This week I received the good news from Regnum Press that my proposal to revise and publish my thesis as a book has been accepted! I now have a contract and start the long and winding road of revision.
After a sometimes tortuous odyssey that resulted in a thesis of 275 pages and 102,000 words, the question is why? Why go to all the trouble involved in turning this research into a readable, informative piece of writing that interests people?
But why should we ever take the time and risk to go beyond our present boundaries and limitations? Why should we stretch ourselves to communicate things that are close to our heart and that we believe can be of help to others? Why not just continue with how things are at present, taking the easier road that requires the least effort and cost?
Because what we have inside needs to come forth, it needs to burst out, it needs to find its way out of the cocoon and into life. What we have inside is there to bless and encourage others. And the challenge in it is that unless we bring it out, we will never know what difference sharing does indeed make.
So I am starting the journey of getting this book published because it is within me, and it needs to come forth. I am not content to let it dwell in an unrealized darkness, or be consumed in a “should have, could have, would have” wilderness.
Bring forth what it is in you, whether it is writing, speaking, or acts of love and kindness to others. Don’t let the why paralyze you anymore.
For those interested, I am including below my PhD thesis title and abstract. The book title will be different, and will only in some ways follow through on this abstract. But for some it will be interesting to see what the thesis was about, and hopefully whet the appetite for the book to come. Thesis title is:
From Beit Abhe to Angamali: Connections, Functions and Roles of the Church of the East’s Monasteries in Ninth Century Christian-Muslim Relations
An important yet often neglected and largely unknown story in Christian-Muslim relations is the connections, functions and roles of Church of the East monasteries in the early Abbasid period of the ninth century. These monasteries had already existed in pre-Islam Arabia and were written about by Muslims in the following centuries. The thesis argues that monastic mission activities took place in the early and middle ninth century under Muslim rule with a similarity to prior centuries. It also argues that these activities focused on the Muslim context around them in Mesopotamia, differing from other scholarly work on the subject. One of these works is by William G. Young, who describes his perception of the lack of witness to Muslims as a ‘puzzle’ that still needs more evidence. Contributing four more pieces to the ‘puzzle’ in this thesis, a more nuanced and comprehensive picture emerges.
An original contribution of the thesis is its investigation from primary sources of both faith perspectives whether mission activities were able to be sustained both in Mesopotamia and to the east in the early Abbasid context. What this mission may have meant and involved for both the Church of the East and Muslims will also be explored from these sources. Occurring both in Christian and Muslim imaginations as well as in reality, these encounters centered in the monasteries were written about in both Christian and Muslim sources providing resources for sustenance of Church activities in the early Abbasid period.
The thesis also investigates the importance of monasteries like Beit Abhe and the leadership of Patriarch Timothy for these activities, including the nature of an expansion east to places like Angamali in Malabar as well as China. The interaction between the involvement in Mesopotamia and to the east will be examined more closely than in other studies. Involvement to the east will be reflected on in how that affected the ‘image’ of the Church in its homeland and relationship with the Abbasids as well.
Whether these monastic activities were sustained in the early ninth century is important because it offers the story of a period when the Church in Asia lived without political power yet had a history of previous involvement in witness. A similar context is still relevant in several ‘contact zones’ of the world today, where Christians struggle to understand what mission means in their context of living as minorities under Muslim rule and at times are facing existential issues of survival. Through this examination of the sources a further way of engagement is reflected on based in the nature of mission while living in difficult environments. The role of a Church subject to Muslim rule yet engaged in mission and learning activities within and beyond the regions of that rule provides a different historical paradigm than usually envisioned.
The Church of the East monastery in its presence and encounter is analyzed in this thesis as a blend of a ‘contact zone’ and ‘conflict zone’ in Christian-Muslim relations of the early ninth century. Mission in this thesis is defined in these two dimensions of presence and encounter for a purpose of witness to the Christian faith, particularly from a monastic framework. Training for mission of the monks will be explored as part of the dimension of presence, focused in the monastic context.
So there you have the thesis abstract, if you read this far. If you did, bravo! The book will have some of these elements and more. Watch this space for more announcements as the work of revision and new creation comes to completion!!