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Catching smiles: Arizona church embracing role as ‘Pokemon Go’ stop

A sign outside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Yuma encourages "Pokemon Go" players to stop by. (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Photo)

PHOENIX — An Arizona church that found itself dropped in the center of all the “Pokemon Go” hubbub is welcoming players with open arms and Wi-Fi.

Father Tim True, the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Yuma, had no idea about the craze until he talked to his teenage daughter about it.

“She started to explain the game to me,” he said. “She said that she was going outside and having a lot of fun with it. I thought, ‘Well. that’s interesting.’

“I thought ‘OK, some other game on her device. OK, that was fun.’ I wasn’t paying much attention to it.”

But True started to pay attention after he found out the church was a Pokestop, which is an essential place for players to stop and recharge to continue the game. He said, rather than get surly about being selected, he decided to have fun with it and embrace the players.

“I said ‘Why not? Let’s make this a fun opportunity for the neighborhood. Let’s live in to it. Let’s let people come to the church and find Pokemon,'” he said.

The church decided to put up a picture of a Pokemon character in one of its windows along with its Wi-Fi password to encourage people to play after it closes for the day. It also uses its large marquee to alert players to the Pokestop.

“We have a marquee on our sign that’s on a prominent street in Yuma,” True said. “I came in on Monday morning and just put on it ‘Pokestop’ with a couple of exclamation points.”

True said the positive reaction to the church’s decision has been overwhelming.

“We’ve gotten non-stop attention, especially on social media,” he said. “Some people are coming to the church and people are texting about us. I had no idea what we were getting into, but it is certainly fun.”

While some on social media have been critical about the game, True said it’s nice to see people in the community having fun.

“It’s a good distraction right now,” he said. “With the crazy times in America right now, it’s fun to do this.”

True also said he’s not concerned the ‘Pokemon Go’ players will affect services. In fact, he hopes a few of them stop in for church as well.

“Let’s just enjoy it (being a Pokestop),” he said. “Let’s enjoy the ride.

“It’s just kind of a nice thing.”

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