Main fundraiser photo

N. American Thebaid Photo Project

Donation protected

Travel and photography for the Thebaid Project concluded in early Autumn 2018, and therefore we have decided to close our GoFundMe Campaign.

You can still pre-order the North American Thebaid photo book ahead of its Spring 2019 publication date through our Thebaid Store!  

The same options for pre-ordering the book that we offered here on our GoFundMe site are available through the Thebaid Online Store (scroll down):

Standard Hardcover Edition — $50   
(To date, we've had over a hundred preorders for the Standard Edition of the book!)

Standard Edition, signed, with a signed & matted fine art print from the Thebaid Project — $100   
(Quantity discounts available.)

Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather, signed and numbered, also with a signed & matted fine art print from the Thebaid Project — $275.   
(Quantity discounts available.)   This handsome, keepsake edition will be available only by pre-order.  To date we've had pre-orders for over three dozen copies of the Deluxe Limited Edition!

Thank you for your interest in the North American Thebaid! Proceed to the Thebaid Online Store to pre-order the Thebaid Book.   

heartfelt thanks to all our supporters for your contributions! You helped fund this unique, photographic pilgrimage to over thirty Orthodox Christian monasteries in North America.

Thanks to your support, the North American Thebaid coffee table book is scheduled to be published in Spring 2019 by St. Tikhon's Monastery Press.

Supporters will receive their copies of the book (and, if they qualify, their signed and matted fine-art prints) in advance of general retail distribution. 

Proceed to the Thebaid Online Store to pre-order the Thebaid Book.  Scroll down to view the GoFundMe site...


We are very pleased and excited to announce the following important information regarding the publication of the Thebaid Book:

1 — St. Tikhon's Monastery Press of South Canaan PA has signed on to publish this unique book, with a target date of Spring 2019.  

* STM Press is also featuring fourteen full-color images from the North American Thebaid Project in their 2019 Liturgical Calendar. Learn more and order the calendar here. 

2 — Your pre-orders pre-orders of the Thebaid Book  help us determine the initial print run. In addition, the Deluxe Limited Edition is only available through pre-order, and will never be offered again or reprinted. The 8"x10" signed/matted fine-art prints are also a special pre-order offer, and will not be made available again once the book print date has been reached..

3 — The travel and photography is now completed, with more than thirty monasteries having been visited across North America, including Alaska, and I am now actively engaged with the creative team at St. Tikhon's Monastery Press on book design and layout.

4 — Watch for a new series of exciting updates as we proceed to publication of the landmark large-format coffee-table book of fine-art photographs from this unique endeavor. Upcoming news will include book cover designs, samples of text and images, a specific publication date,  and much more.

5 — You are invited to visit the North American Thebaid website  to explore the hundreds of images from my pilgrimage, as well as learn more about the Thebaid Project and about Orthodox Christianity and Monasticism.

Our original text and info for our GoFundMe Crowdfunding Campaign continues below this image of one of our new book cover designs:

After a successful launch in 2016, we are now in Phase II, and need your support to complete this unique endeavor, which seeks to present this hidden, holy life to Orthodox Christians, and to the world at large.

Watch this brief, 4 minute video for an overview of the Project...

We are endorsed by the Church, but we are not funded by the Church. Nor do we have corporate sponsors or wealthy benefactors to financially support our work.

Rather, we rely on individual contributors like you to partner with us in our mission
 to help reveal the Orthodox monastic life, to make it vividly and beautifully present and real. 

Together, through this photographic pilgrimage and the resulting book, we can help expand the mission of the Orthodox Church, and contribute to the “churching of America.”


