Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | APRIL/MAY 2018 33 Tents are a common sight on the lawn of the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain. Its hiker ministry has become a vital mission for the congregation. Trail tales Joseph O'Donnell, 20-something Joseph O'Donnell, trail name Psyche, found himself grieving anew the losses he had endured during his life. His younger brother Patrick had died of neu - roblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer, when he was 3 and O'Donnell was5. On Christmas Eve 2003, when O'Donnell was 13, his father committed suicide. O'Donnell carried a photograph of his father and brothers with him on the trail. He recalled an especially profound experience on his Appalachian Trail pilgrimage. "I had been hiking with a man whose trail name was Turtle, who was a minister from Virginia. We spoke about family, friendships and relationships, service to others, and faith in God. That he was a Christian minister and that I had chosen to hike the trail as part of my own discernment process seemed more than just a coincidence," he said. He encountered three other clergy on the trail — the Presbyterian pastor of the Church of the Mountain, a Baptist minister and a Catholic priest — who all independently encouraged him to pursue ministry. Last year, Psyche enrolled in seminary, with the intent to become a college chaplain. "I had been hiking with a man whose trail name was Turtle, who was a minister from Virginia. We spoke about family, friendships and relationships, service to others, and faith in God. That he was a Christian minister and that I had chosen to hike the trail as part of my own discernment process seemed more than just a coincidence," he said. He encountered three other clergy on the trail — the Presbyterian pastor of the Church of the Mountain, a Baptist minister and a Catholic priest — who all independently encouraged him to pursue ministry. Last year, Psyche enrolled in seminary, with the intent to become a college chaplain. Eco-justice on the trail An effort is underway by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to educate hikers to "Leave No Trace" to preserve the trail, prevent environmental disasters and minimize the environmental and wildlife impact of the hikers. As part of this movement, every year a seasonal "ridge runner" is hired who cares for a stretch of the trail. The responsibilities include dismantling active campsites in restricted areas, moving fallen trees and picking up garbage left behind.

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