Friday, July 29, 2016

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column

August 2016: "What the Heck is a Pokemon?!"

Dear Church,

You may have read about, or seen, in the news about a new smartphone app game called Pokemon Go that was released last month to widespread popularity around the world. Modeled off of a series of Nintendo Game Boy/DS games that began in the mid-1990s, Pokemon Go is a game that allows the player to catch Pokemon (a portmanteu of "pocket monsters"), wild animals who the player can then keep as pets and train for battles against other Pokemon trainers at designated "gym" sites (our good neighbors over at Emmanuel Lutheran are one such gym site).

We here at FCC are, instead, a "pokestop" site, which means that players can come here in the game and click on our picture to refill on their in-game supplies like berries to feed wild Pokemon and incense to attract them. A player can also put a lure on a pokestop site in order to further attract Pokemon to them.

What does all that mean for us? Why am I telling you all of this? Well, you may see folks come by our church, walking just as any other people often do down Lake Sacajawea, but with their phones out, playing Pokemon Go. It is genuinely difficult to understate the popularity of this game--it has gotten lots of people out of their homes and walking about, getting exercise, and giving them another chance to socialize precisely because so many other people are playing it! Which means you may well meet some Pokemon Go players yourself, whether on Sunday morning or during the week.

At this point I should make a confession: I've been pretty avidly playing it myself during my free time because the original Pokemon games from the mid-1990s were among the video games I grew up on, so they evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. During my time playing Pokemon Go, I've earned several of those lures that attract wild Pokemon, and each Sunday for the first three Sundays of August (the 7th, 14th, and 21st), I'll be putting out a lure on our church's pokestop during our fellowship time for Pokemon Go players to come to our church and experience the welcome of our amazing FCC hospitality.

And I really mean that--walking around the lake is a pretty sweaty undertaking this time of year, and being able to provide people with cold water, coffee, tea, or punch and a few minutes to rest and let their Pokemon come to them really can be a gift of Christian hospitality, and it may just allow you to meet someone in our community who you would otherwise have never met or gotten the opportunity to get to know!

And trust me--those gestures of hospitality towards Pokemon Go players are deeply appreciated by the players themselves. In the online forums for the game that I've seen, some of the most popular posts are *always* stories of people who share, essentially, "I haven't gone to church in a long time but I went this week because the church near my house is a pokestop, and the welcome I received there was so warm and loving that I had to share this story!"

Honestly, I think that is pretty durned cool that a simple game could do that--not only give someone a reason to go to church, but to experience being welcomed by a church community.

That's what we're about, y'all--that warm, loving, Christian welcome. When we say "Everyone Welcome" on our marquee, we mean it! This new game is simply another way for us to express that welcome--and maybe now, if your kids or grandkids mention how much they like the game to you, you can tell them you know what the words "Pokemon" and "pokestop" mean!

As always, it is a blessing to minister to you and alongside you as your pastor.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

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