Visit the Episcopal Church Online:
Some of the terms
we Episcopal people often use, and figure everybody knows.
(Please see the disclaimer, below.)
Return to Top of Page
- A sort of "short-hand" used by many
participants in worldwide web discussion groups when referring to the Archbishop
- Ceremonial washing of communion
vessels and/or the ceremonial washing of the hands of the celebrant.
- A declaration by a bishop
or priest, announcing forgiveness by God to those who
have confessed their sins and repented.
- From a Greek word meaning, "to follow."
Acolytes are lay volunteers who follow the Cross in the procession
and recession and assist the priest in worship. An
acolyte lights and sometimes carries candles, and helps in the preparation
- From the Latin: Adventus: "Coming."
Advent is the first season of the Church
year. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas
and ends on Christmas day. The color of Advent is traditionally purple, marking
the preparational aspects of the season. In Advent we prepare for our Lord's
coming in three ways: at Christmas; for his coming into our hearts; and for
his coming again at the end of time.
- Advent Wreath
- A wreath with four or five candles, used in most
Episcopal churches and in some homes during the season of Advent.
Four candles are placed in a circle, and a fifth may be placed in the center.
One candle is lit on the first Sunday in Advent, two on the second Sunday,
three on the third and four on the fourth Sunday in Advent. On Christmas
day, the fifth candle is lighted.
- Agnus Dei
- From two Latin words: agnus, meaning "lamb"
and dei, meaning "of God." The term refers to a three-part
litany frequently said or sung after the fraction
in the Holy Communion part of the Eucharist.
- The center passage of a church building bisecting
the pews, extending from the narthex
to the chancel.
see also: Ambulatory
- A white robe worn by many priests
when celebrating communion, generally worn over daily
clothes but under other vestments. A polyester variation of the alb called
the cassock-alb has become the de facto standard Eucharistic garment for many,
if not most Episcopal, Lutheran and Roman Catholic clergy.
- All Saints' Day
- November 1st - a day we commemorate
all the saints of the Church and those we know who've
joined the saints in worship at the heavenly banquet table. Originally known
as "All Hallows Day," and followed "all hallows eve" (Halloween).
- From the Greek word eleos, meaning "pity."
Money given by the Church to the poor. According to
the canons, the loose offering (cash and undesignated
checks) on the first Sunday of every month is supposed to go into an Alms
- Alms Basin
- An Episcopalian "offering plate."
- A table, usually in the sanctuary,
on which the bread and wine used in the Communion
service are consecrated. Also known as and referred
to in the prayer book as the Holy Table.
- Altar Guild
- A special lay service group
in a church who prepare the altar and maintain the furnishings
in a church building. The altar guild usually supervises all seasonal
church decorations and is usually responsible for all flower arrangements.
- A side aisle in a church
building, between the pews and the side walls, most often
used for special processions.
- From Hebrew, meaning, "So be it." Episcopalians
say "ah-men," while most other communions say "eh-men."
- A rectangular neckpiece or collar worn with an
alb. The amice is generally not worn by a low
- A term which simply means "English."
The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- a collection
of Churches around the world that has their origins in the Church
- Primarily a style of worship which is noted for
its beauty, majesty and formality, but also a fundamental understanding of
the nature of the Church and the sacramental way that
the church relates to everyday life.
See High Church.
- The first part of the Eucharist
service, including The Peace, and ending before the offertory.
In the prayer book, the ante-communion is also known
as "The Word of God."
- A hymn or choral piece sung only by a choir,
without the congregation.
- From the Greek words anti, meaning "against,"
and phone, meaning "sound." An antiphon is literally a song
sung back and forth by two choirs, or by one choir divided into two sections.
In the Episcopal Church, the Kyrie and the Sursum
Corda are two examples of antiphons. The familiar exchange "The Lord
be with you" - "And also with you" (Rite I:
"And with thy spirit") is also an antiphon.
- Apostolic Succession
- The doctrine that holds that bishops
are the direct successors of the original eleven apostles (excluding Judas)
and are thus inheritors in an unbroken line to the ministry to which Jesus
Himself ordained the Apostles. In the Episcopal Church, we believe that our
bishops had hands laid upon them by bishops who had hands laid upon them by
bishops who had hands laid upon them… all the way back to the original
- The term used by most of the Anglican
Communion (America being the largest exception) to define a bishop
in charge of a group of dioceses in a geographical
area, or a national church. His superiority over other bishops is only a matter
of organizational rank. As the saying goes, "He (or conceivably she)
is first among equals." In writing or speaking to an archbishop, the
form of address is "The Most Reverend." The Archbishop
of Canterbury has an additional title: The Most Reverend and Right Honorable
Dr. Rowan Williams. In speaking to him directly, you call an archbishop "Your
- Archbishop of Canterbury
- The equivalent of a Presiding Bishop
for the Church of England. Most Episcopalians (in an honorary
sense) acknowledge the Archbishop of Canterbury to be the spiritual head of
the worldwide Anglican Communion. Increasingly, the
letters "ABC" are being used as a shorthand code for the title.
- A priest (or increasingly, a deacon) who is part
of a bishop's staff and who usually has some administrative
supervision over missions for the bishop. Archdeacons
are referred to as "The Venerable" [The Ven.]: The Venerable John
Q. Beckwith. (The title "Reverend" is not used if Venerable is used.)
Archdeacons sometimes wear purple cassocks instead
of black ones, or black cassocks with purple piping.
