/cherrch/, n.
1. a building for public Christian worship.
2. public worship of God or a religious service in such a building: to attend church regularly.
3. (sometimes cap.) the whole body of Christian believers; Christendom.
4. (sometimes cap.) any division of this body professing the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a Christian denomination: the Methodist Church.
5. that part of the whole Christian body, or of a particular denomination, belonging to the same city, country, nation, etc.
6. a body of Christians worshipping in a particular building or constituting one congregation: She is a member of this church.
7. ecclesiastical organization, power, and affairs, as distinguished from the state: separation of church and state; The missionary went wherever the church sent him.
8. the clergy and religious officials of a Christian denomination.
9. the Christian faith: a return of intellectuals to the church.
10. (cap.) the Christian Church before the Reformation.
11. (cap.) the Roman Catholic Church.
12. the clerical profession or calling: After much study and contemplation, he was prepared to enter the church.
13. a place of public worship of a non-Christian religion.
14. any non-Christian religious society, organization, or congregation: the Jewish church.
15. to conduct or bring to church, esp. for special services.
16. South Midland and Southern U.S. to subject to church discipline.
17. to perform a church service of thanksgiving for (a woman after childbirth).
[bef. 900; ME chir(i)che, OE cir(i)ce Gk kyri(a)kón (dôma) the Lord's (house), neut. of kyriakós of the master, equiv. to kýri(os) master (kyr(os) power + -ios n. suffix) + -akos, var. of -ikos -IC; akin to D kerk, G Kirche, ON kirkja. See KIRK]

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Building for Christian worship.

The earliest Western churches were based on the plan of the Roman basilica. In Constantinople, Anatolia, and Eastern Europe, the Orthodox church adopted the symmetrical Greek-cross plan, which had four wings of equal size projecting from a central, square, domed area (see Byzantine architecture). The late 11th century saw increased complexity in cathedrals, but the innovative hall church did not establish itself until the 14th century. The basilica and hall church dominated Western church design until the mid-20th century. Modernization of rituals and an innovative spirit have resulted in architectural experimentation that sometimes departs completely from traditional forms.
In Christian doctrine, the religious community as a whole, or an organized body of believers adhering to one sect's teachings.

The word church translates the Greek ekklesia, used in the New Testament for the body of faithful and the local congregation. Christians established congregations modeled on the synagogue and a system of governance centred on the bishop. The Nicene Creed characterized the church as one (unified), holy (created by the Holy Spirit), catholic (universal), and apostolic (historically continuous with the Apostles). The schism of Eastern and Western churches (1054) and the Reformation (16th century) ended institutional unity and universality. St. Augustine stated that the real church is known only to God, and Martin Luther held that the true church had members in many Christian bodies and was independent of any organization.
(as used in expressions)
African Methodist Episcopal Church AME Church
Christ Church of
Church of Christ Scientist
Church Alonzo
Church Frederic Edwin
Orthodox Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic church
England Church of
Episcopal Church Protestant
Legion of Mary Church
Old Church Slavic language
Scientology Church of
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

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      in Christian doctrine, the Christian religious community as a whole, or a body or organization of Christian believers.

      The Greek word ekklēsia, which came to mean church, was originally applied in the Classical period to an official assembly of citizens. In the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament (3rd–2nd century BC), the term ekklēsia is used for the general assembly of the Jewish people, especially when gathered for a religious purpose such as hearing the Law (e.g., Deuteronomy 9:10, 18:16). In the New Testament it is used of the entire body of believing Christians throughout the world (e.g., Matthew 16:18), of the believers in a particular area (e.g., Acts 5:11), and also of the congregation meeting in a particular house—the “house-church” (e.g., Romans 16:5).

      After the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, his followers went forth according to his mandate to preach the Gospel and developed facilities for those who were converted. Rebuffed by the Jewish authorities, the Christians established their own communities, modeled on the Jewish synagogue. Gradually, the church worked out a governmental system based on the office of the bishop ( episcopacy).

      Various controversies threatened the unity of the church from its earliest history, but, except for small sects that did not ultimately survive, it maintained unity for several centuries. Since the separation of the Eastern and Western churches in 1054 and the disruption of the Western church during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, however, the church has been split into various bodies, most of which consider themselves either the one true church or at least a part of the true church.

