United Methodists commission Appalachian Trail chaplain
Continuing a journey that began last fall with the formation of an Appalachian Trail chaplaincy sponsored by the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, 27-year-old Josh Lindamood, of Lynchburg, Va., was commissioned as chaplain Tuesday at conference offices in Alcoa.
Making his way to Springer Mountain, Ga., Lindamood was accompanied by his parents, the Rev. Richard G. and Carol Lindamood, of Wytheville, Va., and Josh’s girlfriend, Jen Blake, also of Lynchburg.
Holston Conference’s first AT chaplain will embark on his journey by starting at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain on Thursday, making his way toward the northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns,’” the Rev. Charles Maynard said in opening the commissioning service, quoting Isaiah 52:7. A Blount County resident, Maynard is Maryville District superintendent, an avid hiker and a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy board of directors.
Speaking to the United Methodist clergy and laity in the group, Maynard said he “tried to do some homework” before the commissioning event relative to Bishop Francis Asbury’s travels in the Holston region. Asbury was one of the first bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, traveling in this region in the late 18th and early 19th century. To the best of Maynard’s determination, “Francis Asbury crossed what is now the AT more than 50 times.”
“So, today as Josh begins his journey, we want to take a few moments to commission him as a chaplain who will travel the Appalachian Trail,” Maynard said, bringing to the mind an image of circuit riding Methodist preachers.
Resident Holston Conference Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor led a group of more than 30 people in the commissioning, which included the laying on of hands and prayer.
As Josh closed his eyes, Taylor said, “Josh, I want you to open your eyes to see the hands on you, with people touching the shoulders and backs of others,” bestowing spiritual and physical support of the ministry. “All who take upon themselves the name of Christ are called into ministries of love and service by the examples of Christ,” the bishop prayed. “As Josh Lindamood, a member of our faith community, begins his work along the Appalachian Trail, we pray the blessings of God and the Holston Conference upon his endeavors.”
Earlier, Maynard recounted the origins of the Appalachian Trail, tracing it to Benton MacKaye’s 1921 article, published in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, entitled “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” Maynard said MacKaye, who was a former forester, government analyst and newspaper editor, envisioned a footpath in the wilderness that was a “sanctuary, a refuge, a battle line,” that connected and protected humankind.
“He was interested in preserving one species: Homo sapiens,” Maynard said.