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Hallo again to all.

This is embarrassing. For the last three weeks, we've found ourselves taking evening walks, stopping in front of monuments, and pulling out our phones at the strangest moments in hopes of trapping imaginary creatures in digital balls. Yes, we have joined the millions around the world playing Pokémon Go.*

That many churches throughout the world (including Anglican parishes) are 'Pokéstops' where players can replenish their virtual supplies has created an unexpected opportunity for evangelism, even drawing comment from the US-based Washington Post ('Come for Jigglypuff, stay for Jesus'). We have personally witnessed more than a few of the ubiquitous church signs enthusiastically, if sometimes confusedly, welcoming trainers. Some parishes have taken the time to provide water for the summer heat in the northern hemisphere and welcomes to people young and old who have not been to church for any reason in years.

To us, this seems like it can only be for the good, but we have heard somewhat more curmudgeonly comments alluding to what might happen the first time a child is looking for a Pokémon behind the altar during the Eucharist. The Anglo-Catholic in us can only think that few things could be better for a little child being allowed into the presence of the Sacrament in a moment of play. Difficult logistics though.** A bishop recently passed on to his parishes a link from which one could remove the Pokéstop designation from their parish, with the comment 'it's always something.' We could only wish! It is rare in our world that something so 'in the world' is bringing people into our decreasingly full buildings. After the move we mentioned a few weeks ago, it was a Pokémon event that led us to joining an art museum in our new city.

More to the point, parishes have traditionally been a place for social gatherings in communities. That it has been extended to a hunt for imaginary critters is somewhat immaterial. Social groups and secular uses for church spaces have been part of the mission and usage of the church for centuries being used as schools, hospitals, sanctuary, space for self-betterment groups and centres of charitable work.

The Girls' Friendly Society formed in 1874 as a joint venture between Mary Elizabeth Townsend, the Revd Thomas Vincent Fosbery, Catherine Tait, and eventually, her husband, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. Their purpose was to address what they saw as a lack of morality and decency among young working class women, many of whom had been sent to the cities. The organisation originally served to bring these women 'up' through their association with women of a higher social class than their own, and also through insistence on members partaking in charitable ventures. With these two levels of subscription-based members, branches formed across England and Gibraltar. By the early 20th century, branches had spread to North America, but with a different mission, that of forming girls into active Christian young women—a sort of Anglican Girl Guides. GFS has spread to six continents with an international General Assembly every three years. Membership in the church is not a prerequisite to joining GFS. It seems without question that Girls' Friendly Society belongs in the church. Girls baking, scouting, making jewelry, hiking, and crafting. We know it gets girls in the door, and many have become faithful Anglicans. Why then, not to catch Pokémon? Perhaps trainers will stop and stay awhile. 

On matters far weightier, Bishop Weston urged clergy to 'go out into the highways and hedges where not even the Bishops will try to hinder you.' His concern was the real and present exploitation of the poor, the weak, and the oppressed. His concern is still with us, in a world that has felt exceedingly violent over the past few weeks. Where should the Church be then, if not with its members far and wide, in search of a respite from a seeming litany of bad news. If you cannot worship Jesus while at play, how on earth can you expect to worship him in the discipline of the Mass.

While we are sure that this fad too will pass, we do hope that, as that bishop said 'there will always be something.'

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

24 July 2016

*In defense of his character, we will publickly announce that Richard Mammana is not playing Pokémon Go… as far as he has admitted.
**We await a photo of a Charizard on a thurible.




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