      A traditional means of discussing the nature of the church has been to consider the four marks, or characteristics, by which it is distinguished in the Nicene Creed: (Nicene Creed) one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The first, that of oneness or unity, appears to be contradicted by the divisions in the church. It has been held, however, that since Baptism is the rite of entry into the church, the church must consist of all baptized people, who form a single body irrespective of denomination. The holiness of the church does not mean that all its members are holy but derives from its creation by the Holy Spirit. The term catholic originally meant the universal church as distinct from local congregations, but it came to imply the Church of Rome. Finally, apostolic implies that, in both its church and ministry, the church is historically continuous with the Apostles and thus with the earthly life of Jesus.

      The fact that many Christians hold nominal beliefs and do not act like followers of Christ has been noted since the 4th century, when the church ceased to be persecuted. To account for this, St. Augustine (Augustine, Saint) proposed that the real church is an invisible entity known only to God. Martin Luther (Luther, Martin) used this theory to excuse the divisions of the church at the Reformation, holding that the true church has its members scattered among the various Christian bodies but that it is independent of any organization known upon Earth. Many Christians, however, believing that Jesus intended to found one visible church here upon Earth, have worked to restore the unity of the church in the ecumenical movement (ecumenism). Evangelical (Evangelical church) Christians believe that for church unity to come to pass, fidelity to apostolic doctrine and practice must be restored.

      in architecture, a building designed for Christian worship.

      The earliest churches were based on the plan of the pagan Roman Basilica (q.v.), or hall of justice. The plan generally included a nave (q.v.), or hall, with a flat timber roof, in which the crowd gathered; one or two side aisles flanking the nave and separated from it by a row of regularly spaced columns; a narthex (q.v.), or entrance vestibule at the west end, which was reserved for penitents and unbaptized believers; and an apse (q.v.) of either semicircular or rectangular design, located at the east end and reserved for the clergy. orientation

 During a later period, a transept (q.v.) was added to the basilican plan in the form of a wing aligned perpendicular to the nave on a north-south axis and projecting from the boundaries of the nave to form the cruciform, or Latin cross, plan (e.g., Durham or Peterborough cathedrals). Auxiliary altars, dedicated to particular saints, were often erected at each end of the transept. (See the Figure—>.) Some medieval English cathedrals (e.g., Canterbury, Lincoln, and Salisbury) have a second, smaller transept to the east of the main transept.

      In Constantinople, Anatolia, and eastern Europe, where the Orthodox church flourished, a plan known as the Greek cross dominated ecclesiastical building. In contrast to the long, timber-roofed nave crossed at one end by a shorter transept, Eastern churches had four wings of equal size projecting from a central, square, domed crossing area. A notable example is Hagia Sophia (6th century AD) in Constantinople (modern Istanbul).

      The elaboration of Western Christian services was paralleled toward the end of the 11th century by increasing complexity in the basilican plan. Choir space was defined, usually east of the transept but occasionally in the nave proper, as in Westminster Abbey. Whereas in early basilican churches the clergy had been seated in the apse, they now occupied an area called the presbytery (q.v.). The term chancel, originally referring to the area directly behind the cancelli, or rails, separating nave from apse, now included that part of the church occupied by altars, officiating clergy, and singers. The term choir is sometimes used interchangeably with chancel for this area.

      In France the eastern end of the church was elaborated into a structure known as a chevet, which is fully developed in many 12th-century Romanesque churches; e.g., Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont-Ferrand, Fr. The term applies equally to an eastern termination consisting of multiple apses or to a single apse surrounded by an ambulatory and radiating chapels; (chapel) it was designed to place as many subsidiary altars as possible close to the high altar. The radiating chapels (see chapel) were usually uneven in number, with the central one dedicated to the Virgin Mary and known as the Lady chapel (q.v.), a feature of both French and English cathedrals.

      It was, however, in Italy, between the end of the 14th century and the first quarter of the 16th, that the most significant innovation in European church architecture appeared, in the form of the hall church. Designed on the rising crest of the Counter-Reformation, which understood well the importance of preaching to reclaim errant congregations, hall churches minimized the long space from entrance to altar, thus placing the worshiper much closer to the proceedings. This was accomplished by introducing pulpits midway down the nave and by adding major side chapels at midpoint, in which additional masses could be conducted simultaneously. The developed form of the hall church can be seen in the Gesù (1568, Rome) by Giacomo da Vignola.

      Both the basilican and hall church plans dominated western European and American church design until the mid-20th century. The modernization of rituals in the Roman Catholic church and the innovative spirit of many Protestant denominations have rested in experimentation with new architectural forms. Designers have invented variations on the Greek cross plan or have departed completely from traditional forms.

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Universalium. 2010.

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