Religious Specialists

12249814_1233978973295293_3231761496837432617_nWithin the Eastern Orthodox Church, bishops are the highest spiritual authority. Traditionally, the position of bishop is restricted to single or widowed men. Bishops are taught to maintain the continuity of the unity and faith of the church. They oversee the other members of the clergy, and have the authority to ordain deacons, priests, and other bishops. Bishops are organized in ranks, including Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Patriarchal Vicars, and Auxiliary Bishops.

Source: “The Role of the Clergy in the Greek Orthodox Church,” Opposing Views. Accessed November 20, 2015.

“Bishop (Eastern Orthodox Church),” Wikipedia. Accessed November 23, 2015.

sdfsdfsThe Role of the Clergy in the Greek Orthodox

12247057_10207887393000267_4571555244365921_nAn Abbot in an Eastern Orthodox monastery holds overall responsibility over the monastery and the monks. They ensure both the material and spiritual well-being of the monks he leads and the people he works alongside with. The abbot generally has a council of monks to advise  and support him or her in with problems that may arise. An abbot is elected by a secret election held by the monks, and is traditionally elected for life. This allows for a strong connection to be formed between a community of monks and their leader, the abbot. The Abbot is also in charge of financial matters and ensures the monastery has enough money and supplies to sustain itself.

Source: “Abbott,” Encyclopedia Britanica, Accessed November 20, 2015.

“Explanation of Different Monastic Roles,” Belmont Abbey. Accessed November 20, 2015.


12274695_10207851115026608_739094436468996484_nThere is no separate term in Eastern Orthodox Christianity for nuns and convents, so they are referred to as monks and monasteries. Orthodox monks and nuns lead identical spiritual lives, with slight differences depending on the abbess or abbot in the monastery. The abbess is the spiritual leader of the convent and her authority is absolute, even when there are male leaders in the monastery, she is the leader. When a nun enters the monastery, she encounters different levels to pass through in her profession. These are:

Novice: These are the first 3-5 years in the monastery. Novices might dress in the black inner robe, or “isorassa”, and may also wear a black scarf, or “apostolnik” tied over the head. The style of dress is dependent upon the rules set forth by the abbess. During this phase a nun may leave the monastery without penalty.

Rassaphore: When the abbess decides the novice is ready, the nun will be asked to join the monastery. Then the nun is tonsured in a formal service and is given the outer robe, or “exorassa”, and a veil, or “epanokamelavkion”. The nun is also given a new name and is officially part of the sisterhood. Tonsured nuns are usually addressed as “Mother”.

Stravrophore: This level occurs years after the first tonsure and only when the abbess decides the nun has reached a level of discipline, dedication, and humility. This level is marked by another formal service in which the nun is elevated to the “Little Schema”. The nun in this level is given markers on her clothing and is allowed stricter personal ascetic practice.

Great Schema: The last level is called “Megaloschemos”, or Great Schema. It is reached by nuns whose abbess decides they have reached a high level of excellence. In some traditions, this level is only reached on a death bed. While in others nuns can reach this in as little as 25 years of service.

Source: “Nun-Eastern Orthodox.” Wikipedia. Accessed November 20, 2015.


220px-Ioannis_KoukouzelisThe cantor plays a vital role in Eastern Orthodox churches. During the service he chants responses and sings hymns. In some traditions, especially the Greek, he can also hold a position known as the protopsaltes, which translates as ” the first of the singers”. This position organizes the choir, leads the choir in song and response and in some cases educates segments of the congregation. Church administrative duties may be placed on him as well. When leading the choir in song during the service, he acts as the conductor of an orchestra would, using hand movements to signify changes in the music.

Source: “Cantor,” Orthodox Wiki. Accessed November 20, 2015.

“Cantor,” Wikipedia. Accessed November 20, 2015.


12274443_2511164333478_2442294849357732521_nThe role of an altar boy (server) in Eastern Orthodoxy is to aid the priest in the fulfillment of the Divine Liturgy. Altar boys follow many rules and are expected to carry themselves to the standards of the religion inside the church and out. It is a very dedicated role, and requires a lot of mental concentration. Upon entering the church an altar boy is to focus on why is is in Heaven’s Kingdom (the church), cross himself, light a candle, and kiss the icons next to the candles. They also must kiss the icons when entering the altar, and ask the priest to bless their robe before putting it on. They may only leave once receiving the priest’s permission.

Source: Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church of Toronto, Canada, “Altar Servers Guide,” Living Orthodoxy. Accessed November 19, 2015.


