The church of the Tender is an organisation focused around the improving the lives of the people of Acryn - a claim that all the churches would make, but the works of the faithful and priesthood of the Tender provide obvious and tangible benefits to many, especially the poorest and most needy. The tenets and teachings of the faith focus on real and tangible things that can be done to improve the city's welfare, be that learning the healing arts, maintaining and expanding farms, or simply distributing food in the poorer districts of the city. The priesthood spend their lives attending to such tasks, but lay worshippers are expected to do their part - a core tenet of the faith is that those who are able should give one day of their labour to a church run-project, or work their own profession in a charitable fashion. Obviously, it is understood that circumstances may interfere with the ability to give this time, but those who show themselves unwilling to put in the effort will receive a frosty reception at services and meetings. A similar “hands-on” attitude is expected from priests at every level of the hierarchy, from the lowest initiate to the First and Least (the church's “leader” such as there is one). Volunteers working in the church's food kitchens can and will find the same men and women who lead their services standing along side them filling bowls.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the church frowns upon unnecessary violence, but it certainly doesn't encourage its faithful to allow themselves to be pushed around by those willing to resort to it. The church uses a shield as its symbol and has a decent number of militant priests within its ranks who are skilled in their use, and do the church's work by patrolling the rough districts at night or escorting vital caravans of food to outlying villages. Where possible, such individuals train in field medicine as well as combat, and they are encouraged to minimise fatalities among those against whom they are forced to raise arms against. A small, largely condemned minority sect have spoken against this last stricture, arguing that anyone who would raise arms to a priest of the church in cold blood is someone the world is better without. Mainstream church opinion remains firmly against this, and any sympathisers to this opinion in the upper echelons are keeping quiet about it.
The church has the least in the way of official organisation among the four, its foundation being firmly at the community level, centred around local meeting halls where gatherings take place. Each of these tends to have a charitable project that is managed by its resident priests and acolytes, with which worshippers provide assistance. The church has four larger temples, scattered around the city, where acolytes are trained and from which the larger projects on which the church works are managed. The western temple, just outside the west gate of the city, manages the extensive farming operations undertaken by the church, and has also been converted to provide temporary housing for refugees arriving from outside the city while a place for them is found within. The Dock Hall, found where it's name suggests is a colossal infirmary, the largest of its kind in the city, rumoured to be rivalled only by that in Serradis on the continent. Here medical treatment is provided to any and all who need it at whatever price they can afford to pay. Located near the city centre, the building commonly known as the Bread Basket is the centre of distribution the church uses to move food around the city, sending wagon-loads out to operations run by community churches, and to larger distribution centres it manages centrally. Since the Upheaval, there has been a significantly increased requirement for the church-militant to monitor this.
Lastly is what outsiders tend to think of as the centre of the church, the extensive, walled off collection of buildings and gardens to the south of the city where acolytes and priests train in spiritual and practical matters. Almost all priests will have spent some time here at the start of their careers, and it is usually thee site of the very infrequent full-church gatherings, and thus the perception of it as a headquarters is easy to understand, but it is drilled into those who study here that the church's true heart is wherever there is a need to which it can attend.
The church's worshippers and priesthood are disproportionately (though far from exclusively) drawn from the poorer parts of Acryn, and many of its most devout are those who have benefited from its help in their lives. The church will provide training and support to as many as it can bear to at any one time, as while some who take its help depart the ranks once they are back on their feet, most will give back what they were given many times over. While devout followers among the nobility and mercantile classes are fewer, there are some who will provide philanthropic aid to the church. Sadly, a few among the rich view the church with (usually veiled) hostility, as there have always been voices among the church less than complimentary towards the established money of the city who choose not to share their wealth. Rumours have also begun to arise since the upheaval that radical priests within the church have been sheltering revolutionary elements from the authorities. No official comment has been made on the issue, but the paranoia of those feeling their position trembling after the Upheaval often centres on the church.