- Ash Wednesday
- The Wednesday marking the beginning of the season
of Lent, usually observed with a period of fasting and
spiritual preparation. In the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the celebrant
usually smears ashes on a person's forehead as a mark of their mortality ("Remember
that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.") The ashes are often
burned palms saved from the previous year's Palm Sunday
- A box or cupboard in the wall of a church building
or in a sacristy where the Reserved
Sacrament is kept.
Return to Top of Page
- The sacrament that celebrates a person's joining
of the Church. At our baptisms we are cleansed from
sin, and adopted by God into His family, and made heirs of His eternal Kingdom.
Since we can only be adopted once, baptism is a final, non-repeatable act.
The Episcopal Church recognizes both adult and infant baptism and offers both.
Also, in the Episcopal Church, one can be baptized by being immersed, by being
sprinkled, or by having water poured on them. Baptism and Holy
Communion are the two great sacraments of the
- Bible, The
- The primary source of inspiration and the single
most important book for Episcopalians. Three or more Bible readings are included
in a typical worship service. Over 80% of the prayer book
comes directly from the Bible.
- From the Greek word episcopas, meaning
overseer. A Bishop is a member of the highest of the orders
of ministry in the Church. In the Episcopal Church, there are five kinds of
Bishops - Presiding, Diocesan, Assistant,
Coadjutor, and Suffragan.
No bishop is "higher" in rank than another. The five kinds merely
define their function. Bishops are the only order allowed to wear purple shirts,
and their crosses are usually gold, while priests’ crosses are usually
- Bishop, Assistant
- A bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in overseeing
a diocese. An assistant bishop is chosen by the diocesan
bishop (not elected by the people of the diocese), and was already consecrated
as a bishop by another diocese prior to serving as an assistant.
- Bishop, Co-adjutor
- A priest who is elected by a particular
diocese and consecrated to become the next bishop
of that diocese when the diocesan bishop retires. The co-adjutor serves as
an assistant bishop until the retirement of the diocesan,
and takes over the diocesan responsibilities at that point. In South Carolina,
Fitszimons Allison was elected in 1978 to serve as Bishop Co-adjutor until
Grey Temple retired as Diocesan Bishop (in 1980).
- Bishop, Diocesan
- The primary bishop of a
diocese, elected by the people of the diocese he or
she serves. Sometimes referred to as "the diocesan." The diocesan
of South Carolina is The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr., XIII Bishop
of South Carolina.
- Bishop, Presiding
- See Presiding Bishop
- Bishop, Suffragan
- A bishop elected by the people in a diocese to
serve as the diocesan assistant. The Suffragan does
not have the right to succeed as the diocesan, but may be elected as the diocesan
bishop in a new election. The Suffragan bishop in South Carolina is The Right
Reverend William J. Skilton.
- Book Of Common Prayer
- The worship book of the Anglican
Church since its inception in 1549. Commonly called the "prayer book,"
commonly abbreviated as the BCP, the Book of Common Prayer is a collection
of classic and contemporary prayers, devotions, services and psalms designed
to allow the entire Church to worship in common union.
The current prayer book was last revised in the 1970's.
1928 Prayer Book - A version of the
Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, in use from 1928 to 1976. Some services from
this prayer book were modified and inserted in the current prayer book (1979)
as "Rite I" services. The 1928 Book of common
Prayer was the last of the American prayer books to offer nationwide unified
common Sunday worship (only one form available for Eucharist
and one form for Morning Prayer).
1979 Prayer Book - The single largest update
of a prayer book in Episcopal Church history. Begun in the late 1960's with
numerous and often controversial trial liturgies, compiled in 1976 as the
Proposed Book of Common Prayer, and ratified by the 1979 General
Convention. The book attempted to retain traditional Episcopal
liturgies while incorporating many innovative forms of worship. The Convention
mandated its exclusive usage, thus alienating many traditional parishioners
who, in the 2000's, still refer to the book as the "new" prayer
book. The book has the distinction of being copyright free, so that its pages
may be used by anyone at any time.
- See Rite I, Rite
II, Rite III
- One of the two elements
of communion, signifying to us the Body of Christ.
As Scripture reminds us, "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread,
and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take,
eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26:26)
- Broad Church
- One of three popular designations to define the
style of worship in a particular Episcopal church. "Broad church"
worship is vaguely midway between low and high,
and may or may not include elaborate liturgy, incense, and/or sanctus bells.
A generation ago, an irreverent saying defined the three styles of Episcopal
worship as follows: "High and crazy; broad and hazy; low and lazy."
- See High Church, Low
- From the Greek byrsa, meaning, "a
bag." A burse is one of the furnishings of the altar
for communion, and is a pocket case made from two
squares of some rigid material covered in cloth. The burse sits on top of
the chalice, paten and veil,
and serves to hold a corporal. Often, the burse also
serves to hide an extra purificator.
Return to Top of Page
- The term comes from the Greek word kannon,
that means "measuring rod or ruler." In the Church we speak of canon
law, the canon of Scripture, and people called canons. The canon of Scripture
refers to the books of the Bible that are accepted as
genuine and inspired by God. When used in reference to people, a canon is
the title of a priest who either serves on the staff of a cathedral,
or who has exhibited exemplary service to a diocese.
