Weekly Update
Announcements From Around the Virginia Synod
Pokemon Go: Gamers and the Church
Since its initial release on July 6 th Pokémon Go, arguably the biggest mobile gaming phenomenon of this year, is making an impact on church across the globe. So, what exactly is the mobile app and how can churches consider using apps like it to connect with the neighbors that might be visiting in and around churches?
History of Pokémon
If the name Pokémon sounds familiar to you, it should! Pokémon are part of the hugely popular Pokémon media franchise that hit the scene in 1995 as a game cartridge for the Game Boy handheld console. The franchise now spans video games, trading card games, animated TV shows, movies, comic books, and toys. Nearly all aspects of the Pokémon franchise have continued to grow and thrive with new and unique iterations for over two decades, making Pokémon the second most successful and lucrative video-game based media franchise in the world.
Pokémon, short for 'pocket monsters', are fantastical fictional creatures with a variety of powers and abilities that can be 'caught' by players of the game in order to obtain information about each species, as well as to train them for battle against other players. Players of Pokémon games are distinguished as Pokémon Trainers, and within game worlds move about the game environment to try and capture new Pokémon using a tool known as a Pokéball. 
Several examples of Pokémon species
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game based on the Pokémon franchise. It is played on smartphones which requires its players to physically travel to real-world locations with their phones in tow in order to collect supplies, as well as to catch the Pokémon creatures, like fan favorites Pikachu or Charmander.
Pokémon in Pokémon Go can only be found by walking through neighborhood areas (as the app uses phone GPS), and once found can be captured by throwing a Pokéball at them. Besides Pokémon, there are two other major aspects of the mobile game that players are in search of when they are actively playing:
  • Pokéstops- location based spaces where trainers can restore supplies, such as Pokéballs and other helpful items used to capture more Pokémon
  • Gyms- location based spaces where trainers can battle the Pokémon they have captured against Pokémon caught by other trainers.
Because both Pokéstops and Gyms are location based, they do not move like Pokémon or players of the game can! These spaces are located at points of interest and gathering such as unique landmarks, parks, schools, and of course churches!
Pokémon Go has translated the wildly popular media franchise into the real world, turning fans into real life Pokémon trainers, thus allowing them to live out the long-held fantasy of catching Pokémon. However, the mobile game has not been without controversy. 

Most notable issues stems from the location based game-play, with spaces such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery among other sacred spaces being placed within the game world. These public spaces faced an influx of players wanting to capture Pokémon rather than be attentive to the service, reflection, and education that was intended there. As a result of complaints from some locations to the game's developer resulted in those locations full removed from the game map during an update to the app, in order to preserve the respect and service present in those locations.

Locations across the globe that happen to be included within Pokémon Go are having to face the question of if they want to be included in this gaming boom or not. Churches too need to make the decision of how active they want to engage in this mobile game's community.
Screen shots of Pokémon Go.
The image on the right shows an example of the in-game map system, with Pokéstops (the blue and purple colored posts), and a Gym (the Yellow tower)
The image on the right shows the augmented reality visual that occur when catching a new Pokémon.
How can churches connect with Pokémon players?
With this rich history backing the new smartphone game, there is a huge audience of Pokémon players that might be wandering into church parking lots, or hanging about near the church sign looking for Pokémon to capture. There's a lot of ideas out there for what a congregation can do to engage positively with players of the game, and these examples are simply a starting point:
  1. Find out if your church is a location (either a Gym or Pokéstop) within the game. Even if your church isn't 'on the map' you can still easily engage with those around the neighborhood playing the game in a variety of ways
  2. Offer players water, or a shady spot so players can cool off while on the hunt for more Pokémon. Running around in the summer sun takes a lot of energy, so setting up a refueling station is a great way to say hello to those around your neighborhood playing the game!
  3. Make a badge for players to earn. Within the franchise small badges are a way to show off what you've accomplished (typically received when beating a Gym), so creating a badge that's unique for your church may be a fun way for a congregation's players, or visitors of the congregation that play the game to connect over the mobile app.
  4. Consider using the game as an activity for a youth group to play. Gathering together within the neighborhood around the church and discovering new places could become a great bonding activity for a congregation's youth.
  5. Be attentive to game changes. As this is an app, there's bound to be changes that occur within the game's framework. Be attentive, or ask questions to those who play the game about what's new and different in the game! 
Ultimately, Pokémon Go wants to encourage everyone to get out there and explore their neighborhood, and congregations should follow that advice! Download the game and head out into your neighborhood. You might discover new places, or meet some new neighbors that you might not have found otherwise. St. Paul's in Hampton for example has enjoyed their neighbors stopping by their church sign, which is a Pokéstop, and Rev. Lauren Miller of Peace, Charlottesville says, "We are a Pokéstop and it's been a great opportunity to get to know people in the neighborhood".