The official speaker of the church, who stands on its behalf on the city council and leads full-church assemblies is known internally as the First and Least. First because he or she stands as a figurehead and an exemplar, least because the duties to which they have to attend unavoidably drag them away from doing the church's work on the front line. The current incumbent (who has been in the role for six years) is a quietly charismatic man named Auln, a skilled surgeon who still works two shifts in the Dock Hall each week alongside attending the seemingly endless emergency council settings since the Upheaval. Rumours have spread out from his assistants and close associates that he has been looking increasingly drawn as time has worn on, and that he is frequently skipping nights of sleep to continue working. Despite this, he appears to be as sharp and skilled as ever, and some whisper that the Tender has interceded to sustain him during this, the city's greatest time of need.
The Leader's church is often misunderstood and maligned both within Acryn and without by those who see it simply as an organisation devoted to accumulating as much temporal power as possible. While the actions of church undeniably do build for it reserves of official wealth and power that far outstrip any of the other churches, the church is first and foremost about cultivating talent and potential. This harks back to the stories surrounding the foundation of Acryn - the church of the Leader has a better codified doctrine than any of the others, and at the heart of this is a simple statement:
“Without the Leader, the city would never have been, and without leaders, the city will fall”
This written statement has been part of doctrine for longer than any currently living priest can remember, and church records show that its meaning has been extensively debated over the years, but the current consensus is that the duty of the church is to find and nurture exceptional individuals, as they believe the actions of the one truly brilliant citizen can lead tens of thousands forward. These leaders could be literal leaders - council members or the heads of guilds - or they could be the finest alchemists and mages of the colleges, the artists who bring audiences to tears, the orators who can shape the actions of the multitudes. To this end, worshippers are encouraged to always seek any opportunity to better themselves and to improve, while priests are required to encourage this among their congregations, and to seek out untapped potential among those who listen to them.
Most faithful and priests run or own a stake in some form of business or enterprise, or if they have established sources of wealth (as a not inconsiderable number do) are expected sponsor innovative or ground-breaking work among other members of their congregation, on the understanding that payment will be given both to the sponsor and the church if the work is a success. In this fashion, the church itself and its wealthiest members tend to amass ever increasing resources as time goes on, leading to its image as a preserve of the rich and powerful.
Doctrine also makes clear that talent or a good idea alone are not enough to build greatness, and thus schools its priests (and they in turn those worshippers who wish to learn) in public speaking and debate - which are honed in the frequent internal rows over interpretation of doctrine and the relative merits of various potential projects within the church.
The church has a formal hierarchy within the priesthood, ranging from Initiate through Orator, Speaker, Demiurge and Leader. Promotion through the ranks requires demonstrating proof to those above you in the church that you have grown as an individual, and achieved great things either yourself or through the teaching and nurturing of others. While there are written guidelines regarding the requirements for each rank, there is sufficient subjectivism within them that attempting a promotion requires careful politicking among those likely to be judging your claims, and rivalries can be bitterly and gleefully played out in such settings. Some initiates baulk at the perceived unfairness of this, but the general consensus is that the upper echelons like things just the way they are, believing that forcing aspirants to negotiate such difficulties makes them better at doing the leader's work. Bribery is officially prohibited, but it is tacitly understood that the prohibition is only truly against being careless enough to get caught.
The church has a gleaming central Cathedral located across a plaza from the council chambers where massive services are frequently held - though to attend such requires a modest payment to demonstrate the worthiness of the attendee to be in such august halls. Smaller churches around the city tend to still be relatively grand buildings, often doubling as debating halls or venues for artistic performances when not in use for services or church meetings. Businesses owned by the church tend to display a sign of a jewelled sceptre, and worshippers often work this into their own crests or coats of arms. The church has an extensive administrative wing, working out of buildings adjacent to the central temple, managing the wealth and contracts flowing in and out of its auspices.
The wealthier of the city tend to favour the church of the Leader, seeing their success as a sign that they are part of the ideal of great leaders, and wishing to cultivate it further in themselves and their families. More prosaically, the church provides easy access to a wide network of potential investment opportunities for its wealthy members, and it's certainly true that a some attendees are solely motivated by increasing their own power and success - little caring for the same in others. Membership among the poorer members of society is far more slim, but it can provide a phenomenal boost for the few who manage to find a patron for their works. However, some among the wealthy of the congregation tend to be less than encouraging towards those they view as their social inferiors.
