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.


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.


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.


The Baptist tradition includes a variety of Christian churches which trace their beginnings to the Anabaptist reform movement that rejected infant baptism insisting on the importance of baptizing only those who are able to profess the faith as believers.


The Deist movement, beginning in late 17th-century Europe, set forth a belief in one Supreme Being and a natural, moral law common to all people. The movement influenced some American revolutionary leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Leviticus, Book of

The third book of the Humash or Five Books of Moses, Leviticus (or Vayikra, meaning ‘And He Called’) details the priestly obligations the formed the spiritual heart of the forty-year journey in the wilderness, as well as the basis for the later service in the Temple in Jerusalem. Leviticus is almost completely devoid of narrative, and is sometimes seen as less accessible than the other four books of the Humash, due to the fact that sacrifices are no longer a part of Jewish ritual life.


Pentecostalism is a term used to describe a 20th century Christian movement that emphasizes Spirit-filled worship, including glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” as is said to have happened on the first day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Beginning in the first decade of the 20th century in Los Angeles and Topeka, Kansas, Pentecostalism has become a powerful stream of Christianity, both in the U.S. and worldwide.