clubs, theaters and houses of worship. It does not apply to grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, banks or shelters.

We as a church are recommending that gatherings be limited to 10 people. This includes our Life Groups ministry, and it could mean that for a life group to meet, it may need to split into two gatherings in two places.  Also, remember that people will have different levels of comfort about this. Decisions whether to attend a life group are at each individual’s or family’s discretion.

Local, state and federal recommendations could change, of course. If that happens, First Free will post updates here and on our social media feeds as well.

Obviously, this impacts us and almost all other churches. Our church leaders have elected to suspend all public gatherings, including worship services, during this emergency. Services will be livestreamed until further notice. Services at our Fairhaven venue also have been suspended. Mission Venue has also been added to this as of Mar. 21, 2020.

 

Flattening the curve

Social distancing and limiting public gatherings might feel futile, or too late. But they are important ways to slow the virus’ spread and “flatten the curve.” If we can do this as communities, we will lessen the chances of our healthcare providers being overwhelmed by too many people getting sick at the same time. This also would mean better care for people with other illnesses, because the system won’t be stretched past its limits.

Here is an excellent explanation of flattening the curve, from the Washington Post.

 

Seniors

**The following information was posted before the stay-at-home order from Friday, Mar. 20, 2020.**

Most agencies are advising that people over age 60 or 65 stay in their homes for the next several weeks. Seniors are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus because our immune systems decline with age. This is an opportunity for younger members of our church family to serve our elders. Check on people you know. If they need groceries, meds or supplies, go to the store for them.

If you have elderly loved ones living in retirement centers or nursing homes, you will not be able to visit them for a few weeks. Call often. If possible, use Skype or other video calling apps.

 

Neighbors

**The following information was posted before the stay-at-home order from Friday, Mar. 20, 2020.**

Take walks, even while it’s still chilly outside. Talk to neighbors who are outside. Keep proper distance – about six feet – but ask how they are doing and if they need anything. Even if you are meeting them for the first time.

Then, find ways to network your neighborhood if it isn’t already. Facebook Groups are a great option. If you create one, print flyers about it and give them to your neighbors. Neighborhood apps like Nextdoor also are useful.

Don’t hoard groceries and supplies. The supply chain is still fully functional. Shelves have been empty this week because so many people rushed to the stores at once. This will even out.

 

News and Information

Stay informed, but beware of misinformation, especially on social media. Stick with reputable news sources. Many of these sources are making their COVID-19 coverage free for anyone. Most also offer a daily email summary you can sign up for.

Governmental and educational websites also can be helpful. Here are several we recommend.

If you can’t get onto a website because of heavy traffic, try their Facebook or Twitter feed. In particular, Twitter provides a good way to follow key sources and receive their information quickly.

 

Wisdom

Our new sermon series is Proverbs: Wisdom for Life. God led Pastor Luke Uran to start planning this topic months ago, knowing we would all need wisdom now. This Sunday’s sermon by Pastor Josh Pardee will focus on the power of our words. Again, the planning for this message is evidence of God’s leading before we even knew exactly why.

This is a time to use our words with great care. Let’s not add to any sense of anger or confusion. Before we say something critical, or post something critical, breathe a short prayer first. Will our words reflect the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Also remember that authorities are making the best decisions they can based on available information. They need our prayer support.

 

Finally …

First Free, and the church of Christ as a whole, has a tremendous opportunity to serve and minister to our communities. The quickest way to vanquish fear of the unknown is to simply look around and see who needs help. As we do this, individually and collectively as a church, God will be glorified and his kingdom will be evident.

Remember our call to be the church. To be peacemakers. To meet people’s needs. To be agents of calmness, wisdom, unity and prayer. Let’s pray for our world, our nation, our state and our community. Pray for an end to COVID-19. And pray for kingdom opportunities to share the love of Jesus with all.

 

 

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