In general, in fact, the official goals of the church can sometimes be lost amongst the webs of patronage and base-building that can ensue among worshippers and priests who lose sight of potential in any but themselves and the already powerful. Since the Upheaval, the Leader of the church has launched a major drive to remind her congregation that, now more than ever, many individuals of great potential may never realise it due to lacking the privilege that those in the church tend to possess, and to lose sight of that is to deny the city its true potential. While most Initiates and Orators have been echoing this message, it is an open secret that a faction among the Demiurges and Speakers have begun questioning her interpretations of the scriptures, arguing that in times of trouble greater power must be afforded to the existing leaders of the City, trusting in those who have already proven their pre-eminence.
Faria Carver is the current Leader of the church, having joined as an Initiate some seventeen years ago and made her way up the ranks with (for the church) unprecedented speed. Only daughter of a family of carpenters, her design of several new tools for industrialising the production process allowed the family business to grow rapidly, and carve out a formidable market niche. As devout followers of the Leader, her parents ensured she saw fair personal gain from the innovations she had made, which she used to kick start a career in the church. She is well reputed as a talented engineer in her own right, as well as an excellent judge of the potential in the ideas of others, something that has served her well in the church. She remains a resolute follower of the orthodox interpretations of the scriptures, using her own life as an example in her sermons and speeches - her parents would have been legally entitled to keep all the benefits of her ingenuity, but by recognising her talent and affording her a fair chance to flourish, they ensured that she could reach for her fullest potential. As long as she is in charge of the church, she has frequently proclaimed, she will see to it that it does the same.
The church of the Warrior teaches that even the luckiest life will be beset by conflict, and that all should be ready to face adversity in defence of themselves and their city. Strength of arms is one facet of this, and certainly you'd be hard pressed to find many priests not proficient in at least one weapon, but the these days its teachings extend to a more general message of self-reliance and determination. Partially this has been forced by circumstance - for hundreds of years the church saw the maintenance and training of the city's army as its sacred duty, and its actions were focussed around recruiting and training. The revolution was long ago now that the church has adapted to the modern state of affairs. It still takes an active interest and role in assisting the city watch, and is without fail the first to respond when any external threat is sighted, but there has simply not been enough constant demand for armed men and women for this to be the church's sole purview, and thus a more generically uplifting message has been adopted.
Any worshipper who seeks training in arms will, or course, still be given it, as the church views mastery of the combat arts as a goal to be aspired to for all. The church has an extensive barracks and training ground to the north of the city where acolytes and worshippers train alongside one another. For its more pastoral duties, the less militant wing of church has adopted the idea of building “havens” around the city. These are generally converted houses or small buildings, intended to be safe places where worshippers can come to rest when the struggles in their lives become too much. The teaching in this regard is that no matter how strong anyone is, they will sometimes need rest from their troubles, and by providing somewhere secure where a short rest, a night's sleep and a talk with the priest or any others visiting the church aims to lighten the weight of its people's lives, allowing them to regain their strength to fight anew. These havens are a matter of some debate within the church, with some on the more militant wing loudly deriding them as encouraging weakness, but their supporters are just as fervent in their defence.
The church of the warrior has little in the way of official places of worship, those properties it does own being almost exclusively dedicated to training and housing those who it is training, or acting as one of the many havens. Most services are held in public, regular gatherings in the city's plazas, markets or green spaces. Those who wish to become priests are generally assigned to an existing one for training, shadowing them during services and sparring meetings, and promotion to the ranks is generally adjudged based on when a trainee is ready to conduct a service on their own.
More formal structure exists in the church's militant wing. The church has somewhere between two and four thousand devotees and priests within the city sworn and ready to take up arms at the Council's call, representing one of the more formidable military forces within the city. Within this grouping, ranks are assigned according to those in the old army of the city, and the Grand Master of the Church sits at the top of this. While it is sworn to do the work of the council, this force makes many nervous, being as it is far too reminiscent of the bad old days, not helped by the fact that every generation throws up a few Warrior priests who loudly long for the days of kings, queens and armies (though the church makes an effort to keep these from rising too high in the militant wing).