• A two-year pilgrimage to photograph dozens of Orthodox Christian monasteries of the USA & Canada;

• Leading to publication of a large-format coffee table book in Autumn 2018;

• Phase I was a verified success, enabling photography at several regional monasteries in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Upstate New York in Autumn 2016;

• We have already posted hundreds of original images on the Thebaid website! You can view the growing image galleries here ;

• A successful Phase II is needed to fund all remaining travel and photography through mid-2018;

• More than a documentary, the Thebaid Project is a photographic exploration, seeking to reveal glimpses of the hidden, unseen Monastic Way, through visual means.

Goals and Purpose: The Thebaid Project...

• . . . hopes to spur interest in Orthodox monasticism, and to contribute towards more monastic vocations in North America;

• . . . is a pan-Orthodox endeavor, covering monasteries from several Orthodox jurisdictions in the USA and Canada;

• . . . serves to strengthen connections between parishes and regional monasteries, and to aid in the spiritual growth of Orthodox Christians;

• . . . is a registered Non-Profit Association with several volunteer members from Orthodox parishes in both Ohio and Alabama;

• . . . was established with the blessing of His Grace, +Paul, Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest (OCA).

Learn more below, and through the project website .


What does 'Thebaid' mean?

The Egyptian 'Thebaid' was the region of the upper Nile River valley, which during the 4th-5th centuries was chosen by the first monastics for its remoteness from the world. There the early monks and nuns devoted themselves to 'prayer, work, and silence' as they sought to faithfully live out the Gospel. Monastic saints of this period include Antony the Great, Pachomius, Sisoes, Moses the Black, and many others.

A thousand years later, a 'Northern Thebaid' had been established in Russia, which had been baptized in 988 with the conversion of St Vladimir. Early monks of this dynamic spiritual flowering spread the Orthodox Christian faith from European Rus eastward across the Urals through Siberia, and all the way to the Pacific. Monastic saints of the Northern Thebaid include Sergius of Radonezh, Nilus of Sora,  Alexander of Svir, and many others.

Read more about the Egyptian and Russian Thebaids here...

In 1794, monks were sent from Valaam Monastery in Lake Ladoga, Russia, to Alaska, to continue the missionary effort of the Church. That initial mission over time dwindled down to one monk, the humble Elder Herman (now glorified as a saint), but he planted the seeds of Orthodox Monasticism in the New Land.

The first Orthodox Christian monastery in America, St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, was founded in 1905 in eastern Pennsylvania. Holy Trinity in Jordanville NY was established in 1935 (read the amazing story of its founding here ), and others followed throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

Photo: Vigil for the Nativity of the Theotokos, St Tikhon's Monastery, South Canaan PA, September 2016; © Ralph H. Sidway.

Now, just over 100 years after the founding of St. Tikhon's, there are almost eighty Orthodox monasteries all across the USA and Canada, from Alaska to Florida, and from Southern California to Nova Scotia. While not clustered in a specific geographic region as in Egypt and northern Russia, we can truly speak of a 'spiritual geography' here in America.

We are now witnessingand assisting with — the early stages of a new flowering of Orthodox monasticism:  the North American Thebaid.


What you are funding —

Your financial support goes directly towards travel, photography, and associated operating expenses. Detailed info on our budget and every aspect of our business plan is available on our website .

By contributing, you are joining over 100 supporters who made Phase I a strong success in 2016, raising 92% ($13,791) of the Phase I fundraising goal of $15,000, and who have helped get Phase II off to a strong start.

Our Phase II Goal of $30,000 will cover all travel and photography expenses for the remainder of the project, 2017-2018. 

Examples of specific needs include:

Travel expenses, such as gas, automotive service & maintenance, tires, AAA membership, etc. for 19,000 miles driving: $14,740;

Alaska pilgrimage: round-trip air fare, car rental, ferry, lodging, misc. travel expenses: $2500;

8TB Hard Drive to backup images: $219;

Upgrade to wide-aperture lenses and advanced camera with high-ISO sensor, for better low-light photography: $3500;

Archival Inkjet Printer for fine art prints: $499;

Software: industry-standard image editing apps and cloud storage: $600;

Fees for 501(c)(3) filing with IRS: $275.