12247073_1049536071731621_4972516698342792961_nA deacon is an ordained minister in the Roman Catholic Church. A deacon acts as a servant to the Catholic Church. Deacons will preach and teach the word of Christ in the church services and Bible studies. They also baptize, lead prayers, conduct marriages, and oversee wakes and funeral arrangements. Deacons will address the needs of people in the church or in the community and will make sure the Church is able to serve those needs; the deacon is supposed to be a very charitable person. Deacons can become priests if they keep moving up to each office, although sometimes it can take years.

Source: “Frequently Asked Questions About Deacons,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Accessed November 20, 2015.


Rabbi-Lazar-Putin-620x348The word Rabbi originates from the Hebrew meaning of “teacher.” The duties of a Rabbi have changed over the course of history, but today are referred to as those who have received Rabbinical ordination and are educated about Halacha (Jewish law). The Rabbi serves many roles. They determine the Jewish calendar, serve as a judge in rabbinical court, promote social welfare, and work to encourage religious observance. Today a Rabbi mirrors a Protestant minister, serving as an educator, social worker, preacher, and often conducts prayer services. Unlike Catholic priests a rabbi cannot absolve sin. Rabbi are also important to make sure the complicated Jewish wedding ceremony is conducted correctly. While the rabbi is not required to conduct the ceremony, in Israel they are needed to make the wedding legal.

Source: “Rabbi,” Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed November 20, 2015.


12279209_1023486484376052_8953630834412647551_nA chazzan, or cantor, leads liturgical or musical performances during Jewish religious ceremonies. In rabbinic times, congregation members were unfamiliar with the prayers anda man who was well versed in the prayers would say the prayers and the congregation would respond “Amen”. The chazzan has to be a honorable man, humble and have a pleasant voice. It is also important that the chazzan have a long beard. Chazzanim are crucial because they allow all the members of the congregation to participate in some form.

Source: Louis Jacobs, The Jewish Religion; A Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.


p60-1A Yeshiva is a Jewish institution of learning that analyzes religious texts such as the Torah and the Talmud. The yeshiva student analyzes religious texts in two main ways. Either the student forms study groups called chavrutas, which translates to companionship, or they study during the daily shiurims, or lectures. Although some non-Orthodox yeshivas are open to women, historically only men were allowed to attend. The yeshiva is typically divided into three terms, known as zmanim. Generally, Lithuanian or Hasidic yeshivas learn until they get married. However, married men have the opportunity to learn in what are called kollel’s, full time institution of study that are restricted to married men.

Source: “Yeshiva,” Wikipedia. Accessed November 23, 2015.

“Kolel,” Wikipedia. Accessed November 23, 2015.


Reis_Mustafa_Ceric_JS_11_540799676A Mujtahid is a man of the Islamic faith who has mastered all the religious laws and is authorized to do Ijtihād (proof for a religious ruling). He has to be a sane, free man of legitimate birth and past the age of puberty. He is able to deduct religious rulings from the Quran and customs. The sciences to this include Arabic and Arabic grammar, knowledge of Tafsīr, logic, thorough knowledge about traditions, Rijāl (science of narration), and lastly, the principles of jurisprudence. Followers of a Mujtahid are called Muqallid. The Mjtahid uses his knowledge and resources to make a ruling on situations and Muqallids accept it.

Source: “Jurisprudence Jargon,” Accessed November 20, 2015.

“Ijtihad / Taqleed,” Islamic Laws. Accessed November 20, 2015.


photo_24304In Islam, an imam is the person who leads a service. He leads the prayers with his back towards the congregation. An imam is revered by their community and people often go to him seeking advice or guidance. Islam does not have the same organization of clergy as many other religions do. Instead, the community simply chooses someone who they believe is fit for the position and he leads as imam. There is controversy over whether or not a woman can be an imam, as the Quran does not address it directly, however it is a male-dominated position.
Source: Huda. “Imam.” About Religion. Accessed November 18, 2015.


1A Muezzin is a man that is appointed to call Muslims to prayer. Muslims are called to prayer five times a day: at dawn, midday, the middle of the afternoon, right after sunset and about two hours after sunset. Traditionally, the muezzin climbs the mineret of the mosque (almost like a tower), but in recent, modern traditions, the muezzin’s voice is carried through a speaker to call people to prayer. The call to prayer itself is called the Athan or the Azan. It has seven parts, each defining Allah as the one true God and creator and Muhammad, his prophet.

Source: Stephen Van Nattann, “The Islamic Call to Prayer.” Something Like the Truth. Accessed 20 Nov. 2015.