This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
First Free Rockford’s vision is to go, tell and show the love of Christ to the city of Rockford and around the world. It starts with the city we know and love.
Rockford was originally called Midway during the 1830s, because it was the halfway point between Chicago and the thriving city of Galena. It got its permanent name because it was a good spot to cross, or ford, the Rock River. Rockford became a city in 1852. By the late 19th and early 20th century, Swedish immigrants were Rockford’s largest ethnic group, Many settled in the area today known as the Midtown neighborhood. There in 1884 they founded the Swedish Free Church, which later became First Evangelical Free Church, better known today as First Free Rockford. Our church moved to its present location in 1980.
In the 20th century, Rockford boomed as a national manufacturing leader. Swedish furniture, farm machinery, machine tools, auto parts and fasteners – especially screws and bolts — were just some of the items made here and shipped everywhere. Later, we even became a leader in aerospace manufacturing.
Today, Rockford continues to rebuild itself in the wake of huge manufacturing losses that began in the 1980s. Our city has responded to a negative, “rust belt” image with new businesses, neighborhood renewal and sources of pride like a world-class parks system and a revitalizing downtown district.
There’s still a long way to go. While many find a thriving and happy life here, poverty, crime and economic uncertainty mean some of our area’s residents are hurting. That’s not uncommon in any city, but we know these factors affect Rockford’s spiritual health, too.
We seek Rockford’s peace and prosperity. Far more than economic prosperity, we pray and work for our city and region to prosper spiritually — to know the love and hope of Jesus Christ, and to work together as a community to demonstrate the kingdom of God and meet people’s needs.