Press and Official Endorsements:

OrthoChristian/Pravoslavie called the Thebaid Project a "unique new and inspiring project. "

Byzantine TX blog covered the Project launch in July 2016, and wrote to us, "This is actually the very project I had hoped someone would tackle for some time."

Established with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Paul of the OCA Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest, who wrote, "Very professional, and well thought out . . .  I find myself wholeheartedly endorsing it."

The OCA Midwest Diocese website also published a major announcement on the Thebaid Project launch.

Photographer & Director Ralph Sidway was invited by Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America to introduce the Thebaid Project at the OCA's annual Synaxis of Monastic Superiors in October 2016, and was warmly received, with invitations to visit from the more than a dozen monastics assembled from across the USA and Canada.

Photo: Ralph Sidway addressing the OCA Monastic Superiors, Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City PA; October 2016.

Comments from Supporters:

 “The reason why we supported you was because we believe that healthy monasticism is the key to a vibrant church. We hope your work will be a spark which continues to bring monasticism to the consciousness of all Orthodox and the wider world. Bless you in your journey and your work.” — Anonymous Supporter, New Jersey

“May God Bless every day of this project. A wonderful work!” — Paula Romano

“They had me at ‘apophatic ’!” — Todd Isaac

"Your project is beautiful and needed to spread the word about the value and beauty of Orthodox Monasticism. So happy to support your effort! Best of luck!" — Steva Austill

“A fascinating project with beautiful picture. Congratulations to the authors!” — Fr. Cyril Hovorun

“We’ll be praying for your project, to His glory! … All love in Christ,” — Fr. Basil Rusen, St. Herman’s Orthodox Church, Hudson OH.

: Veneration of the Holy Icons, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville NY, November 2016; © Ralph H. Sidway.

We Appreciate Our Supporters! 

• Earn valuable rewards for contributions starting at the $25 level. At $50 and above, supporters are pre-ordering the finished book. At $275 and above, supporters are pre-ordering the Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather.

• Save by ordering multiple copiesDiscounts up to 33% off. Give as gifts, or donate a copy to your parish or college library.

Support Levels:

• $25 - 'Fellow Pilgrim' — Supporters at the $25 level and above will receive two photography eBooks: 

Pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain’, featuring over six dozen photographs of Mount Athos by Ralph H. Sidway (see cover photo below), 

PLUS, ‘Pursuing the Light – Forty Years of Photography’, a retrospective of Ralph Sidway’s award-winning landscape photography (see preview here ).

Both eBooks are in a universal format, and are able to be enjoyed on any tablet or smartphone, or Mac or PC computer, using Kindle, iBooks and other apps.

• $50 - 'Benefactor' — Thebaid supporters at the $50 level will receive a copy of the First Edition of the finished book, scheduled to be published in Autumn 2018, as well as the eBooks for the $25 level.

• $100 - 'Patron' — To thank you for backing the Thebaid Project at the $100 level, we will send you a SIGNED, First Edition Book, PLUS a signed/matted Fine Art Print from the Thebaid Project (ship dates for prints begin mid-2017; book target ship date, Autumn 2018). PLUS you will receive the digital perks for the $25 level.

• $200 - 'Patron X3'To thank you for backing the Thebaid Project at the $200 level, we will send you THREE (3) SIGNED, First Edition Books, PLUS THREE (3) signed/matted Fine Art Prints from the Thebaid Project. PLUS you will receive the digital perks for the $25 level. (Save 33% over the single copy price.)

• $275 - 'Founder' — As our special thanks for backing the Thebaid Project at the $275 level, we will send you the Founding Subscribers’ Deluxe Limited Edition* of the North American Thebaid Book (signed & numbered), PLUS a signed/matted Fine Art Print from the Thebaid Project (ship dates for prints begin mid-2017; book target ship date, Autumn 2018). PLUS you will receive the digital perks for the $25 level.

