A monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns.


Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Since the 4th century this observance has been held on December 25 in the Western church.

Genesis, Book of

The first book of the Humash or Five Books of Moses, Genesis (or Bereishit, meaning ‘In the Beginning’) details the Jewish understanding of the creation of the universe, from the seven days of creation, through the Garden of Eden, ending with the events of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt (the fathers of the Twelve Tribes).


The Mennonite church is one of what are sometimes referred to as the “historic peace churches” because of its radical commitment to the pacifism and non-violence of Jesus’ teachings. It traces its origins to the Dutch reformer Menno Simon (1496-1561) who is one of the Anabaptists who rejected infant baptism in favor of the baptism of adult believers.


Protestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians. While they differ in many respects from one another, they agree on the rejection of the papacy, reliance on the Bible more than church tradition, and justification before God by faith alone. The Protestant Reformation is a reform movement that began in the 16th century with Martin Luther in Germany and... Read more about Protestant


A cardinal is a high-ranking office in the Roman Catholic Church, conferred by the Pope and involving both ecclesiastical and administrative duties on behalf of the church. The College of Cardinals is charged with the responsibility of electing a new pope when the office becomes vacant.


The Greek word euangelion means “good news” and an evangelist is one who proclaims and shares the good news of Christ. Evangelism is the preaching and witnessing to that good news. Evangelicals are Christians who emphasize the personal experience of God’s grace and salvation in their lives and the affirm the divinely inspired message of scripture. While much of the history of American Christianity has been evangelical in this sense, the term today denotes a broadly conservative group of churches emphasizing the divinity and authority of scripture, and the importance of mission and... Read more about evangelism

Luther, Martin

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was the reformer who broke with the Roman Catholic Church and launched the German reformation. He denied the authority of the Pope and the church of Rome, emphasized the sole authority of the Bible, the priesthood of all believers, and salvation by faith alone.


The Greek term biblia means the “books.” Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions to refer to the book which gathers together their sacred writings. The Hebrew Bible includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—a collection referred to as Tanakh. The Christian Bible includes the Hebrew Bible as well as the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, and the letters of the apostle Paul and others.


A diocese is an administrative unit of the Christian Church, presided over by a bishop.

Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is the biblical language for speaking of God’s reign of justice and righteousness that will one day become fully present on earth. For Christians, Jesus made clear that the Kingdom of God is not only a future hope but a present reality to be discerned and nurtured in the midst of the community.


St. Patrick (c.390-c.460) was born in Britain and became known as the Apostle of the Irish, having spent most of his life establishing and nourishing the church in Ireland.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of fasting, penitence, and spiritual discipline and study called Lent, the six and one half weeks preceding Easter. For many Christians it is a day of fasting and a day on which the season ahead is symbolized by the imposition of ashes on one’s forehead.


Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) was made cardinal and then patriarch of Venice in 1953. At age 77 he was elected to become Pope after the death of Pius XII in 1958. In 1959, the new Pope announced the convening of the Second Vatican Council to bring the religious, social, and liturgical life of the church into the 20th century. He died before the extraordinary work of Vatican II was completed.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the Sunday preceding Easter when Christians commemorate Jesus’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem to crowds cheering and waving palms of victory before him. In churches today, palms are often distributed and the community forms a procession with the palms.