The Church of the Warrior has a true cross-section of society within its ranks. Services and meetings tend to be upbeat and social affairs, and many find that attending training meetings is a good way to let off steam. More so than any of the other churches, however, the informal meet-ups between worshippers tend to be a major focus of a devotee's interaction with the church, and such affairs are one of the places where social barriers are more likely to be ignored in the city as a whole. Such strong social bonds also provide an in-built support network for members for when personal strength isn't enough to overcome the troubles facing them in life.
Membership is highest among members of the city watch and the mercenary companies but other than this, no one group or class is disproportionately represented. Some among the nobility rather look down on those of their rank who choose to participate, joking that it's very undignified to spend one's leisure days being beaten up by peasants with wooden swords, but such jokes are rarely made to the target's face, as they tend to be among the better duelists.
The leader of the Church's militant wing is also its representative on the council, and due to the lack of structure outside the militants, generally thought of as the leader (though she has no formal authority over priests outside the ranks). The current Grand Master is Leana a formidable veteran of the city's contribution to the Junnes war. In the aftermath of the Upheaval, she has been a major driver of watch efforts to keep the peace, deploying the majority of the militant wing to assist in keeping riots from bubbling over and maintaining order in the refugee camps.
A smaller, separate administration sees to the central purchasing and maintenance of the havens, frequently working in close concert with the churches of the Tender and Builder, both of which officially endorse them and provide extensive assistance.
The Builder church has a very simple mission, one that as far as its concerned has been constant since its creation - to maintain the walls and buildings of Acryn against disrepair, and to expand the city's infrastructure to meet its needs, whatever they may be. The entirety of its structure and teachings are devoted towards achieving this, and it's fairly up-front about the fact that all it wants from its worshippers is assistance, whether in the form of labour or donations. While this sounds rather one-way, the benefits the church provides to the city are undeniable, and while it is the least popular of the four, there are still plenty willing to drop a few Acra in the coffers, or roll up their sleeves and grab a hammer.
What exactly gets built is generally the main topic of internal debate - an official accord between the church and the monarchy demanded that the royalty of old's requests be fulfilled to the best of the church's abilities, but no such absolute requirement is placed upon the demands of the council (though the church is usually diplomatic enough to be cooperative). Since the Upheaval the focus has been almost exclusively on the production of housing, with the exception of those assisting the church of the tender in clearing the land around the city walls not needed for housing in preparation for seeding and cultivation. Now that the housing and food crises are more under control, the church's hierarchy has started debating once more what it can best do for the city. In the meantime, those whose interpretation counts the city's satellite towns and villages as part of it have begun touring around, working to help the residents make the best use of what land is available to them.
Each congregation of the church is lead by a priest called an Architect, generally responsible for coordinating the efforts and resources of their flock to their best effect, with several Architects often collaborating on a project (with its initiator generally taking the lead for its duration). Larger projects are handed down from a group of five High Architects, who identify and lead projects requiring contributions from hundreds (or even thousands). The church strives to ensure that four of the five High architects are involved in a project at any one time, with the fifth acting as their representative on the council. Depending on the church's activities this position can last for anywhere from a few weeks to six months, meaning that no one individual can truly be said to be in control of the church, something they view as a strength. The disadvantage of this is that the High Architects tend to be less practised politicians than most of the council, occasionally leaving them out of their depth in the machinations of the city's elite. However, aside from the occasional voice decrying the church's unwillingness to officially serve the council, the work of the Builder faith is nearly universally approved of, and exploiting or working against them is a risky move indeed in political circles.
Architects without a flock tend to either muck in on the works of other congregations, or devote their efforts to accumulating resources for the church through whatever means available, including, since the Upheaval, adventuring.
Most members of the church of the builder are those who feel they have something to offer it - it preaches little in the way of spiritual ideals, focusing near exclusively on tangible physical goals, providing little appeal for those who do not feel they can be part of it. Among those who do, however, there is a fairly even split between manual labourers (who the church endeavours to pay for their time), skilled crafters, and the wealthy who give mostly through donations, the bulk of whom are motivated by civic pride and a desire to do their part for the city.