- Canon Law
- The collection of laws that serve as the rules
of our Episcopal Church. The canons may be (and always are) modified by each
General Convention. Each diocese
also has canon law, but a diocese may not pass a canon that conflicts with
- The top diocese in the Church of England, and
by tradition, the entire Anglican Church. Although
all the branches of the Anglican Church are autonomous, each maintains a traditional
connection with England, and therefore looks to the Archbishop of Canterbury
as the spiritual leader of the Church. It was at Canterbury cathedral
(officially titled, the Cathedral Church of Christ) that St. Thomas Becket
was assassinated by King Henry's friends in 1170. Soon after Thomas' death,
pilgrimages to his Canterbury shrine began. (The shrine was destroyed by Henry
VIII in 1538) It was one of these pilgrimages that served as the setting for
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
- A festival hymn, simple in tune, sung during the
Christmas Season. Traditional
Episcopalians do not sing carols before sundown on December
24th, and will sing carols right up until Epiphany,
at least two weeks after the rest of America has abandoned them.
- A black robe worn by priests
or deacons, and are usually worn with a white over-garment called a surplice.
A Canon may wear a black cassock with red piping, or
(with permission) may wear a purple cassock. Deans and
archdeacons may wear black cassocks with red or
purple piping. Lay readers, choir
members and acolytes can also (and often do) wear cassocks.
- An elementary instruction in the principles of
Christianity, in the form of questions and answers. (See pages 845-862, BCP)
In past generations, one had to memorize the entire catechism before he or
she could be confirmed.
- The Greek word meaning "seat." A cathedra
is special sanctuary chair only used by a bishop.
The chair remains empty except during bishop's visitations and serves as a
visible reminder that the parish priest represents the bishop, and that the
bishop is the spiritual head of the diocese.
- The church in which the diocesan
bishop's throne or cathedra is kept, and often
the gathering place for many of the diocese's official functions and major
worship celebrations. If the cathedral is a parish church
(i.e. has a congregation of worshipers) their rector is given the title of
Dean of the Cathedral.
- A word usually thought of as a reference to the
Roman Catholic Church, however "catholic" literally means "universal"
or "found everywhere." (from the Greek word katholikos, meaning
"general" or "universal") In the Nicene Creed, we say
we believe in the holy catholic [universal] church.
- The person who leads the worship service. In a
Eucharist, the celebrant is the bishop,
or someone who the bishop appoints to lead the service for him or her. In
a service of Morning Prayer, the celebrant may be either
lay or clergy.
- (Also called a thurible) - a vessel in which
incense is burned on charcoal. A censer is usually
carried in processions and recessionals
by a special acolyte called a thurifer.
- From Latin, calix, meaning "cup."
A chalice is the cup used to contain the wine used at Communion.
- The person (ordained
or lay) who administers the chalice during Communion.
- From the Latin cancelli, meaning "a
grating" or "lattice." Chancel is the name for the section
of a church building between the nave and the sanctuary;
usually the place the choir sits; sometimes also called the "choir".
It is also usually a few steps higher than the nave.
- Not exactly singing, nor reading, chanting is
a recitation midway between singing and reading. Chanting originated in the
monastic orders in the early centuries of the Church.
- From Latin, cappella, meaning "a cape."
When the kings of France went on military campaigns, they would carry the
cape of St. Martin with them. The tent or other temporary structure that housed
the cappella was called a chapel. A chapel now refers to a small building
or room set apart for worship and meditation.
- The clergy person in charge of a chapel or one
who ministers to a small group of people.
- From Latin, casula, meaning "little
house". A chasuble is a type of vestment worn
by the celebrant during Communion.
It is usually oval in shape, with a hole for the head to pass through. The
chasuble may have been derived from an ancient Roman cloak only worn outdoors
and shaped like a tent (hence the name, "little house").
Many Low Church clergy will
tell you the that chasuble's liturgical origins were
from an identically shaped garment that Hebrew priests would wear to keep
blood off them as they were sacrificing animals.
- A long, sleeveless coat-like vestment
worn by a bishop.
- From Latin, chorus, meaning a group of
singers. A choir is group of lay people (voluntary or paid) that help lead
the singing during a worship service and sometimes offer special anthems
to enhance worship. The word "choir" can also used to define the
chancel, the part of the church building where the
- A mixture of olive oil and balsam, and sometimes
used at baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and some blessings of altars
and other church fixtures. Chrism is not the same as other holy oils such
as those used for the unction of the sick. No balsam
is added to oil used for unction.
- Besides being December 25th and the
day Christians mark as the celebration of the birth of Jesus (Christ's Mass),
Christmas is also a Church season, running from December
25th to Epiphany (January 6th).
It is this twelve-day period that is sometimes referred to as the Twelve Days
- The English word comes from the Greek word kurios,
meaning, "master" or "lord." A form of this word, kuriakon,
had the meaning of "…pertaining to, or belonging to the lord."
Originally, the word referred to the building used by the Lord's people.
However, the French and other Romance languages get their word for church
from the another Greek word - ekklesia (lit. "called out")
- in French, eglise, which means an assembly of people. We use both
terms when speaking of the church; we speak of the building and of the people
inside the building. It is interesting to note that when the Bible speaks
of the church, the word used is ekklesia. The Bible's authors never
thought of the church as a building. When the word is capitalized, it usually
refers to the universal, or catholic church.