It's the social aspects of the game that's really connected for many players, as it has encouraged people to get outside and discover the world and the people around them. Some players who suffer from mental illness who play the game have even reported feeling encouraged to get up and move outside in ways they never have before because of the game's positive encouragement and location based gameplay.

As Rev. David Hansen suggested in his article for Living Lutheran, "Sometimes our best bet is a willingness to be out in the  world, out in our neighborhoods, meeting people where they are" and that's excellent advice in considering how you can get onboard with the full Pokémon Go experience that is sweeping the globe. So, get out there, catch 'em all, and perhaps you'll gain something more than a few new Pokémon.

Is your church planning a Pokémon Go event?  Have you noticed a change in the visitors to your congregation following the game's release? Tell us about it on the Virginia Synod Facebook Page, on Twitter @VirginiaSynod, or by emailing Emily Pilat at pilat@vasynod.org!
 If you want to submit an announcement, please  check out the Submission Guidelines and send your submission to pilat@vasynod.org.

September 4-11, 2016 will be the Virginia Synod's 4th annual Week of Service! 

The Virginia Synod Week of Service coincides with "God's Work, Our Hands" Sunday, the ELCA Day of Service on September 11.  This year's dedicated day of service also marks the 15-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

We have extended the opportunity to serve to accommodate varying schedules. Last year 70 churches participated in the Week of Service.

All congregations are invited to reach out into their neighborhoods to become God's hands and feet, to serve those in need and to share God's compassion with the world. The Week of Service is an opportunity for everyone to intentionally invest time in service projects outside the walls of the church. Pick a project and prepare to serve others in the name of God's love.

For more information on how you and your congregation can get involved- click here!
Transition Team
At the 2015 Virginia Synod Assembly, a resolution was passed instructing the Synod Council to provide a detailed plan for study and discernment of the bishop election that is to take place at the Virginia Synod Assembly in 2017. In addition, the resolution instructed the Synod Council to provide to the congregations of the Virginia Synod a report prior to the 2016 Synod Assembly with recommendations and a plan for the 2017 bishop election. In response to the resolution, the Synod Council formed a "Transition Committee" to study and discern the transition process that the Virginia Synod will face at the 2017 Synod Assembly.

To learn more about this important transition in our Synod visit the transition team's page on virginiasynod.org where you can find information on the team, resources for the Bishop Election education, as well as a calendar of events that the transition team will be in attendance at and presenting information about the transition process.

Final Call for NLCS Community Impact Grant Applications

National Lutheran Communities & Services (NLCS) is pleased to announce the availability of Community Impact grants for the 2017 year. As a faith-based not-for-profit ministry providing an array of services for seniors, NLCS strongly believes that its mission extends beyond the physical boundaries of its residential communities and is committed to supporting the work of other non-profit organizations, including congregations and community-based programs, that address the critical needs of seniors today.
Each year, NLCS awards grants to organizations that share in the same passion of serving seniors. All grants must address at least one of the following urgent needs faced by seniors:
  • Chronic disease management
  • Navigating and accessing health care and social services
  • Dealing with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and memory loss
  • Social isolation
  • Poverty and financial insecurity
Does your organization qualify? Proposals will be accepted until August 15, 2016. To learn more about the submission of grant proposals visit: 
Questions? Contact us at communityimpact@nationallutheran.org or 301-354-2703 and ask for Community Impact. 

The offering will benefit GraceInside, the non-profit organization that provides chaplains to Virginia's prisons, Matthew Harper, an incarcerated member of St. David's, will preach.

Featuring: John Gonzalez del Solar of Fan Guitar and Ukulele, members of the River City Ukulele Society, and others.
60th Anniversary Celebration at Lutherock-Aug 19-21

Come celebrate 60 years of ministry at Lutherock Lutheran Camp and Conference with us! Join us for a day or weekend of celebration and reconnecting with your brothers and sisters in Christ. The weekend will be full of fun camp activities such as: ice cream making, skits and songs around the campfire, hiking on the property, climbing the Challenge Tower, zipping off the ropes course and so much more! Overnight accommodations are based on availability and require pre-registration. Space is limited, so register early!

