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.
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.
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.
Due to travel, I was unable to post an update in early October, so there is a great deal to report in this Thebaid Update. As always, please forgive me if this post duplicates an update you received through our GoFundMe or Indiegogo platforms.
Let’s dive right in:
As I reported back in August, thanks to a generous sponsor, I have been able to eliminate housing costs. My sincere thanks also to supporters in Atlanta, Akron and Cincinnati, who have hosted me in their homes at various points, which have saved literally hundreds of dollars in hotel and meal costs.
MONASTERY TRAVELS —
SEPTEMBER 26-29 — I made my first pilgrimage to Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete in Weatherby MO. The St Xenia Sisterhood is adjacent to the men’s skete. Many unique images from this warm and welcoming community…
OCTOBER 3-5 — While traveling in September, I was emailing with Mother Nektaria at St Paul Skete in Grand Jct TN, east of Memphis, and we blocked out a few days for me to stay and photograph, resulting in a blessed visit and several exceptional images.
OCTOBER 18-20 — Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Wayne WV — This is a return visit to the Hermitage, as my first trip there last year had to be cut short due to a scheduling conflict on my end. I’ve been very eager to make this return trip, and the timing for Fall colors couldn’t be much better.
When I visited the Hermitage of the Holy Cross last October, I was only able to stay for a couple of days due to a last minute schedule change. For this return visit, I was able to stay for several days, which led to several unique images, as I settled more into the rhythm of life.
It was good to renew my acquaintances with some of the monks I first met last year, and the obvious signs of continued growth, including the completion of St Herman’s House and the new candle workshop, made this an eventful and fruitful visit.
Yesterday, October 12, I was at the OCA Diocese of the Midwest Assembly at St Michael’s Orthodox Church in Broadview Heights, south of Cleveland, where I set up my full Thebaid display, and was able to meet and discuss the project with numerous clergy and lay representatives from several states.
I have found that when I meet people and describe the Thebaid Project in person, there is a much more vivid grasp of the inspiration and purpose of the project, and a corresponding affirmation of it. I arrived during the morning registration check-in and breakfast, and had great conversations through the entire day.
Fr John Memorich, the host priest of St Michael’s, asked me if I was going to photograph any dendrites, and I had to admit I was not familiar with the term, so he explained that referred to monastics who lived either in the hollows of trees or in their branches, like St David of Thessalonica, or St Tikhon of Kaluga (see icon at right). So, all you dendrite, tree-dwelling hermits of North America, be on the alert, as I hope to find you and make some photographs of your ascetical, transfigured life (preserving your cherished anonymity and privacy of course!). (Of course, I doubt there are any hermits, living in trees or elsewhere, who are on the internet to read this, so there is a real sense of irony in this musing!)
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.
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!
The weekend of September 16-17 found me at St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Roswell GA, where I had been invited by Fr John Townsend to give my presentation on the History of Orthodox Monasticism, and the North American Thebaid Project.
The warm hospitality of the entire parish, the beauty of the church and iconography, and the vivid sense of the nearness of the heavenly kingdom and the saints (especially accentuated by the two reliquaries flanking the nave) embraces one upon entering, and made my experience of Saturday’s Vigil and Sunday’s Divine Liturgy quite lofty and edifying.
As I typically do when visiting parishes, I made some photographs during the Liturgy to gift St Mary’s as a “Thank You”, and wanted to share a few highlights with you.
My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Fr John and the parish, and I look forward to return visits in God’s timing.
If you are interested in scheduling me for a parish presentation, I’d love to make that happen! Please contact me at [zosimas at thebaid dot org], and also check out this page which may answer many of your questions.
Technically, I’ll be in Kansas for this one! — If you are in the greater Kansas City area, please join us at Holy Trinity Orthodox Churchin Overland Park, Kansas, on September 30, for my presentation on Orthodox Monasticism and the North American Thebaid.
Vespers at 5:00pm, presentation to follow. Full details on the flier…
I’ll also be at coffee hour following the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, October 1, with my Thebaid Project display, including handouts and a continuous digital slide show, and hope to see you there.
Holy Trinity is celebrating their Centennial Anniversary this year (and in fact are holding their official celebration and banquet the following week), and I am deeply honored to be speaking here.
My sincere thanks to Fr Timothy Sawchak for the invitation! I have known Fr. Tim and Matushka Jennifer for many years (Jennifer’s father, George Stansbury of beloved memory, and I were on one of Fr Alexander Atty’s memorable Mt Athos pilgrimages together back in 1990), so this will be a special reunion, and one very dear to my heart…
Stay tuned for a hoped-for Part 3 of this Missouri trip…
Travel these days is nearly continuous for the Thebaid Project, for which I am very thankful! And I am greatly anticipating my first pilgrimage to Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete, in Weatherby, Missouri, September 25-28.
From the Skete’s website, you can get a real sense of their life and growth:
We are two communities serving God as one, Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete (led by Hieromonk Alexii) and St. Xenia Sisterhood (led by Abbess Brigid). The brotherhood has two monks and one novice; and the sisterhood has three nuns and one novice. Thanks to the mercies of our Kind Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ, the prayers and sacrificial gifts of many, we acquired a property that included a total of 80-acres, with 15-acres of farmable pasture, 65-acres of forest, trails, and ponds, and 7 well-built structures….