- Church of England
- The official name of the original Church in England,
the Anglican Church. During the reign of King Henry VIII, the Church, in
England, broke formal ties with Rome and became the Church OF
England. Sometimes referred to as the "C of E."
- A cup that resembles a chalice,
except that it has a removable lid. A ciborium is used to hold communion wafers
during the Eucharist
- The group of ordained
people, consecrated for unique ministry for a particular
church or denomination.
- An adjective referring to ordained people and
- From the Latin word collecta, meaning "assembly."
The word is normally used to refer to the prayer near the beginning of the
Eucharist that precedes the lessons. The collect was
supposedly designed to "collect" the thoughts of the lessons and
bind the thoughts together, back in the days when only one lesson and a Gospel
were read. A collect is actually any short prayer that contains an invocation,
a petition, and a pleading in Christ's Name (in that order).
- Color plays an import part in the designation
of seasons and feasts in the Episcopal
Church. Each church season has a color associated with it. Advent
is purple (the color of preparation and penitence) or Marian Blue (in honor
of Mary), Christmas is white (the color celebration),
Epiphany is green (the color of growth; growth of
the gospel message from Jew to Gentile - re: the three Wise Men), Lent
is purple, Easter is white, and the season after Pentecost
is green (for the growth of the church). Weddings and funerals are usually
occasions for white (the color of celebration) while Pentecost Sunday and
ordinations are red, to signify the presence of the Holy Spirit. Black is
occasionally used one day a year -- Good Friday.
- From the Latin word communicare, meaning
"to share, or partake." Communicants are the members of a local
church who do or who are eligible to receive communion.
- 1. The Christian sacramental meal, the Lord's
Supper, commanded by our Lord ("Do this in remembrance of me.").
For centuries the service used to celebrate the meal was called Holy Communion,
but is now more commonly called the "Eucharist"
in Episcopal churches. Also known as Mass in Roman Catholic
2. The term describing a group of autonomous churches who recognize common
ties and share a common faith, for example, the worldwide Anglican
- A monastic evening service used to end the day,
and included for the first time in the 1979 prayer book.
It is pronounced "comp-lyn," not "comp-line."
- From two Latin words - firmare, which means
"to strengthen," and com, which adds force to the word. Literally
to confirm is to "strengthen greatly." At Confirmation a person
makes a mature, public confession that he or she accepts Jesus Christ as his
or her personal Lord and Savior, thus owning up to the vows his or her godparents
made for him or her at his or her baptism. The bishop then lays his or her
hands on the confirmand, and prays for the Holy Spirit to "strengthen
greatly" the person in the rest of his or her life. Confirmation is considered
to be one of the five sacramental acts, or minor sacraments
of the Church.
- The groups of people who make up the local church,
or the members of a local church who are present for worship.
- Congregational Meeting
- A meeting usually held annually, and usually held
to elect new vestry members and delegates to the diocesan
convention. Unlike some other denominations, the Episcopal
Church follows a representative form of government, instead of a pure
democracy. The work of the church is voted upon by the vestry, and
not by the congregation. The congregation votes to select vestry members
to represent the whole parish, as the vestry does their work.
- The word literally means, "to set aside."
At the Eucharist, the elements
are consecrated before we partake in communion. Consecration
services include dedications and ordinations. In
1895, the Chapel of the Cross was consecrated for God's service on
Sullivan's Island. In 1990, Bishop Edward Salmon was consecrated as
the 13th Bishop of South Carolina.
- A diocesan meeting (usually
held annually) to elect officials, propose resolutions, and to pass laws to
govern the diocesan body.
- A vestment of dignity
which may be worn by any order of the clergy, but is usually thought of as
being worn by a bishop, along with his miter.
The cope is a long and heavy semicircular cloak of rich material, generally
matching other vestments in the color of the season.
- From Middle English meaning "to cover."
A cotta is a short, white outer garment often worn by choir
members and acolytes to cover their cassocks.
- From Latin: corpus, meaning "body."
A square piece of linen laid on top of the altar cloth at Communion.
- Credence Table
- A small table or shelf on the epistle
side of the altar that holds the bread, wine and
water before consecration.
- The bishop's staff ( a shepherd's
crook) carried in a procession and held when giving
the absolution or blessing.
- In church architecture, the crossing is the main
intersection of aisles at the front of the church building. If viewed from
above, these aisles form a large cross. In a service, "crossing"
refers to a hand gesture of making a cross pattern on one's body; also a gesture
made by a priest or bishop over
a congregation or upon a person at death or baptism.
- A person in a religious procession
who carries a large cross (a processional cross),
and leads the procession into the church and the recession out of the church.
- From Latin, crux, meaning "cross."
A crucifix is a cross bearing the likeness of the body of Christ on it.
- From old French, crue, meaning "a
vial or a glass." A cruet is the vessel (glass or metal) used to hold
the water and wine for the Eucharist.
- From Latino curatus, meaning "the
person in charge." The term should mean the "head priest" if
literally interpreted, but instead has come to refer to a transitional
deacon or an assistant to the rector. Usually a
curate is one who recently graduated from seminary, and is in the process
of "learning the ropes," or "curing."
- A Spanish word meaning "short course."
