First Photographs from Dormition Monastery

I’ve been at Dormition Monastery in Rives Jct, Michigan, for a little less than a week now, and am very pleased with several images I’ve made so far. Of course, I’ll post a full gallery after I finish my visit, but I didn’t want to wait that long to share these with you.

The main church at Dormition Monastery transports you to the heavenlies the moment you enter…

So, I hope you enjoy this small selection of my first photographs in 2018 for the Thebaid book! Scroll down for the slide show…

This visit to Dormition Monastery marks a great start to 2018 for the Thebaid Project. With 15-20 monasteries still to be visited on my pilgrimage, we’re on track with our original plan to finish the photography by early Summer, and have the book printed and in distribution by early Autumn 2018. By pre-ordering the book, you are helping to support a unique photographic pilgrimage to dozens of Orthodox Christian monasteries across the USA and Canada, providing a compelling glimpse into the beautiful, prayerful realm of these monks and nuns, who support the world through their ceaseless prayers.

You can view hundreds of photographs from over a dozen monasteries (so far!) on the Thebaid Project Galleries page. Learn more about the Thebaid Project here.

Asking your prayers and support

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The Thebaid Pilgrimage Resumes – Dormition Monastery, Rives Jct MI

After several weeks working behind the scenes on photo editing, writing and such, I am more than eager to get back on the road and resume my pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian monasteries  across the USA and Canada.

Aerial view of the new monastery church and main courtyard, from the Dormition Monastery website.

This week I will be at Dormition Monastery in Rives Jct , Michigan, a growing women’s monastery in the Romanian tradition, which has established a strong spiritual presence since its founding three decades ago in 1987.

Watch for more posts and photographs coming soon!


Thebaid Presentation at St. Mary of Egypt (OCA), Norcross GA

My heartfelt thanks to Hieromonk Cyprian (DuRant, rector)  and the parish of St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (OCA), in Norcross GA, for hosting me this past Sunday.

The Divine Liturgy was beautiful in this handsome wood-timbered church, itself reminiscent of churches in the Russian north. In spite of the epic snowfall two days before, the church was nearly full, a testimony to this vibrant parish. I gave my presentation during the fellowship meal in the church hall, where I quickly discovered many of the parishioners have strong ties and make pilgrimages to several monasteries in the region.

I am truly grateful to Fr Cyprian for his gracious invitation, Reader Thomas for organizing the event, and to all the faithful, who helped refill the Thebaid Project gas tank with a generous collection.

If you’re ever in the Greater Atlanta area, be sure to search out this parish, a strong and inspiring example of Orthodoxy thriving in the midst of (and in spite of!) our post-modern and post-Christian world. I look forward to scheduling a return visit, with the express purpose of making some photographs for the parish in thanks for their support of the Thebaid Project.

Visit the St Mary of Egypt website here…

Learn more about hosting a Thebaid presentation for your parish here.


Mini Gallery: St John the Theologian Skete, Hiram Ohio

I was able to make a quick “get acquainted visit” at St John’s Skete on November 20, on my way south from New Skete in New York.

This historic men’s skete was initially an OCA monastery, but the property was transferred to the Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) after the original community was invited to retire to a monastery in Ukraine.

The Skete of St John the Theologian is a dependency of the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, and supports their small community through the sale of liturgical goods.

It was a joy to be able to have a brief visit here, and I hope to return to make some high quality photographs, but these images from my iPhone aren’t too bad at all!

Click any image below to enlarge and enter slide show…

Please consider contributing to the North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage. We are not funded by the Church, but rely on your support to put gas in the tank! Thank you!



When do Tourists become Pilgrims?

Here is a very insightful article/interview on monastery tourists versus true pilgrims. Though coming from a European perspective, the principles for welcoming the curious and showing them the warmth and welcome of Christ’s love are especially applicable to American monasteries.


When do Tourists become Pilgrims?

Pravoslavie, October 31, 2017:

There is nothing bad about cameras, provided somebody wants to take pictures of holy sites so that he and his descendants could hold on to memories of that visit. That is very good, but one should remember one important thing.

A pilgrimage is not a mere visit to a geographic location; it is a spiritual exercise which involves physical strain, prayer, meditation, repentance for sins, taking Holy Communion and being with the Lord alone.

Igumen Daniel (Irbits), Abbot of the Monastery of St. George in Götschendorf (Germany), analyzes the characteristics of Christian pilgrimage, and when it has a good effect and when a harmful effect on the human soul.

Abbot Daniel, Burgomaster of Milmersdorf, and Prince Eduard von Anhalt.

—Fr. Daniel, is there such a problem as “spiritual tourism”? If it does exist, then how, in your opinion, does it manifest itself? What are its negative effects on both “spiritual tourists” and monasteries?

—I will speak on the basis of our local experience in Germany, still a modest experience of our small monastery in Götschendorf.

At our St. George’s Monastery we are faced with the phenomenon of “spiritual tourism”, as you call it.

Our monastery is often visited by groups of Germans. These are local Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, representatives of federal and regional authorities of Germany, and public figures. Among our visitors was Eduard, Prince von Anhalt, head of the Ducal House of Saxony. I cannot call all these visits “pilgrimages”. But thanks to encounters like these Germans can know the Russian Orthodox Church and our Russian culture better. And that is of great importance for us, for through such meetings we can bring the light of our faith to the German society and elsewhere.

