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Christianity (from the Greek word Xριστός ”Christ“) is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the Christian Scriptures, the New Testament. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and as Saviour and Lord.

Adherents of Christianity, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is theMessiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (scripture common to Christianity and Judaism). Traditional mainstream Christians believe that Jesus, although fully divine, lived as a man, suffered, died, was resurrected and ascended intoheaven, from where he will return to judge all humans, living and dead. Christians call the message of Jesus Christ the Gospel (“good news”) and refer to the earliest written accounts of his ministry as The Gospels.

Christianity began as a Jewish sect and thus, like Judaism and Islam, is classified as anAbrahamic religion. Originating in the eastern Mediterranean approximately 2000 years ago, it quickly grew in size and influence over a few decades, and by the 4th century had become the dominant religion within the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, most of the remainder of Europe was Christianized, with Christians also being a (sometimes large) religious minority in the Middle EastNorth Africa, and parts of India. Following the Age of Discovery, throughmissionary work and colonization, Christianity spread to the Americas and the rest of the world.

In Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite, instituted by Christ, that mediates grace, constituting a sacred mystery. Views concerning both what rites are sacramental, and what it means for an act to be a sacrament vary among Christian denominations and traditions. Many Christians recognize seven Sacraments or Divine Mysteries, but the two most widely accepted sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist (also called Holy Communion or The Lord’s Supper).

As of the early 21st century, Christianity has between 1.5 billion and 2.1 billion adherents, representing about a quarter to a third of the world’s population and is the world’s largest religion. In addition, Christianity is the state religion of several countries.

A world-wide overview presents Christianity as divided between East (Orthodox) and West (Catholic), but there are many sub-divisions within these broad categories. In England the “state church” is The Church of England (Protestant), but many Churches do not conform to the laws of the C of E and are called Non-Conformist or Free Churches (Baptists, United Reformed, Methodists, etc.). There are still many Roman Catholic churches. There are also an increasing number of churches which do not belong to any of the major traditions of church life in England. Immigration over many years has seen countless new varieties of churches come into existence. Churches which place great emphasis on the present and immediately available activity of The Holy Spirit rather than on tradition or scripture, are sometimes called Pentecostal or Charismatic.

(A list of almost all the churches in Northampton can be found on the website www.churches-together-northampton.org.uk )

For more detailed information on Christianity go to

Wikipedia: july.fixedreference.org/en/20040724/wikipedia/History_of_Christianity

The Christian Enquiry Agency: www.christianity.org.uk/

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