A covenant (or brit) is a mutual promise or compact between two parties. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covenant is of deep significance in describing the mutual relationship of God and the people of faith. The major covenants in Jewish scriptures are God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) and the Sinai/Moses covenant (Exodus 19-24) between God and Israel. For Jews, the covenant is an eternal bond between God and the people of Israel grounded in God’s gracious and steadfast concern, and calling for obedience to the divine commandments (mitzvot) and instruction (... Read more about covenant

Jehovah’s Witness

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian sect or movement founded in America by C.T. Russell (1852-1916) who foresaw the millennium, the return of Christ, and the end of the world and condemned many institutionalized forms of Christianity. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused military service and the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, which compromises their allegiance to God alone. In a landmark case (West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette, 1943) the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to refuse the pledge.

Old Testament

(also: Hebrew Bible) The Old Testament is the term Christians often use for the body of writings that comprise the Hebrew Bible which Jews call Tanakh.

Unitarian Universalist Association

(also: Unitarian Universalist; UU) The Unitarian Universalist Association came into being in 1961 through the union of two communities of faith: the Unitarians who stressed the oneness of God and the Universalists who insisted on universal salvation. Both movements became popular in 18th- and 19th-century America, especially in the northeastern states. The two groups were both involved in issues of social justice and social action. These similarities, combined with a shared commitment to freedom of religious belief and expression, led the two groups to their eventual merger. Today the... Read more about Unitarian Universalist Association


Communion or holy communion—also called the Eucharist, or the Lord’s supper—is the central rite of the Christian community in which the faithful partake as a community of the sanctified bread and wine. By extension, communion is often used to refer to a family of churches that understand or observe this rite in the same way and are, thus, in communion with one another.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the Christian term used to describe the dynamic presence of God. Christians symbolize this presence as breath, fire, and dove, all expressing the mystery and freedom of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit is one of the three aspects or “persons” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) which together express the ultimacy and intimacy of the supreme God.

New Testament

The New Testament is the collection of a body of writings the early Christian community came to accept as authoritative: the four gospels, the Book of Acts, the letters of Paul, several other letters or epistles, and the Book of Revelation.


Sacraments are the sacred rites of the Christian church, sometimes defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Two sacraments are universally accepted as instituted by Christ himself: the Eucharist (holy communion) and baptism. The late 20th century has seen unprecedented convergence of the churches—Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox—over the meanings of these sacraments (See “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” studies). Other rites viewed as sacraments by some churches include confirmation, marriage, penance, ordination to ministry, and rites of death and burial.


A chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community.


In the Christian tradition a friar is a member, literally a “brother,” of a monastic order, especially a mendicant or begging order not confined to a monastery.


A Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today.


The Puritans were Christians who, in the sixteenth century, called for the purification of the Church of England from what they considered the vestiges of Roman Catholic hierarchy and practice. Like other Reformers, they stressed the authority of the Bible, going further to see it as authoritative for regulating all human affairs. They were convinced that all human life—including the state—falls under Biblical rule. In their migration to America, they set out to establish a Biblical Commonwealth in what became known as Massachusetts, where ministers and magistrates alike held to the same... Read more about Puritan


Calvary is the hill on the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem on which Jesus was crucified.


Episcopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution.


Presbyterian is the general name for churches governed by elected presbyters or elders and refers especially to Reformed churches in Scotland and England that shaped Presbyterian churches worldwide. The church is distinguished both from those in which authority is vested in bishops and from those in which authority is entirely in the local congregation. The Presbyterian churches have a series of governing bodies from the presbytery, to the synod, to the General Assembly. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is the largest Presbyterian Church in the U.S.