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St Mary the Virgin church in Willesborough, Ashford entices new members with Pokemon Go

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

The virtual gaming world of Pokemon Go is still going strong, and an Ashford church is looking to entice new members by utilising it’s position as a Pokemon ‘gym’.

The game operates using GPS data and cameras on mobile phones, often forming gyms in popular areas or landmarks.

It allows gamers to train and battle with their virtual creatures, which appear on the screen as if they are there in real life.

The Pokemon notice at St Mary the Virgin church in Willesborough

Ashford resident Richard Harrington spied the notice at St Mary the Virgin Church in Willesborough.

He said: “I think it’s really important for the church to connect with the younger generation and to have the church accept that they are now a gym in a virtual world too is nice.

“I’m pretty sure they find it hard to get youngsters going to church.

“I feel the message that is being put out is that they don’t mind you looking for Pokemon but if you want to come in and have a coffee and cake then that’s ok.”

Rev John MacKenzie

The brains behind the idea, Reverend John MacKenzie from St Mary the Virgin Church, said: “I walked out of church and saw a group of young people playing the game and I just thought that’s great!”

The team rector for Ashford also plays the game along with his 19-year-old son Jacob and is keen to make players of all ages welcome.

“The church opens every day for a community cafe and it is an ideal place to come and play and sit outside and inside in winter and have a drink.”

Squirtle was cornered in the KM's Gravesend office

Since putting up the notice, the church has managed to attract more young members. Rev MacKenzie continued: “We have had some people come and play inside. It has been good.

“The main idea is to say that you’re fine to play here.”

St Mary the Virgin Church in Willesborough is open as a cafe from 8.45am to 12.30pm every day and worships on Sunday’s at 10am.

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