Cursillo is contemporary, popular movement of Christian renewal in the Episcopal
Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The Cursillo experience begins with
an intense, profound, and often life-changing weekend retreat, and continues
with periodic small group gatherings and special devotions. The word is pronounced
Return to Top of Page
- D. Min.
- Doctor of Ministry; a special graduate program
for clergy offered by many seminaries.
- Common abbreviation of the honorary degree Doctor
of Divinity; an honorary degree reserved exclusively for ordained persons,
especially bishops. The abbreviation is used after the bishop's full name:
The Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, Jr., D.D.
- Daily Office
- Another name for Morning Prayer.
- a "higher church"
vestment worn by a deacon during the celebration of
Holy Eucharist. It corresponds to the chasuble
worn by the Celebrant, but it is rectangular in shape
instead of oval.
- A ritual or service for returning a former sacred
building or site to a non-sacred status; church buildings no longer in use
as churches are deconsecrated before being sold or torn down.
- The subservient rank in the three orders of the
Church's ministry (Bishop, Priest,
Deacon). There are two types of deacons - transitional deacons, who will soon
be ordained to the priesthood, and permanent deacons,
who chose the order as a permanent servant ministry. Priests are first ordained
to the diaconate to remind them and the Church
that they are, and that they always will be servants (see Matthew 20:25-28).
- From Latin, decanus, meaning "ten."
Originally the title was given to a minor official who served in some supervisory
position over ten people. The title is now used to refer to the resident clergyman
of a cathedral, the chief academic officer of a college
or seminary, or the head of a diocesan deanery. If
the dean is ordained, the title "The Very Reverend" is appropriate;
if the dean is a lay person, this title is not used.
The dean of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul is the Very Rev. William
Mc Kechee. The dean of Trinity Episcopal School For Ministry is the Very Rev.
Dr. Paul Zahl. The dean of Charleston Deanery is the Very Rev. John B. Burwell.
- A geographical division of a diocese,
roughly equivalent to counties in a state, also sometimes known as a convocation
or an archdeanery. In the Diocese of South Carolina there are six deaneries.
Beginning at the lower part of the diocese, they are the Beaufort deanery,
the Charleston deanery, the West Charleston deanery, the Orangeburg deanery,
the Georgetown deanery, and the Florence deanery. (All of these names are
also counties in South Carolina.)
- An official church or diocesan
delegate to a meeting. A deputy may be clergy or lay,
but the term usually applies to the lay people chosen
to attend a convention.
- The state of being a deacon; also, the life of
deacon-like service in the church.
- Diocesan Seals
- Heraldic insignia of a diocese; diocesan seals
are sometimes cut into rings or dies for impressing wax on official diocesan
- A unit of church organization; the spiritual domain
under a bishop. A diocese may contain many parishes
and missions. When used as an adjective, the term is
diocesan. The diocese is most often thought of as the primary and basic unit
of the Church. There are 74 parishes and missions in
the Diocese of South Carolina. The state of South Carolina has two dioceses
- the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and the Diocese of South Carolina.
- Diocesan Council
- A group that advises the bishop
on diocesan affairs. The Diocesan Council's duties
are similar to the duties that the vestry carries out
at the parish level.
- DFMS, or Domestic and
Foreign Missionary Society
- The corporation founded to carry out the work
of the Episcopal Church. The DFMS headquarters
are at 815 Second Avenue in New York City.
Return to Top of Page
- The festival that commemorates the resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the third day after he was crucified. It is called
Easter Day in our prayer book, but has come to be called
(redundantly) Easter Sunday by the media, most laity, and some clergy, all
of whom ought to know better. Easter is a movable feast,
which means it does not always fall on the same day each year. Easter is always
the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox (first day
of Spring). By this calculation, Easter could occur anytime from March 22,
to April 25. The length of Epiphany and the Season
after Pentecost, as well as the dates of Ash Wednesday,
Holy Week, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday are all determined
by the date of Easter. Easter is also a Church season,
spanning the 50 days (six Sundays) after Easter, to Ascension Day.
- The bread and wine
of Holy Communion.
- January 6; a feast celebrating the visit of the
Wise Men to the infant Jesus. Epiphany marks the end of the twelve
days of Christmas (the Christmas season). Epiphany is also one of the
seasons of the Church, running from the end of Christmas
to Ash Wednesday.
- The name of a form of church organization which
means government by an overseer. From the Greek word episcopos,
- Episcopal Church, The
- The official name for the American branch of the
worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church
- 1. A member of the Episcopal Church. 2.The
noun form of the word. Proper grammarians would point out that "episcopal"
is an adjective and "episcopalian" is a noun. The title to this
online dictionary (Episcopalian Terminology) is grammatically incorrect, and
it is intended to be so.
- Epistle, The
- Usually (but not always) included in a Sunday
service, the epistle is a reading from one of the New Testament books other
than the Gospels. The epistle and the Old Testament lessons are typically
read by a Lay reader.
- Epistle Side
- The side of the building from which the Epistle
lesson is read. The side depends on whether the altar is located against a
wall or free standing, meaning the priest celebrates the Eucharist from behind
it. If the altar is against the wall, the Epistle side is the left side of
the church building when one is facing the altar.
- See Gospel Side.
- Literally means a "good gift" or "thanksgiving."
