Even those who've never given a second thought to trying the game have likely been taken by some of the entertaining and, at times, troubling tales of those who have. For example, a teenager in Big Wind River, Wyoming, found a dead body floating down the river where she was attempting to capture water Pokémon. In Missouri, police arrested a group of young men using the game to lure victims wandering the streets in their quest to "catch 'em all" to their car at which point they were robbed at gunpoint.
The game also stands to provide a number of health benefits to its users given that you must actually go outside and walk around to find most of the little creatures and visit the various places of importance. Many have joked that Pokémon GO has done more to combat child obesity in twenty-four hours than government programs have done in years, and they're not necessarily wrong.
I think my favorite stories, however, are those of families that have all joined in the craze and now spend evenings walking together in search of new creatures instead of locked away in their respective rooms or stationed firmly in front of the television. Parents who grew up playing the game have a new avenue through which they can relate to their children, and even those who never picked up a Gameboy can download the app and join a world that fascinates those they love. For all the dangers and damages the game might pose, it also provides a real opportunity for those who are willing to take advantage of it.
In addition to families, the game has provided churches with a similar opportunity. Because the game's creators chose churches to be a common location for PokeStops and gyms, we are likely to see many new faces around our churches in the coming weeks and months. Rome First is a Pokémon GO stop. Once we learned that we had been designated as a “stop for the game, we decided to practice "radical hospitality" and put up a tent with a charging starting for folks to recharge their cell phones and two coolers filled with bottled ice water. Through the writing of this article, we are now into week two of the Pokémon GO Stop in front of the Historic Sanctuary of Rome First.
Will we use the opportunities to share God's love with those who might otherwise never wander up the hill and come near Rome First or will we bemoan the occasional inconvenience caused by people who are more interested in Pokémon than God? I'm pretty sure there's only one right answer to that question and it entails neither snarky comments about respect for a building nor judgment about cell phone usage.
Often times, it seems like our greatest struggle in demonstrating our faith is simply getting people to give us an opportunity to show them what we're really about—that there's so much more to us and to Christ than judgment and condemnation. If we'll embrace it, Pokémon GO could provide just that kind of opportunity.
The Pokémon GO "stop" is just one of the many opportunities that we can use to fulfill our mission and vision. At Rome First, our Mission is to Love God, Loe People and Serve the World and our Vision is "Serving Rome by loving and welcoming all as partners in transformation".
Sunday, August 21 will be a "Banner Day" in the life of the Rome FirstChristian Community. We will gather in the Wilder Center at 11am for Worship. During worship members of the Vision Team and One Board will share some of the ways we will implement the Vision for Rome First. After Worship we will gather for a dinner in your honor. You are invited to join with your fellow members of Rome First to celebrate the accomplishments of the year just past and hear about the exciting plans for missional opportunities and ministry engagement. We will recognize the many volunteers who served faithfully in the many ministries of Rome First. You will also be given the opportunity to "sign up" for places to serve in the coming new year. There will also be ministry booths/tables that will have information about the places and ways to serve in Rome and beyond.
August is Mission Month at Rome First and we will be delighted to host representatives from three of the Ministries we support throughout the year. Representatives from Aldersgate Homes, Wesley Woods, and the Housing and Homeless Council will be speaking to us during lunch. You will not want to miss the day of celebration on August 21 in the Wilder Center beginning with worship at 11 and continuing through lunch. Lunch will be provided and catered by Lou Cora's. We do ask that you make a reservation so we will know how many people for which to prepare. We’ll have food for you if you sign up and even if you don’t.
We want to celebrate the Missions and Ministries of Rome First and celebrate a great year just past and a brand new School Year beginning! What kinds of Mission experiences will we have the opportunity to share together in the coming year? I share the following excerpt about Missions written by The Reverend Scott Parrish. He asks the Question – "What is Mission?"
"Mission" is one of those curious words which we quickly translate based on our previous experiences - good or bad, enjoyable or unpleasant - and which far too many of us too quickly dismiss as "not our calling." To be in the mission of God offers both church and Christian an opportunity to continue the calling and adventure of loving God and loving our neighbors as we do ourselves. This launches us, both as individuals and as a church, into following Jesus in living for the Kingdom of God. Don’t think of mission so much as projects, nor ongoing repetition of busy activity and asking for funds, but rather as a congregational movement that expresses the Body of Christ for today and tomorrow. Don’t think of some particular mission champion with skills, time, and funding doing something you could never do. Instead, such outreach is powerfully tied into a Christian and church being alive in a community. This living incarnationally creates a flow of people from church into community and community into church. This is for every size church in every community, and a continuation of the biblical way of being a people of faith who "go" as disciples, as messengers, as witnesses of Good News. Further, we never master this, but must practice it each day. In truth, we continue to respond to Holy Spirit in ways that transform us as individuals and congregation, and in ways which transform community and
world. This is a way of sharing in everyday life in the active redemption of God. It is a way to express grace, mercy, peace, and loving kindness as partners in God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven."
The incarnational nature of missional living is what our Vision statement attempts to capture! "Mission" isn’t a project or "trip", what if mission was about the way we lived out our faith in ways that are faithful to our calling as children of a Loving God? Perhaps incarnational mission means setting aside part of the church facilities for those stopping by in search of creatures and items while they participate in Pokémon GO, and providing water and shade from in the hot summer sun. Whatever gestures God leads us to take, remember that our primary purpose is to follow Christ's example and share his love with people where they are. Let's not let these opportunities pass. God can use even an opportunity, like a game, to accomplish amazing things for his kingdom if we're willing to follow his lead. Will you?
Shalom, Robert ><>