Enjoy picnic lunch, recognitions and day activities: Free will offering and does not require pre-registration.
Tent camping: $10/person or $20/per family each night
Moretz Lodge, Cabin Village, Founder's Lodge, or Stone Lodge: $20/person or $40/family each night
Crow's Nest: $30/person or $50/family each night
Rates include meals, lodging and programming for the weekend!

Racial Reconciliation in the Roanoke Valley
Faith leaders in the Roanoke Valley, of any faith or denomination, are you interested in conversation discussing racial reconciliation? Join together Wednesday, August 17th from 9-11 AM at the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia for a discourse on institutional racism in the Roanoke Valley, the need for social justice, and the next steps to be taken.

Please RSVP by email to mhays-smith@dioswva.org

St. Stephen Lutheran Church Theologian in Residence Weekend Sept 16-18
Dr. Mark Allan Powell, New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, and an internationally known biblical scholar, will be the Theologian in Residence at St. Stephen, Williamsburg, Sept. 16-18. His topics will be "Jesus Gets Passionate: The Driving Concerns that Determined his Life and Death, Christ and Culture: Paradigms for Social Transformation, and Things that Divide Us."
Children's Ministry Training
Fall 2016 ACTS Courses
Register Now for Fall 2016 ACTS Courses
Join us October 1st and October 29th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waynesboro, Virginia. Hear Dr. Terri Elton address the paradox of ministry leadership, looking at the importance of balancing our role with God's.

Renew and Retreat a Christian Formation Retreat  
Tuesday Oct 4, 4:30 PM - Thursday Oct 6, 10 AM 
Co-Partnered by Camp Caroline Furnace and
Roots and Wings a Christian Formation Committee of the VA Synod

Retreat Presenter:  Debbie Streicher, President of the Christian  Formation Network of the ELCA. 

Debbie will lead us in a discussion about steps needed to immerse our children and youth in faith and creating meaningful milestones, moments that make a difference as they support children, youth and families of all ages in their faith journey.
Come to Camp Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center for a retreat which is specifically designed to support and equip both full-time and part-time professional and volunteer Children, Youth and Family Ministry staff. In addition to an educational component there will be ample time for networking and resource sharing, as well as relaxation, conversation and worship. 

50 Forward Living Well Retreat at Lutherock- Oct 7-9
Gather your 50 (years) & forward friends for an enriching and inspiring weekend in beautiful Western North Carolina. Gain new tools for living well at every age! Retreat features 2 keynote speakers:
  • Jeff Yeager - an entertaining media personality who's been featured on Good Morning America. Author of "How to Retire the Cheapskate Way" and "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to True Riches," among others.
  • Pastor Tom Hafer - author of "Faith and Fitness," "Well planet," and "Aging Grace." He's a physical therapist, certified Athletic Trainer and a national speaker on the connections between faith and fitness.
Other retreat highlights include:
  • Entertainment by "Sound Investment," a fun- loving, crowd-pleasing, 4-piece band featuring classic rock of the '60s and '70s
  • A "farm to table" dinner, including a discussion with the chef
  • Saturday worskhop options to help you live well, peacefully, and faithfully
  • Optional Saturday afternoon outings, including a microbrewery tour, prayerful walking, painting 
Find out more about the speakers, workshops, and other offerings by visiting www.50ForwardLife.com
Clinical Pastoral Education at The Village at Orchard Ridge
National Lutheran Communities & Services, as a satellite of The Eastern Mennonite Seminary Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, develops pastors and chaplains who are reflective practitioners, able to draw upon the best in their theological traditions and the behavioral sciences for ministry that is increasingly faithful and fruitful. Participants are formed in ministry through individual learning goals and through reflection in community upon pastoral practice by means of case studies, seminars and individual supervision.

Units offered in a community of seniors on the campus of The Village at Orchard Ridge-A National Lutheran Community allows the participant to work with a population that they will likely encounter for the whole of their ministry careers. We offer a unique, creative and engaging community that will assist the participants' ability to minister, reflect, engage and grow.

Job Opportunities
All posts can also be found online at  www.vasynod.org/job-opportunities. If you have job opening you would like posted, email pilat@vasynod.org. 
Do You have an announcement, upcoming event or news story Idea? Send it to pilat@vasynod.org and make sure to follow our
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