The current usage in the Episcopal Church to refers to the entire Communion
service. According to the current prayer book, the
Eucharist is intended to be the principal service on a Sunday.
- A speech or homily in praise
of a deceased person; brief remarks about the deceased at a funeral. Traditionally,
a eulogy was simply not done in the Episcopal Church. In recent times
the practice has gained favor in some circles.
- Even, or Eve
- The day before a Festival
(Christmas Eve, Easter Even), designed to be a preparation
for the feast it precedes.
- An evening worship service; evening prayer; and
especially evening prayer service featuring a choir.
- A pitcher most often used to water at baptisms,
but can also be used in place of a cruet or a flagon
- Executive Committee
- In many parishes, the rectors,
wardens and the parish treasurer form an executive
committee. They meet separately from the whole vestry,
between official vestry meetings.
- Executive Council
- The Presiding Bishop's version
of an executive committee, consisting of appointed friends and the elected
president of each province.
- Originally the "Episcopal
Young Churchmen," now the Episcopal Young
Church-people." The EYC is the designation often used to identify the
local youth group.
- Extreme Unction
- The anointing with oil of those who are close
to death. (See Unction)
Return to Top of Page
- Fair Linen
- A white linen cloth cover for the altar,
used during Eucharist.
- A familiar or direct way of referring to some
ordained clergy. "Low Church"
Episcopalians usually never use the term. The title is abbreviated as "Fr."
(e.g. Fr. Alvin Kimel)
- Fast Days
- Special days set aside for abstinence. On these
days, one typically eats less, or eats nothing at all. While any day may be
observed as a fast day, Ash Wednesday and Good
Friday are officially designated as fast days.
- Feast Days
- Days of celebration, as opposed to fast days.
The primary feast day is Easter. All Sundays are miniature celebrations of
Easter, and thus all Sundays are feast days. Other feast days include saint's
days and all special days like Ascension, Epiphany, Holy Cross Day, etc.
- From Latin, joyful. Another way of describing
a Feast Day.
- A container that is larger than a cruet
and is used instead of, or in addition to cruets at larger celebrations of
- Folk Mass
- A 1960's term for a less formal style of Eucharist
using contemporary songs as part of the worship service. In a "folk mass,"
guitars or other instruments are featured instead of using organ music.
- A basin for water to be used in church baptisms.
- The part of the Communion
liturgy where the Communion bread
is broken by the celebrant. According to the prayer
book, a period of silence is to follow, and then can be said or sung,
"Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." (prayer book pages
337 and 364)
Return to Top of Page
- General Convention
- The national triennial meeting of the Episcopal
Church. General Convention is dividend into two governmental bodies: the House
of Bishops and the House of Deputies.
Each diocese sends deputies to General Convention to
enact laws to govern the Episcopal Church, and to pass resolutions stating
the "mind of the church" on topical issues.
- From the Latin words genu, meaning "knee,"
and flectere, meaning "to bend." A genuflection is a sort
of deep curtsey where the right knee touches the ground. The appropriate times
for genuflection (if you do it at all) are when passing before the Reserved
Sacrament, when entering or leaving your pew when the consecrated
bread and wine are on the altar, and in the Nicene Creed at the words, "who
for us and our salvation."
- Godfathers and godmothers, persons who sponsor
an infant or young child at his or her baptism. Godparents
make vows that they will, by their example, help the child know what it means
to be a Christian, so that later in his or her life the child can confirm
that fact for himself or herself at Confirmation.
- General Ordination Examination; a set of uniform
tests required of most Episcopal seminarians before
their graduation from seminary.
- Good Friday
- The day in Holy Week
in which we remember Christ's arrest, crucifixion, and death. It is unclear
where the name "Good Friday" originated. Some have said it is a
corruption of "God's Friday," in the same manner that "Commandment
Thursday" became "Maundy Thursday." Others
insist it is called "Good" because of the great benefits given to
humanity by Christ's death and resurrection.
- Gospel, The
- Any reading from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
We stand for the gospel reading in the Eucharist
to show reverence for Jesus, since he is speaking to us when the gospel is
- Gospel Side
- An older usage for designating the interior of
a church. The gospel side is on the right-hand side of the priest, as determined
by where he/she is facing when celebrating the Holy Communion.
The Gospel side is thus dependant on whether the altar
is located against the wall or free-standing. Originally, the priest celebrated
communion facing the people and thus the Gospel Side was the north side of
the Church building [the left side, when facing the altar]. In medieval times
the altar was pushed against the west wall, and the Gospel side then became
the right side, when facing the altar.
- See Epistle Side.
- see Retable
Return to Top of Page
- High Church
- One of three popular designation for styles of
worship in an Episcopal Church. "High Church" worship emphasizes
theological or liturgical formality. Parts or all of a "high" service
are often sung or chanted rather than reading or speaking
them. Services often include several vested assistants, incense
and sanctus bells.
See Low Church, Broad Church.
- Holy Orders
- A way of referring to ordination
among Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and a few others: an ordained
person is spoken of as "being in holy orders"--meaning that the
person has made priestly vows and has been admitted by a bishop into one of
the several levels of ordination.
- Holy Week
- The week preceding Easter -- the last week in
Lent. Holy Week is the most important period of the church year, observed
with many special services, beginning with Palm Sunday
and concluding on Holy Saturday. Holy Week includes Maundy
Thursday and Good Friday.
