“The Uniting Church is an inclusive community. All Pokémon are welcome, whether they are a Pikachu or a common Zubat,” she said.
The recent surge in Pokémon sightings is due to a new mobile phenomenon called Pokémon GO. In this augmented reality game, players walk around in the real world and visit physical landmarks in order to catch Pokémon.
Some churches may be surprised to find that they are listed as virtual Pokemon Gyms, where players can battle other trainers. According to this map, Burwood Heights and East Ivanhoe Uniting Church have been transformed into Pokémon Gyms while Edithvale Uniting Church is a Pokestop for trainers looking to replenish in-game items.
Ms Hollis encouraged church members to support young Pokémon trainers in their congregations as they attempt to complete their Pokedex.
Pokémon trainers rushing to nearby Uniting Church buildings to collect Pokeballs are advised to be aware of their surroundings and watch for incoming traffic.
While there have been reports of injuries to distracted players, Pokémon GO has also led to surprising health benefits. Many players said the game has encouraged them to get out of the house and exercise in order to catch an elusive Pokémon. It also fosters social interactions, with some participants joining in Pokewalks in their local neighbourhood.
Pokémon GO might also present an opportunity for churches to engage with young people. Congregations can offer hospitality to budding young Pokémon trainers by providing food and drinks. Or they may wish to include a sign outside their church like the Gosford Anglican Church to welcome Pokémon trainers.
So if you see a crowd of young people playing with their phones outside your church, be sure to have a chat and ask how their Pokémon journey is going.
Is your church a Pokémon Gym or a Pokestop? Let us know in the comments below.
Image by Rishi Bandopadhay via Flickr