Pastor completes 40-mile hike to raise money for church council

July 11, 2012
  • Some of those who hiked on March 26 are, from left, Bill Jamerback, Jerry Mason, Dama Ward, Amber Ward, Randy Ward, Pastor Ed Poling (kneeling), Harry Myers, Kristen Jamerback, Ronnie Ward, Neil Hospelhorn, Cheryl Smith and Rich Vrboncic.
Submitted photo

Beginning at 5:10 a.m. on March 26 at Pen Mar Park and finishing at 9:50 p.m. in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., the Rev. Ed Poling hiked across Maryland, completing more than 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 17 hours. 

Poling, pastor of Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, had fellow hikers to keep him company part of the way, some of whom hiked the entire 40 miles and others hiked a leg of the journey or nearly half the distance. 

The hike wasn’t for fun, but it was for a good cause.

 Poling raised nearly $1,800 for the Hagerstown Area Religious Council through sponsorships. 

The council is a religious coalition made up of congregations and houses of faith in the greater Hagerstown area.

In addition to providing seasonal worship services and support for its religious leaders, it helps churches find ways to encourage involvement in community ministries and initiatives. 

The council is in the process of raising funds to support a part-time executive director whose major task is to connect congregations to the community and to each other and to better coordinate efforts.  

 Poling, 64, is no novice to daylong strenuous fundraisers. At age 61, he ran his 15th JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon. All of his races have been to raise funds for charitable causes.

 “I’m no longer running 50 miles in one day,” Poling said.

 Now he’s hiking 40 miles on rough terrain, and standing in the pulpit to preach the next morning.

Forty-four people sponsored Poling in the hike. 

When describing the difficulty of finishing the challenge, he said: “At one point, as I was hiking up Lamb’s Knoll, I wasn’t sure I could go much further. I was getting slower and slower. So I stopped and had a lovely rest break. I thought about all of you and your support of this effort. 

“I found encouragement as I looked over the list of supporters I carried with me. I knew your thoughts and prayers were with me and that I wasn’t alone. 

“So, after a few bites of gorp (good old raisins and peanuts) and some water, I started up again. It was a turning point for me. As I reached the top of the mountain, I realized I could and would finish the course. It was a defining moment for me. I felt a great sense of gratitude for you and for God’s spirit in you.”

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