- A short sermon often on
a single topic of devotion or morality. The difference between a sermon and
a homily is primarily the length. Some wags are known to refer to homilies
- The consecrated "bread"
part of the Holy Communion. In most Episcopal churches
a wafer is used as the host, but an increasing number
of churches are using actual baked bread. The wafer the priest breaks at the
fraction is called a "priest's host."
- House of Bishops
- All the bishops of the Episcopal
church sitting as a legislative and judiciary body of the church, at General
- House of Deputies
- The lay and presbyter
delegates to a General Convention sitting as a
- From the Greek word, hymnos, meaning "song
of praise." A hymn is a poem or other metrical composition adapted for
singing in a church service. Hymns have only been allowed in the Anglican
Church since 1820.
Return to Top of Page
- From the Latin word, incendere, meaning
"to burn," incense is the "smell" element in "smells
& bells"; a fragrant powder burned in a small dish or pot; used
during the service or in the processions. Some say incense is used to recall
of one of the three gifts of the Wise Men to the Christ Child. Scripture commends
its usage, particularly in Psalm 141, where prayers are asked to be like incense.
- Inclusive Language
- The attempt to find forms of religious expression
which are not seen as biased in favor of either sex. Some churches favor an
inclusive lectionary which avoid male or female pronouns such as "him"
or "her." Some have altered prayers and hymns so that male images
and pronouns are removed: "Our God who art in heaven..." The Episcopal
church's current hymnal (1982) altered most of the classic hymns in an effort
to make them more "inclusive."
- A service in which a person is "installed"
into his or her office. In the Episcopal Church, installation services are
offered for new ministries ranging from rectors and
bishops to Sunday School teachers and vestry.
- Junior Warden
- See Warden, Junior
- From the Greek for the actual name, Kyrie Eleison,
which means, "Lord have mercy." The Kyrie comes after the Ten Commandments
or the summary of the law in the Rite I Eucharist, to
serve as a reminder to us that we cannot, by our own effort, keep the commandments.
It is a plea for grace by fallen sinners. In Rite II,
where there is no recitation of the Ten Commandments or a summary of the law,
the Kyrie seems out of place, and is, for that reason, often omitted.
Return to Top of Page
- From the Greek word, laos, meaning "people,"
the laity are the non-ordained members of a church, as distinguished from
"the clergy". An single member of the laity would be referred to
as a "lay person."
- From Latin, meaning, "I will wash."
The name originally referred to the ceremonial washing of the priests hands
before he or she celebrated Communion, while saying
the words, "I will wash my hands in innocence." (Psalm 26:6). The
name lavabo also refers to the small towel used to dry the hands and the bowl
into which water is poured during the washing. Thus, to call the towel a lavabo
towel, or to call the bowl a lavabo bowl would be technically redundant.
- Lay minister
- A person who is not ordained, but who works closely
with a church or religious program. Some lay ministers are un-paid volunteers;
some are paid staff members of a church.
- Lay person
- Any non-ordained person; in the Episcopal church
today, lay person is often used instead of the older (and politically incorrect)
Episcopal usage "layman".
- Lay Reader
- Any non-ordained person who participates in reading
part of a church service. Lay readers sometimes serve as chalice-bearers
at a Eucharist.
- From the Latin, lectrum, meaning "reading
desk" - A raised platform used for reading prayers or scripture; usually
located at the front of the nave, opposite the pulpit,
on the epistle side.
- The complex series of Biblical readings used in
the Episcopal Church throughout the year. The
Church uses a three-year cycle of lessons for Sunday readings and a two-year
cycle for daily readings.
- From an Anglo-Saxon word, lencten,
meaning, "spring," the time of the lengthening of the days. Lent
is one of the six seasons of the church year and is
the forty-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and
ending on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). The period is actually 46
days, but since Sundays are feast days, they are never
included in the count. Lent is intended to be a period of preparation and
penitence marked by fasting, meditation and sobriety. Lent is widely associated
with denial -- "giving something up for Lent."
- A reading from the Bible
during a worship service. Lessons are usually read by a lay
person and are not taken from the Gospel or the Psalms. Lessons are usually
read from the epistle side of the church building
and conclude with the reader saying, "The word of the Lord" or "Here
ends the reading."
- Lesson and Carols
- Popular name of the Festival of Lessons and Carols
held during late Advent or early Christmas
at Anglican Churches throughout the world.
- An abbreviation for "Lay Eucharistic
Minister" A LEM is an individual who has undergone special training
and is authorized by the priest to take pre-consecrated
Communion to a sick or shut-in member of the parish
- A solemn form of supplication for God's mercy,
composed of short responsive prayers. The traditional Anglican
Litany (page 54 in the 1928 BCP) is almost
recognizable in the words of The Great Litany (BCP page
148) in the 1979 Prayer Book.
- From "liturgy,"
used to describe a particular style of worship that requires active participation
(standing, sitting, knelling, recitation, common prayer, etc.) from both the
clergy and laity. Episcopal, Lutheran, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches
are generally considered to be liturgical churches, while most Protestant
denominations are not.
- From a combination of two Greek words, laos
(people) and ergon (work). Literally the word means "the
work of the people, " and is generally used to refer to the entire, complete
- Living Church, The
- A monthly magazine of the Episcopal Church often
discussing current issues in the life of the Church in the classical Anglican
via media way.
