We spoke to a trainee vicar whose church is a Pokémon Go stop

She caught an Eevee last week


Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm, and with it has come the existence of Pokéstops: meaning an unlucky few now have to deal with finding people in their back gardens searching for a Meowth.

The GPS system that the app uses takes local landmarks and turns them into Pokéstops, with the Daily Mail today devoting an outraged spread to the app’s use of the Cenotaph as a stop.

So we thought we’d catch up with Sarah McDonald, a trainee vicar whose church in Islington has been turned into a Pokéstop.

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Sarah’s brother, Matt, is an editor for The Tab in the US

So Sarah, what’s your role at the church?

I’m the curate, so basically you’re the assistant minister. It’s similar to being F1 or F2 (foundation year) of being a doctor.

I’m ordained, so it’s similar to being a doctor in that you’ve learnt everything and you are finishing up. You work with someone for a couple of years and then you run your own church after three years. I’m 26, and I’ll be 29 when I’m fully trained.

What made you want to be involved in the church?

I suppose I started going to church when I was a student and started to enquire about social work for job. I felt, I guess, a call from God and then started the process of exploring that.

There is a big interview process and I started that in my final year of university and got accepted.

How did you find out that your church was a Pokémon Go stop?

Me and my brother were really into Pokémon as kids, so when Pokémon Go came out I was quite excited. I really like that nerdy type of thing anyway.

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The stops near Sarah’s church

I was working on Thursday and had been waiting for it to come out in the UK, so I was in the church office when I downloaded it with other staff. That’s how we found out!

We actually have four stops in very close proximity and it’s been constant with the people outside. We have a school nearby and a university. It’s great – it’s really funny to watch.

Has there been an increase in the amount of people attending the church since the game came out?

I don’t know, on a Sunday we have a lot of visitors but we have a lot of younger people coming to the church anyway. A lot of our younger church-goers are already playing.

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How do you feel about your church being a Pokéstop? 

It’s great. It makes a lot of sense that Church of England churches are Pokéstops because they choose a lot of historical sites. I think it is quite fun – it encourages people to use our gardens.

We have events usually in the gardens and it was quite funny, as we were having a pet event. People had actual real-life pets, and then people around them were trying to catch Pokemon.

I think Pokémon Go as a concept is great as it encourages people to explore their local area. I was out on Saturday playing at Kings Cross and you just notice stuff that you usually wouldn’t notice otherwise.

What sort of Pokémon have you caught at the church?

What do we have? We have a lot of Jynxes and Drowzees. I caught an Eevee today and also a Fearow. I’m coming up to Level 11 right now.

I put on my Instagram a photo of the four Pokéstops near me and someone had put lures on all of them. So I just stayed outside catching one every 30 minutes.

Have you ever brought it up at a service or promoted it to your patrons?

It was brought up a lot on Sunday with various members of our church. We don’t promote it as such but we have made people aware of it. I think it definitely strengthens a sense of community.

There’s a church in Harrow that has set up charge points for people playing Pokémon Go, which is a really good idea.

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Sarah’s church have since created a Pokémon-themed logo

What would you say to younger people who may be wishing to get involved in the church?

If you’re looking to explore faith you might want to find a church running Alpha nearby – that’s a great low pressure way of figuring out if the whole church thing is for you.

If you want to work with the church, find one that you feel comfortable in. Have a chat with your minister and they would be able to advise you about how to progress.

The Church of England is very happy to get younger people involved, especially younger women.