Thebaid Project Update – September 2017

A summary of Thebaid Project activity over the past six weeks, with exciting news about upcoming monastery and parish visits, and some additional surprises.

Dear Fellow Thebaid Pilgrims,

I’m a couple of weeks late on my monthly Thebaid Update Schedule, but I hope you’ll appreciate the reasons for the delay, as the last six weeks have been filled with travel and photography, and have generated growing interest in and momentum for the Project.

For this September 2017 Edition, there are several categories of note:


As mentioned in the August 2017 Update, through the support of a generous sponsor, I have been able to eliminate the overhead of housing and utilities costs, which has really propelled scheduling both of monastery visits and parish presentations. The immediate benefits of this logistical change can be seen in the updates below…


August 25-27 — Monastery of the Glorious Ascension (ROCOR) in Resaca GA, a women’s monastery with a long history, which is an important part of Orthodox mission efforts in northern Georgia. View the Photo Gallery here.

September 5-7 — Panagia Vlahernon Greek Orthodox Monastery in Williston FL. This is my first visit to one of the monasteries founded by Elder Ephraim (former abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos). Due to Hurricane Irma, I cut short my stay by one day, and had to cancel my pilgrimage to the women’s Annunciation Monastery just 10 minutes away. Perhaps a return visit may occur in the winter. Photo Gallery here.

UPCOMING: Looking ahead, I just this morning confirmed the dates for my first pilgrimage to Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete in Weatherby MO, on September 24-28. A women’s monastic community is adjacent to the men’s skete, St Xenia Sisterhood. I am hoping to add more monasteries in the region to make a circuit, before returning to Birmingham.

As monasteries are scheduled, I add them to my iCal, and they automatically appear on the Thebaid website schedule in the right-hand column.


Sunday, September 17, 9:40amSt Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Roswell GA (just north of Atlanta). After the Divine Liturgy we’ll have a brief period for coffee and refreshments, then head back into the church for the presentation, which will include images from my most recent monastery visits.

Sunday, October 8 — 40th anniversary celebration of St Symeon Orthodox Church, my home-away-from-home parish when I am in Birmingham. We held a successful Thebaid fundraiser at St Symeon’s about a year ago, and I have been following up by providing my photography services leading up to the October 8 event. May this wonderful parish thrive until the Lord returns in glory!

October 11-12, OCA Midwest Diocese Assembly; St Michael Orthodox Church, Broadview Heights OH — This will be my first “official” presence as an exhibitor at such an assembly, and I plan to have a handsome table-top display with continuous-running digital slide show, sample prints, as well as info card handouts for attendees. My hope is to gain some new supporters during the Assembly, as well as schedule some parish presentations.

Looking Ahead — I’ve been in contact with several other regional churches, including St John the Theologian (Antiochian) in Memphis, and St Mary of Egypt (OCA) in Norcross GA. As dates are confirmed, these will also be added to the Thebaid calendar.


I recently received word from the Antiochian Archdiocese of America that His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH has approved my request to visit Antiochian parishes with my presentation and fundraiser. I was also pleased to learn that His Eminence’s administrative assistant will be contacting the parishes ahead of time so as to help facilitate the scheduling process. This is a great blessing and help, and we are thankful to have seen such interest from the Antiochian Archdiocese and already from some of her parishes.


Now that I am once more in a steady rhythm of travel and photography, it is time again to reach out and seek new supporters to join the Thebaid Project as Fellow Pilgrims.

In addition to parish visits, our original business plan included a web-based crowdfunding component, which has been very successful to date. The Phase 1 fundraising effort did very well, raising 92% of our goal for 2016.

In January 2017 we launched our Phase 2 Crowdfunding on the GoFundMe platform, which will run through the completion of the Thebaid Project and publication of the book in 2018. To date we have raised almost $5000 towards the remaining $30,000 required to complete the travel & photography and the publication of the book.

We need to raise approximately $5,000 with this Autumn Crowdfunding Drive to propel travel and photography through the end of March 2018.  A simple calculation shows how easy it should be to hit that goal with less than thirty new supporters:

  • 10 Limited Edition Supporters @ $275 = $2,750
  • 18 Standard Edition Supporters @ $100 = $1,800
  •  9 Standard Edition (Unsigned) Supporters @ $50 = $450

Full details on the Reward Bundles and our museum-quality specifications on the book and fine art prints are available on our GoFundMe site, as well as on this special page.  As always, contributions are cumulative; additional contributions earn more valuable rewards.

Please consider sharing the Thebaid Project with your family & friends to help spread the word! And if I haven’t visited your church yet, please consider speaking with your priest about hosting our presentation on Orthodox Monasticism and the North American Thebaid.



Although my initial timetable called for delivery of the Signed/Matted Fine Art Prints to qualifying supporters to begin in “mid-2017,” unavoidable delays caused by the move to Birmingham have pushed that back by a few months.

The museum mats have already been purchased, and my hope is to deliver the first round of these valuable rewards to supporters beginning in early November 2017.

Thank you for your patience, and I assure you, these will be worth the wait, with outstanding quality archival prints, in acid-free/lig-free museum mats, signed on the mat, delivered with extra backing in protective sleeves, and ready for framing.



To date, we have just under 14,000 website views, with over 350 followers for the website, over 250 Facebook followers, and growing numbers on Instagram and Twitter. We’ve had some very positive reviews and comments on the project which you can read here.


Enjoy dozens of images from ten monastery visits so far, at our Thebaid Galleries.

And, if you haven’t already, please sign up to follow the website here by email.


Stay tuned for more updates, and our sincere thanks again for your support and prayers! Your contributions have been key to getting us into the midpoint of the Thebaid Project!

Ralph (Zosimas) Sidway

+ + +

* NOTE ON UPDATES: To make sure everyone is updated on a regular basis on the progress of the North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage, I will be posting Project News and Updates on a monthly basis across all our platforms, which includes the official Thebaid website (, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, Facebook, and Twitter. I will also be cross-posting photos on the Thebaid Galleries, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

My goal is to keep all our supporters informed and up to date on how your valued contributions are being put to use to complete the travel & photography, and to fund the publication of the Thebaid book, scheduled for Autumn 2018.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s