Let me be quite frank: in many cases people after their acquaintance with Orthodox Christianity in the German lands, German have with time embraced the Orthodox faith. For example, last year the first baptism was performed at our monastery—a young German woman was received into the Orthodox Church.

We live in a non-Orthodox country; to be more precise, we live in the state of Brandenburg—in its predominantly Protestant area—and for native residents (Protestants and atheists alike) the very presence of a Russian Orthodox monastery in the region is something extraordinary; and believe me, it evokes great interest. In my opinion, it is very important that we answer to their interest not with pharisaical arrogance but with our benevolence and willingness to help them get to know Christ.

Continue reading “When do Tourists become Pilgrims?”


New Gallery Posted! Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels Skete

I’ve just uploaded the new gallery of almost two-dozen photographs from my recent stay at Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels Skete in northwest Missouri. Included are some excerpts from the skete’s website, and additional links and information.

Proceed to the new Gallery…

I’m finally getting caught up on photo editing after three weeks of continuous travel, and plan to post more galleries in the days ahead, so stay tuned!

As always, thank you for your support and prayers!



Watch for new Photo Galleries coming soon!

Thank you for your patience during my recent travels! I had an inspiring two week journey to Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete in northwest Missouri, followed by a parish presentation at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Overland Park KS (outside Kansas City), and went immediately from there to St Paul Skete about an hour east of Memphis TN.

Entrance to St John Damascene Chapel during Matins, St Paul Skete, Grand Jct TN; © Ralph (Zosimas) Sidway

Having photographed the 40th anniversary services at St Symeon Orthodox Church in Birmingham AL this past weekend, I am heading up to Cleveland for the Midwest Diocese Assembly (OCA) tomorrow and Thursday, and plan to schedule further monastery visits while in transit.

I have been editing photos from these inspiring journeys since last Friday, and look forward to sharing many of the images with you as soon as possible.

As always, I deeply appreciate your support and prayers!



August Monastery Travels scheduled for Georgia and Florida

Summer travel and photography continues for the North American Thebaid Project with my first visit to the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension (ROCOR) in northwest Georgia, and pilgrimages to two of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries in Florida: Panagia Vlahernon and Holy Annunciation (GOA).

Each of these have informative and attractive websites (see links below) where you can learn about their way of life and how to schedule a pilgrimage. I am most eager to be back on the road and in the holy confines and sacred grounds with the monks and nuns.

In addition, I will be giving a presentation at St Mary of Egypt Church (ROCOR) in Roswell GA on Sunday, September 17, during coffee hour following the Divine Liturgy. If you are in the Greater Atlanta and Marietta area, please join us!

And, looking ahead to October, I am planning on attending the OCA Diocese of the Midwest Annual Assembly as an exhibitor, with a full display for the Thebaid Project including a continuous digital slide show, handouts, and more. I hope to see some of you there; please stop by my display so we can get acquainted!

Below is my schedule so far, with embedded links. Subject to change. You can also view the entire proposed Itinerary for the North American Thebaid.

Asking your prayers for safe travel, and your support for the Thebaid Project!

Panagia Vlahernon Monastery Church

Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, Resaca GA
August 25-27, 2017

Panagia Vlahernon Monastery, Williston FL
August 28-31

Holy Annunciation Monastery, Reddick FL
August 30, 2017

Parish Presentation: St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, Roswell GA
September 17, 2017 at 9:40 am – 2:00 pm
Hours/Liturgy begin at 9:40am ET; Presentation during coffee hour.

Midwest Diocesan Assembly (OCA)
October 11 & 12, 2017
Archangel Michael Orthodox Church, Broadview Heights, OH



Children and Monasticism: Ideas for Summer reading (and pilgrimages!)

Children love pilgrimages to Orthodox Christian monasteries, as any Orthodox parent who has taken their kids to one can tell you. These books help reveal why.

Maybe it’s the total simplicity, beauty and peacefulness of the surroundings, or perhaps it is because the nuns or monks themselves have a child-like quality about them which allows children to relate to them with ease. Or maybe it’s because being at a monastery is like being at church, but even more!

Whatever the reasons, children love monasteries!

I was reminded of this by a mailing I received this week from Nancy Colakovic at Ancient Faith Publishing, recommending books for children. The first title really caught my eye: In the Candle’s Glow. Writes Nancy:

The first is In the Candle’s Glow, by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson, illustrated by Amandine Wanert. Our 8-year-old granddaughter loves this book. She’s read it over and over, and even took it to church with her. I especially like that this book teaches us where the candles in church come from, the emphasis placed on the Jesus Prayer as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the prayer for family and friends, and even that it helps us remember to bless the bees, and ask God to care for them.

I immediately looked up the book, which is getting great reviews on Amazon both for its story and for the illustrations. Here is one of the more descriptive 5-star reviews:

Continue reading “Children and Monasticism: Ideas for Summer reading (and pilgrimages!)”


Alaska’s annual St. Herman Pilgrimage includes Liturgy on Spruce Island

Alaska. St Herman. Pilgrimage. How I yearn for this!

Here is a great video of a recent St Herman Pilgrimage. Scroll down for the news announcement from the OCA website.

Alaska’s 47th annual St. Herman Pilgrimage to be held August 7-9, June 22, 2017:

Hundreds of faithful are expected to participate in the 47th annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage to Spruce Island, home of North America’s first saint, August 7-9, 2017.

Continue reading “Alaska’s annual St. Herman Pilgrimage includes Liturgy on Spruce Island”