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Blog Post #1: A Son of Abraham

My name is Adam Shoemaker. I am a forty-old Episcopal priest, husband, and father of three. I am creating this blog ahead of a journey to Egypt forty years in the making. The trip will be a personal pilgrimage of sorts in which I will be meeting family who live there (including six brothers and sisters) for the very first time. It’s a trip meant to help me explore my roots and continue to reconcile the diverse strands of my personhood that is comprised of each of the three great Abrahamic faith traditions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I have long believed that my efforts to reconcile these strands mirror the process of reconciliation that we in the United States still must undergo with the Middle Eastern region of the world if there is ever to be lasting peace.

The story I have to tell begins the day my American mother, Jamie Stanforth, an Egyptologist by training, met my biological father, Hamada Haggagi, in the airport in Cairo in the mid-1970’s when the two were in their early twenties.

A romance ensued that led to marriage in the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor, the ancestral home of the Haggagi family.

Following their nuptials, my mother lived with my father’s family as one of the only blond haired, blue-eyed Western woman around. She learned Arabic and supported the Haggagi family’s travel business leading tours of the famed Valley of the Kings. My mother, now deceased, left me letters she wrote home during these years as well as a small album of pictures, some of which I will share in these blog posts.  

When my mother became pregnant with me, my parents made a fateful decision to that would impact the entire trajectory of my life. A decision was made that I would be born not in Luxor or Cairo but in my mother’s native New York City. I have often marveled at how this single decision changed everything for me: my cultural and ethnic identity; my native language; my religion and sense of self. I was my father’s first born son which is a big deal in the Arab world. Had I been born in Egypt, there is little doubt in my mind I would have ever left. I would look just as I do today but would have been raised an Egyptian as opposed to American. I would be an Arabic speaker and would have been formed by Islam instead of Christianity. This piece of my story has always impressed upon me the impact of culture and context on religious identity and been a prism through which I have come to understand my Christian faith. 

I was born Adam James Haggagi on the evening of July 12, 1979 in New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital and was named “Adam” as something of a compromise between my American mother and Egyptian father given how recognizable the name is to both cultures and contexts. As an infant, my Semitic nose had family referring to me as “baby Anwar,” in reference to Anwar Sadat, the then president of Egypt who would soon be assassinated for his efforts at reconciliation with the state of Israel. 

My parents’ marriage did not last much beyond my birth and my mother and I soon settled into the Upper West Side brownstone of my maternal grandparents, James and Deirdre. James’ mother was a Christian Scientist from Missouri and Deirdre was descended from a family of Sephardic Jewish immigrants who came to the American South in the mid 19th century. Neither of my grandparents were religious themselves. My mother and her sister were only baptized Episcopalian because a friend of my grandparents convinced them to do so. 

I have often remarked that my vocation to the Episcopal priesthood, in light of my diverse family history, is proof that God has a sense of humor. I will comment more on that in a future post!  


Published by Adam J. Shoemaker

I am an Episcopal priest with multi-faith roots exploring my identity while on a trip to meet family in Egypt.

16 thoughts on “Blog Post #1: A Son of Abraham

  1. This is fascinating, Adam. It is also incredibly profound. Tommy and I look forward to witnessing this incredible journey of yours.
    Admiringly, Shannon and Tommy aka Shannommy 🙂


  2. Adam, this is wonderful! I look forward to following along on this amazing journey with you as we learn more about how it has shaped and will continue to shape you, and also how it reflects the world we all live in today. Thank you!


    1. Adam what as I wonderful journey you are embarking on. This blog reads like a story, but this is reality. What a history! Looking forward to hearing more!


  3. This is a fascinating story and I look forward to learning more as you journey to your ancestral home and the published work that’s sure to follow. So much of who we are is dictated by the decisions made by other people and outside of our control. “There but for the grace of God…”


  4. Adam, How wonderful for you to now finally have the privilege of this journey… I will keep you in prayer as you embrace new and renewed relationships toward hope, reconciliations and healing…..indeed all of which we sorely need in both America and the world. God’s peace…


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