United Methodists Send First Chaplain to Hike the Appalachian Trail

4/4/2013

Josh Lindamood began a 2,200 mile journey this week, hiking the Appalachian trail as a roving United Methodist chaplain. His journey began at Springer Mountain in Georgia and will finish six months from now at Mount Katahdin in Maine.

By Annette Spence

Twenty-six year old Josh Lindamood begins a 2,200 mile journey April 4, hiking the Appalachian trail as a roving United Methodist chaplain. His journey begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and will finish six months from now at Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Lindamood’s goal is to provide an encouraging spiritual presence to trekkers tendered by nature and physical challenge during the 2,200-mile, spring-to-fall quest. “Everybody hikes the ‘AT’ for different reasons and at different points in their lives,” Lindamood said. “I just love nature and the outdoors and the way God speaks to you when you’re in it.”

The chaplaincy venture is backed by Holston Conference, the parent regional body for 897 United Methodist churches in Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia. Lindamood, a landscaper from Lynchburg, Va., received chaplaincy training as well as “wilderness medical training” before shouldering his backpack through 14 states and a variety of weather conditions.

The Rev. Alan Ashworth is the pastor of three United Methodist churches that began Appalachian Trail Outreach Ministry more than a decade ago. New Hope Union United Methodist Church, Green Valley United Methodist Church and Pine Grove United Methodist Church have worked together to provide a unique ministry to serve hikers, including placing a cooler with drinks, weather reports, and New Testaments on the trail and serving a hot breakfast.

“I know we’ve touched lives because of the letters we’ve received, but the relationship ends right there,” Ashworth says of the 1,000 or so hikers who have received a hot breakfast or a ride into town for supplies over the past decade. “The idea behind the chaplain is to put somebody on the trail an amount of time to build real trust.”

Lindamood said he’s long had his own dream to conquer the trail, although he couldn’t afford the expense. Organizers raised $11,500 to support the chaplain with training, gear, food, insurance, and other expenses.

“I’m definitely looking forward to growing myself spiritually, to being one-on-one with God and hashing some things out,” Lindamood said. “But I’m also looking forward to connecting with people, to witnessing for the presence of God, without forcing it on anybody.”

A group of United Methodist pastors will provide spiritual direction and support by telephone or internet on the long and difficult path from Georgia to Maine. At least one pastor will accompany the chaplain during his first week on the trail.

The chaplain’s backpack will be marked with a symbol incorporating the recognizable green “AT” logo symbol with the traditional United Methodist “cross and flame.” Lindamood also has a Facebook page called “Appalachian Trail Chaplain.”


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