Dowagiac pastor explores the lives of five Methodist abolitionists in new book

Published 12:50 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

DOWAGIAC — Christopher Momany has long had a passion for writing. 

The pastor of First United Methodist Church, 326 N. Lowe St., Dowagiac, has been published in numerous scholarly venues and publications over the years. Most recently, that  passion has taken the form of his third book, titled “Compelling Lives: Five Methodist Abolitionists and the Ideas That Inspired Them.”

Published by Cascade Books, Compelling Lives focuses on five Methodist abolitionists – Sojourner Truth, Luther Lee, Laura Smith Haviland, Henry Bibb and Gilbert Haven and how each embodied a love for humanity on their quests for racial equality. The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.

“I wanted to write a book that dealt with ideas and principles for justice work, but I didn’t want to make it hard to read,” he said. “I want to look at the lives of people and how they lived their principles. So you could follow a story; I point out what their major beliefs were, why they did this and so on. That’s why I did it and I’m really glad I did it.”

A graduate of Adrian College, Princeton Theological Seminary and Drew University, Momany was the chaplain and a professor at Adrian College for more than 20 years before becoming First United’s pastor in July 2019.

Momany is a Benton Harbor native and has long been interested in history as it relates to equality and how the Methodist denomination handled the subject of race in the Civil War era. His first book, a 2011 release “Doing Good: A Grace-Filled Approach to Holiness,” is about the Wesleyan ethic of love and justice. His second book, titled “For Each and All: The Moral Witness of Asa Mahan,” focuses on topics including the teaching of moral theory in American colleges and how academic cultures either confronted or rationalized slavery.

While researching for “Compelling Lives,” Momany was “humbled” by the works the five abolitionists were able to accomplish in spite of the hardships they faced.

“These weren’t all college professors. Some of them were just church folks who made it just by their stamina and their determination,” he said. “Some of them worked to host people on the underground railroad, not all of them but some did and just this stuff they went through. They weren’t highly paid people. Some of them were pretty well known by the end of their life. But the stuff that went through. Now you could teach at a university and have a really nice job and a good salary and study these people but I don’t think you really know. 

“I think we’re always limited on what we can know about them because we’re not like sleeping on a floor. That really is humbling.”

Momany dedicated the book to his wife, Liz and thanked his church congregation for its support.

“They were the ones who supported me,” “They understood me and embraced me throughout this process.”

Momany will be on hand for a short program and book signing for his book from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 at the Dowagiac District Library, 211 Commercial St.