'Pokémon Go' a problem & annoyance to some churches, a blessing & opportunity for others

"Pokémon Go" annoyed a German cathedral with game players flocking the church grounds while other churches perceive the latest cultural phenomenon as a golden opportunity.

According to the Associated Press, the local Daily Express reported that Cologne Cathedral didn't welcome the mass number of "Pokémon Go" players hunting for the virtual Pokémon on the grounds of the ancient church building and even requested the game's manufacturer to remove the church from the list of PokéStops and gyms.

A man uses a mobile phone in front of an advertisement board bearing the image of Pokemon Go at an electronic shop in Tokyo, Japan, July 27, 2016. | REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The church took its legal action Tuesday after the company snubbed its request.

The mega-hit video game sends out its players to the real world outside to hunt and train virtual Pokémon found in neighborhood landmarks, including churches. The hashtag #PokemonGo trended immediately shortly after the game's official launch on July 6. It also stirred a frenzy on Twitter world as gamers and church leaders alike discovered "Pokémon Go" just designated churches as PokéStops and gyms, thereby sending unchurched players somewhere they haven't been at for a while.

The response of Cologne Cathedral seems like a rare case as other churches in the U.S. and the U.K. generally adopt a more embracing attitude to the augmented reality mobile game.

The Episcopal community considers the latest craze a "golden opportunity to tell God's story."

"How shall we respond?" asked Rev. Mark A. Spaulding of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Castro Valley, California, as reported by Episcopal News Service. "'Keep them out. Don't step on the daisies?' Or, 'Welcome, we are glad you are here! Here is a chair to make it more comfortable for you.'"

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Sherman, Texas responded by inviting players to charge their mobile phones in the parish hall. It also plans to be more hospitable by offering water for players, taking into consideration the sweltering heat of the weather nowadays.

"With Pokémon Go, the opportunity is more of a what not to do rather than anything specific," said Rev. J. Wesley Evans. "People are coming to the building, and we can either do what should be the norm, show hospitality like Jesus, or we can build a wall because we don't want 'those kind of people.'"