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the Word of God
by Lewis Roberts

In 547 Pierre Bothan began preaching what he called the Word of God on Datarkt/Dethenes/Old Expanses. That same day six other individuals began preaching the exact same message on six other worlds in Old Expanses, Delphi, Massilia and Diaspora sectors. These individuals had no previous contact and had no prior knowledge of each other. In fact it would be several years before they became aware of each other. Since this time, numerous investigators have tried and failed to find any evidence of prior connections to explain their simultaneous epiphanies. When asked to explain it, believers respond that it was simply a miracle.

Each of the seven prophets quickly attracted a band of followers, who also began spreading the Word of God. Within five years the followers numbered in the tens of thousands. It was about then that the prophets became aware of each other. They exchanged emissaries and agreed to a face to face meeting on Mission/Oreo/Massilia.

The historic meeting took place on 200-552 in a small mountain chalet. The prophets sent away their staffs and for two weeks were alone with each other and God. They realized that they had all had the same inspiration to start preaching, though it manifested itself in different ways. The existence of others preaching the same message cemented their beliefs in the correctness of their teachings. The seven decided to unify their followers and to create a unified organization.

The prophets elected Pierre Bothan to be the first Patriarch of the church. He would hold supreme leadership over the church while the other six prophets would continue to spread the Word.

They created the first temple on the very spot of their first meeting. It is a magnificent building built of rose quartz, with soaring towers. A dozen massive bronze bells are mounted in two belfries, and they ring out on the hour and to call the faithful to services. The temple is decorated with statuary and other art that was donated or created by followers. The Word rotates the art on a yearly basis, and the rest of the art is on display in a nearby museum. The Word would come to dominate Mission and in 657 the bloodless coup overthrew the ruling military dictatorship and installed the Patriarch as the ruler of the world.

The Word of God is very missionary orientated. It sends out priests to bring the word of God to the unenlightened. These priests have spread the religion throughout the trailing portion of the Imperium and even to the border states in the Hinterworlds, Glimmerdrift Reaches and Leonidae sectors. Though it was always strongest in the four sectors where it was created, the religion never dominated the region. It had large congregations in most high population worlds. Throughout the later half of Imperial history, it was not unusual to encounter wandering priests hitching rides on tramp freighters. Some of these priests even got as far as the Spinward Marches, though there is no evidence of any congregations being formed in that Sector.

The Word of God has always been involved in politics. Its members lobby their governments to create laws more in keeping with the teachings of the Word. In some cases the Word has become the official state religion and has a hand in ruling. On other worlds it has become the government, and instituted a theocracy. On worlds that are controlled by the Word, much of the world's economic output is used to further spread the Word. The Word has always been a strong supporter of the Imperium, and during times of war, its priests urge it members to join the military to defend the Imperium. Many influential nobles in the four original sectors are members of the Word of God. These nobles give the Word legitimacy and a small amount of influence on Imperial politics at the sector level.

In 990 when the Solomani Rim war broke out, the Word had congregations throughout the Solomoni Sphere. These congregations were split on the issue of Imperial rule. Soon some of the congregations split from Word and formed their splinter groups. The original Word of God declared these splinter groups as heretics. This period saw the Word hiring mercenaries and assassins to settle theological issues.

After the Rim War, the splinter groups that were in territory held by the Imperium, were eliminated. While the tactics used were often questionable, and sometimes illegal, the Word escaped any official notice. This was both because of Word's strong support of the Imperium and because of the many noble members of the Word.

Five splinter groups survived on the Solomani side of the border. They regarded each other as heretics and refused to cooperate. For the most part the Solomani government left them alone, though Solsec occasionally investigated the groups.

For the next one hundred years the Word continued to expand and make new converts. It continued its strong support of the Imperium, and many members joined the Imperial armed forces. This helped spread the religion to the corners of the Imperium as members travelled during their tours of duty. While it may have converts in every sector of the Imperium, it is still strongest in the trailing sectors.

When Dulinor assassinated Strephon, the Word initially supported the newly crowned Emperor Lucan as the legitimate emperor. Though when Margret broke from the Imperium, the Word was torn between following the beloved Duchess of Delphi and the legal emperor. Margret also controlled much of the territory that the Word was strongest in. She also controlled the territory surrounding the Word's central stronghold on Mission. In 1117, the Matriarch declared that the Word considered Lucan's claim to the throne to be illegal and possibly based on criminal deeds. She called on loyal members of the Word to support Margret. Most congregations did so, while others continued to support Lucan, still others remained neutral. The mix became even more confused, when Strephon emerged and claimed to be the true emperor.

The various factions of the Word issued claims of heresy against each other and started religious wars against each other. In 1120 the Solomani Confederation helped one of the five splinter groups from the Rim War set up a new central temple on Bonshar/21 Worlds/Old Expanses. This group declared itself the true heir of original prophets and declared that the Imperium was corrupt and the Solomani Confederation deserved the loyalty of any Word members. The Solomani hoped that this would encourage worlds to join their cause, but it was never particularly successful. It did stop some of the bickering on the Imperial Word congregations and focused them on the heretical Solomani congregations.

The fighting only stopped when the Virus swept across the Imperium. It destroyed many of the Word's congregations, but some still survive in the New Era. The central temple on Mission survived the Chaos and still serves a small congregation. Though the central government has collapsed, and individual towns are run by their parish priests with no coordination between towns.

The Word is organized in a hierarchical fashion. At the top of the hierarchy sits the Patriarch/Matriarch. Below him are the Archcanons who each control the dealings of the church in a given sector. Canon's control either an individual world, or a group of worlds, depending on the number of followers the Word has on the worlds. Each world is divided up into congregations, which are centered around a temple. Usually congregations have a few hundred to a thousand members. Each congregation is assigned a priest. High priests are intermediaries between the priests and the Canons.

Wandering priests spread the Word to whomever will listen. The wandering priests are free from interference and can do as they see fit. They are required to notify the local canon of their arrival, and if they are heading towards worlds that are not in a canon's bailiwick, they are to notify the Archcanon of their location. This allows the Canons to know where there is a need to send more priests and to keep track of any new congregations. It also allows the priests to collect travelling funds.

The Word of God believes that by doing good deeds and obeying the laws of God, a soul can purified and ascend to paradise. People who have not been exposed to the teachings of the Word of God are reincarnated until they have heard the Word of God. After three lifetimes in which they have been exposed to the teachings, and not converted, they are given up as a lost cause and their soul is extinguished. Those who profess to follow the Word of God, but corrupt the teachings are declared heretics and their souls are condemned to an enternity of suffering. Those believers who stop following the Word of God are also condemned.

The Word encourages its followers to have as many children as feasible. The Word knows that children tend to follow the religion of their parents, so this way more non-believer souls are brought into believer families and are speed on their way to paradise. It also provides more resources for the Word and allows it to spread the Word faster. This has caused some over population on some worlds, but the Word has organized colonization efforts for worlds on the Imperial frontier.

The Word preaches that believers should help those less fortunate than themselves, and the Word has many charitable organizations which help the homeless, the mentally ill, and distraught. Followers of the Word must tithe 10% of their income. The Word uses this money in its charitable activities and to spread the Word. Followers of the Word may not eat of the flesh of animals and must prepare all foods in accordance with the Word's guidelines. Members who try to alter the divine laws given down by the Word are declared heretics, and it is the duty of all faithful members of the Word to destroy heretics with any and all means.

The Word is not a human centric organization, in fact one of the seven prophets was a Hresh (from T4's Alien Archives). The teachings of the Word do not make any distinction between humans and non-humans.

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