Appalachian Trail chaplain meets people where they are
Matt Hall is this year's Appalachian Trail chaplain for the United Methodist Church. He goes by the handle “Trigger.”
Hall described his role as simply being out there to be a listening ear, to be support, to encourage. He said it isn’t so much going around knocking on tents asking people if they know Jesus as it is walking beside them and being in fellowship with them and then eventually just letting the conversation flow.
The AT runs about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. About 15,000 people a year hike at least sections of the trail.
“Our goal is to get outside the church walls and pray with people, communicate with people, just do life with people as they are on this trek,” he said.
Hall said he was looking for a way to live out ministry in some way other than from behind a pulpit. He started looking into chaplaincy ministry. That appealed to him.
People hike the AT for all different kinds of reasons, Hall said.
“In my experience not only with people on the trail, but in reading and communicating with people who have hiked the trail, and talking with the four past chaplains who have done this before me, a lot of people hiking the trail have either lost something or are looking for something. Many are grieving.”
Hall’s ministry represents the UMC’s commitment to show love and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those seeking answers to some of life’s hard questions.
Hall feels qualified to meet people where they are based on his past life. He struggled with addiction through much of his adolescence, but has been clean for more than four years. That history gives him strength and hope to share with those who are struggling.
Through his journey, he said he learned about struggles; he learned about suffering; and he learned about the hope found in Jesus Christ.
As he meets people on the trail and begins conversations, he doesn’t have talking points. He just lets the conversation flow organically, bringing his faith into the conversation as it plays out.
“This is a way for the church to get out where the people are, and that is near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Hall said he expects to meet Jesus on the trail every day. Many of the people who meet Hall will see Jesus in him, too.