While all churches are technically sanctified, because “sanctification” means making something holy, when people use the term “sanctified church,” they usually mean a specific branch of Pentecostal Christianity. The sanctified church movement was born among the slaves of the Americas, and it reflects a distinctive cultural and religious tradition which began when slaves were first introduced to Christianity in the New World. Today, many such churches have a large black congregation, although people of all ethnic origins and races can be seen at worship in such churches.
The cornerstone of a sanctified church is that people must achieve grace with God through prayer and good works. Certain individuals may receive a blessing from God known as sanctification, which makes them into vessels for the Holy Spirit. These individuals are used to spread the Word of God on Earth, in a variety of ways which may range from glossolalia to dancing. Glossolalia, incidentally, is a fancy way of saying “speaking in tongues.”
Services in a sanctified church are often quite noisy and exuberant. Members of the congregation are encouraged to express the Holy Spirit as it moves them, so people may dance, clap their hands, sing, speak, go into trances, or engage in a wide variety of other behaviors which are viewed as sacred gifts from God. The minister usually preaches a sermon which focuses on saving individual souls and spreading belief in Christ through good works, and these churches often meet for revivals, mass-baptisms, and other events.
In many cases, a sanctified church will identify as non-denominational, welcoming people of all creeds to worship or visit services to learn more. Christians from more conservative sects sometimes frown upon the exuberance of these churches, preferring to see more dignified services and rejecting the idea that individuals can become filled with the Holy Spirit. However, many aspects of the sanctified church are actually very true to the roots of Christianity, such as the idea that everyone should participate in preaching and spreading the world of God.
As a general rule, a sanctified church identifies itself as such in its name and in public listings. It may also include “Holy Spirit” in its name, to emphasize the role of sanctification in its religious services. People who are interested in observing services are usually welcome, as long as they are respectful. In a sanctified church, it is considered conventional to dress nicely for church, to assist people if they appear to be losing physical control while acting as vessels for the Holy Spirit, and to join in hymns and shouts of “amen” with the rest of the congregation.