• $500 - 'Founder X2' — As our special thanks for supporting the Thebaid Project at the $500 level, we will send you TWO (2) Copies of the Founding Subscribers’ Limited Edition* (signed & numbered), PLUS TWO (2) signed/matted Fine Art Prints from the Thebaid Project. Plus, you will receive the digital perks for the $25 level. (Save 9% over the single copy price.)

• $700 - 'Founder X3' — As our special thanks for supporting the Thebaid Project at the $700 level, we will send you THREE (3) Copies of the Founding Subscribers’ Limited Edition* (signed & numbered), PLUS THREE (3) signed/matted Fine Art Prints from the Thebaid Project. Plus, you will receive the digital perks for the $25 level. (Save 15% over the single copy price.)

• $1000 - 'Founder X5'  — With great appreciation for supporting the Thebaid Project at the $1000 level, we will send you FIVE (5) Copies of the Founding Subscribers’ Limited Edition* (signed & numbered), PLUS FIVE (5) signed/matted Fine Art Prints from the Thebaid Project. Plus, you will receive the digital perks for the $25 level. (Save 27% over the single copy price.)

* The Deluxe Founding Subscribers' Limited Edition Book will be strictly limited to 300 total copies
, with no subsequent print runs, with ten (10) copies reserved for the Thebaid Project.

At the time of the preparation of this GoFundMe page, we had already taken orders for 42 copies, leaving only 448 total copies available. We have estimated the numbers of Founders X2, X3 and X5 supporters in order to arrive at estimated available quantities for each level. We will update available quantities as fundraising progresses, taking into account direct pre-sales.

Original Prototype Book Cover
, featuring photograph of St Gregory Palamas Monastery, Main Chapel at Sunset, Hayesville Ohio; © Ralph H. Sidway.

Publication Specifications* for the Finished Book & Fine Art Prints:

• Standard Edition — Hardbound, cloth-cover, with deluxe, scuff-resistant, French-fold dust jacket; heavyweight matte, acid-free/lig-free fine-art paper, 157gsm/120#.

• Founding Subscribers’ Deluxe Limited Edition — Bonded Leather cover, with gold-foil stamped title, in handsome, cloth-bound slipcase, with ribbon marker, heavyweight matte, acid-free/lig-free fine-art paper, 157gsm/120#; SIGNED & NUMBERED, total quantity strictly limited to 300.

• Fine Art Prints from the Thebaid Project — 8×10 archival prints, mounted in an 11×14 museum mat (acid-free/lig-free), signed. Ready for framing.

Early Book Delivery — Supporters who pre-order the book will receive their copies before retail distribution begins.

Full book and fine art print specifications and more detailed info on all rewards can be viewed on the Thebaid website.  

* Exact specifications are subject to change; we guarantee the finished books to be museum quality, with stunning image reproduction, heavyweight acid-free/lig-free paper, and true archival characteristics.


What's the Timeframe?

Monastery travel and photography is planned to resume in Summer 2017, and will continue though mid-2018. Your support helps us get on the road right away.

Here is the itinerary and publishing schedule for 2017-2018 (subject to change):

August-October 2017

• Distribute signed/matted fine-art prints to qualifying supporters;
• Northeast: Pennsylvania, New York, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario (10 monasteries);
• Michigan, Illinois, Ohio (7 monasteries),
• Montana, Pacific Northwest, Alberta (7 monasteries).

November 2017-January 2018

• Southwest: Missouri, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona (6-7 monasteries);
• California-Colorado (13 monasteries).

February-March 2018 

• Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee (5 monasteries).
• Return trips to select monasteries in Eastern regions (6 monasteries).

April-May 2018 

• Visit monasteries we missed or had to reschedule;
• Prepare book design and layout, pre-press editing and proofing.

June 2018
• Alaska (3 monasteries, pilgrimage sites).

June-July 2018 

• Final proofing, send files to printer.

