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The Ground We Hallow By Our Meeting

This summer, during an outing with my family in Lynch Park, I came across an odd tableau. The rose garden on a summer afternoon usually has a fair number of people in it, wandering among the flowers, or children (sometimes my children) playing on the brickwork and under the stone awning. But on this day, the space was crowded with visitors, and all of them were…sitting. Some were chatting in small clusters, but most had their heads bent down, peering into their hand-held devices.

They were, as you may already have guessed, playing Pokemon Go, the hand-held game which had just been released a week-or-so before. The game (which, at its heart, is about collecting cute, cartoon monsters) depends on a form of augmented reality. Through the modern magic of your phone’s GPS, the game keeps track of where you are in the real world, and its special map has designated certain places therein as important to the game. You need to physically visit them in order to acquire useful items, train your digital pets, or find new ones. And it turns out the Lynch Park’s rose garden is one of these key locations – a wise choice for a place that players will want to visit in order to rise in level and advance within the game.

An unadvertised consequence of this game design – and the dramatic surge in popularity it had upon release – has been to put lots of different people who didn’t necessarily know each other before into the same spaces at the same time. It even provides some built-in conversation-starters: “I just caught Pikachu!” “How many Pokemon do you have in your Pokedex?” A game which – no judgements – was created by a corporation to be entertaining, and thus profitable has, as a byproduct, begun fostering interactions. And in every such interaction lies the potential, however small, for something holy to occur.

My mentor and childhood minister, the Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert wrote,

                We meet on holy ground,

Brought into being as life encounters life,

As personal histories merge into the communal story,

As we take on the pride and pain of our companions,

As separate selves become community.

Now, I can’t claim anything quite so profound as this was happening in the rose garden that day. I wouldn’t know – I hadn’t joined the game yet, worried about its drain on both my time and my phone’s battery life. But when I found out a few days ago that our congregational home at 225 Cabot Street is also one of the game’s special locations (we’re a PokeStop, for those hip to the lingo), that sealed my fate. I installed the game last night; I can’t resist an opportunity for transcendent encounters with the other people sharing this earth with me.

And I hope that you cannot resist such opportunities either, because this month, as we return from the summer sojourn to Sundays of worship at the yellow church on Cabot Street, I can promise you: life will encounter life. We will take on the pride and pain of our companions. Our separate selves will become community again and again, and we will put the strength we build together, towards acts of love and justice. I hope I’ll see you there.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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