CUMMING, Ga. — After 16 years at Cumming First United Methodist Church, the Rev. John Cromartie is retiring.
“It’s a reality of turning 72, and it becomes a mandatory retirement,” Cromartie joked.
As for plans after retiring, Cromartie will hike off into the sunset… and sunrise, to raise funds for the CFUMC mission trip to Ecuador. As a way to raise funds for the mission, Cromartie, an avid hiker, set up eight slots that anyone can bid on to take a hike through the Appalachian Trail.
On May 13-24, Cromartie will lead a 140-mile hike in North Carolina and Tennessee, and from May 27 to June 5, he leads an 85-mile hike through Georgia’s portion of the Appalachian Trail.
“I love getting out in nature and having some time in the greenery and the mountain tops, out with the animals and it’s a refreshing experience,” Cromartie said. “People act differently, they are helpful to one another and if you run into trouble, there’s always someone there to lend you a hand.”
In 2001, he took a two-month leave of absence and hiked 700 miles on the Appalachian Trail. In subsequent summers, he finished the entire trail, about 2,200 miles, over a four-year period.
“I get out every summer for three weeks, so I’ve finished half of it a second time,” Cromartie said. “I’ll probably finish up the trail again in my mid-70s.”
His wife, Julia, also loves to hike and the couple takes trips every summer to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
About 20 years ago, the whole family climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“We love hiking and the outdoors, so we’ll be doing more of that,” Cromartie said.
Prior to his service at CFUMC, Cromartie was associate minister at Peachtree First United Methodist Church and before that he served as a lawyer providing representation for the poor. He also used to run a private practice in Gainesville, Ga.
For the hiking in May and June, Cromartie said he’ll offer day hikes, for those who just want to get their feet wet.
“You don’t have to be in maximum condition, but a 15-mile hike is pretty strenuous,” Cromartie said. “It’s really about raising money for the missions.”
Carol Lindeland, a secretary at CFUMC who joined the church in 1998, said the trips will be, “a great way for someone who has always wanted to hike the trail to get a chance with an experienced person.”
As for how Cromartie will be remembered at the church.
“He’s an educator,” Lindeland said. “He loves to teach the word. He’s a visionary.”