August-September 2018 

• Receive finished books from printer;
• Sign and distribute advance copies to supporters;
• Distribute orders to resellers, bookstores.


Join the Pilgrimage! 

We are seeking not just donors, but fellow 'Thebaid Pilgrims',
 who will help us complete this two-year journey to create these unique photographs and the resulting book, and who we hope will expand their visits to and support of Orthodox monasticism in North America. And perhaps some will become monastics themselves…

As you can tell, this is something of a creative missionary project, using the beauty and mystery of the monastic life conveyed in fine photography to help expand the mission of the Orthodox Church in North America.

You’ll be able to follow along every step of the way, as we post images from the different monasteries on the Thebaid website , as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Thebaid website also features a blog, with articles on monasticism, Orthodoxy, spiritual life, photography, and related subjects.

Monastic seekers, the Thebaid website is designed with you in mind, with extensive articles and info on becoming an Orthodox monk or nun, and what this holy life is about.


Other Ways You Can Help —

Pray for the Thebaid Project! 

Consider inviting us to your church! — We offer photographic services free to parishes who host a presentation on the Thebaid Project and help us with a collection or book pre-sales. We call this 'Creative Tent-Making', after the Apostle Paul's example in Acts 18:1-3.

Photo: Ralph Sidway delivering a Thebaid presentation at St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Pittsburgh PA, Fr. Thomas Soroka, rector; September 2016.

We schedule parish visits regionally in between monastery photography, and would love to meet you and share the Thebaid Project with you in person! 

Learn more and contact us here . . . 

•  Referrals & Shares — Help spread the word by sharing news of the Thebaid Project with your family and friends through our website , Facebook , Instagram , and Twitter .

• Many of you have close ties to other parishes besides your home church. Please consider sharing the Thebaid Project with all your Orthodox contacts. 

•  Even more ways to support the Thebaid ProjectVisit our website for additional info...


About the Photographer —

My name is Ralph Sidway, and I have been practicing landscape photography since the early 1970s, working in both 35mm and medium format, and expanding into large format in 1990. My gelatin-silver prints have been accepted into and won awards at juried exhibits across Kentucky and Southern Indiana, and from Atlanta to Iowa.

As an avid freelancer, my work has also included equine photography, architecture and the performing arts, and has been featured in various books and periodicals. 

In the mid-2000s, I returned to landscape photography, creating a series of new images using the digital medium. In 2013 I self-published a retrospective coffee-table book, ‘Pursuing the Light – Forty Years of Photography’ (see cover image above), which provides a real-world example of my photography and my sense of design, as well as of my ability to bring a large, complex project to successful completion.

I was received into the Orthodox Church in 1987, and have made numerous monastery pilgrimages since then, including to Greece and Russia. Since 2001 have been a member at Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit (OCA) in Cincinnati OH (Fr Steven C. Kostoff, rector), where I contribute my photography, web, design and tech skills in a variety of capacities. 

I see The North American Thebaid Project as a continuation of my desire to serve the Church, laboring with the talent entrusted to me, and I ask your prayers and support for this worthy endeavor. — Full Bio here...


Thank you for reading through all this info!
We know it's a lot to cover, but we believe we will have addressed most questions this way. 

Still have questions? — Please use the email link at top right of our GoFundMe page (next to Ralph's name) to contact us, or contact us through the Thebaid website .

We ask for your prayers and hope you will consider making a financial contribution! Remember to check out the Rewards we offer. The digital rewards (eBooks) are sent promptly to all supporters at $25 and above.

We look forward to sharing many beautiful, inspiring images with you in the months ahead...

Prototype Book Cover, 'Two Nuns Walking', Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City PA, October 2016;  © Ralph H. Sidway.

Visit the website at , sign up for email updates, and learn more about this luminous journey to reveal the light and life of the Monastic Way...


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Ralph H Sidway
Cincinnati, OH

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