- Low Church
- A popular designation for a church that is, on
the whole, less formal. Most low churches tend to emphasize good sermons
as being more important than good liturgy, and do not
chant or sing their services or use incense
or sanctus bells. A low church might alternate Morning
Prayer with the Eucharist for their primary Sunday
worship. See High Church, Broad Church.
- Low Sunday
- Specifically, the term refers to the Sunday that
follows the highest Sunday of the year -- Easter. Some
wags will insist that the name refers to the low attendance on that Sunday
Return to Top of Page
- M. Div.
- Master of Divinity; the basic American theological
degree; in earlier years, the first theological degree was the B.D. [Bachelor
of Divinity], but in the late 1960's many American divinity schools began
to allow their earlier graduates to exchange their B.D. degrees for the newer
- A liturgical napkin. The maniple is worn draped
over the celebrant's arm.
- From the Latin word, missa, meaning
"sent," or "dismissed." Mass is the Roman Catholic name
for the Christian sacramental meal but sometimes used by Episcopalians to
refer to communion or Eucharist.
The word probably originated from the ending of the old Roman Catholic liturgy,
where the celebrant proclaimed, "Ite missa est."
- Maundy Thursday
- Thursday in Holy Week;
the name is from a corruption of the Old English word for "commandment"
in Christ's commandment given in John 13:34: "A new commandment I give
you, that you love one another." The word "command" was originally
spelled "commaundment" and was shortened to "Maundy" through
careless enunciation. The command is closely tied to another "commaund"
given by Jesus at the same time:"Do this in remembrance of me."
Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) was the day on which the first Lord's
Supper, the Last Supper, was celebrated with the 12 Disciples. Maundy
Thursday services often include "stripping the altar" (removing
all items including hangings) and in some parishes,
foot washing (see John 13:5).
- In olden days, the word was synonymous with
the clergy. While the ordained do indeed have special
ministries to perform, we Episcopalians recognize that every baptized Christian
has ministry to do for God’s greater glory. We therefore believe that
all Christians are ministers. In our Catechism we
state, "The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests
and deacons." (page 855, BCP)
- Ministry Of All The Baptized
- Ecclesiastical, professional and vocational
ministries derived from our Baptismal Covenant. See Page 304-305 and 855-856
of our prayer book for a description of ministry.
- The altar book - The big book on the Altar
or Holy Table containing the services of Holy Eucharist.
- A local Episcopal congregation that is not able
to be financially self-supporting. The congregation's rector is the diocesan
bishop, and the bishop appoints a priest-in-charge as his/her representative.
The priest-in-charge of a mission is commonly referred to as a vicar.
When a mission is able to be self-supporting, it may apply for parish
status and be admitted to the diocese as a parish.
- Mission Council
- The equivalent of a vestry
for a mission.
- Miter, or Mitre
- The tall, pointed liturgical hat worn by a bishop
during formal worship. Its shape is said to be symbolic of the tongues of
fire which rested on the original bishops at the first Pentecost.
- a special container in the shape of a cross
with a circular, clear glass (or crystal) receptacle in its center. A monstrance
is designed to hold a consecrated Host that is exposed
for adoration. The monstrance is designed to "de-monstrate" the
real presence of Christ.
- Morning Prayer
- A daily morning worship service without communion;
Also known as the Daily Office and found on pages 37 (Rite
I) and 75 (Rite II) in the prayer
book. In some churches, Morning Prayer is alternated with Eucharist
as the principal Sunday service. Since Morning Prayer does not require the
presence of ordained clergy, the service is sometimes
used in the absence of the rector or vicar.
- Moveable Feast
- Any Church festival
that does not fall on a fixed calendar day, but varies from year to year.
Easter is the most important movable feast since many
other movable feasts are determined by when Easter occurs.
- In Greek, the word literally means "a large
fennel" (a tall herb). In church architecture, the narthex is an enclosed
space at the entry end of the nave of a building; the
area in the church building inside the doors and in front of the nave. The
narthex is usually enclosed (primarily to provide a buffer between the outside
weather and the heating/cooling inside), and is the area where the procession
gathers prior to the service.
- The main part of a church building; the place
where the congregation sits. Probably derived from the Latin word navis,
meaning "ship." (As in Noah's ark) In medieval England the derogatory
term "knave" (commoner) developed from nave, because the nave is
the area of the building where the "common" people sit.
- From the French, Noel, "Christmas".
An old English name for Christmas, traditionally
shouted or sung in joy, now chiefly used in The First Nowell Christmas
- Most think of the offertory as the time in the
worship service where the offering is taken up. The offering of money is part
of the offertory, but the offertory also includes the offering of bread and
wine that is to be consecrated during the communion,
and the offering of "…ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable,
holy and living sacrifice." (BCP Page 336.) Or, as
Rite II says, "Sanctify us also." (BCP page
- Oil Stock
- A special container designed to hold holy oil
used in unction and at baptisms.
Oil stocks are usually about as wide as a quarter, and about an inch in length.
A cotton ball inside the oil stock holds the holy oil.
- From Latin, ordo, meaning "order."
Ordination is one of the five sacramental acts (or
minor sacraments) of the Episcopal Church. At an ordination, an individual
is commissioned and empowered for the work of ministry. Ordination is the
ritual used to make someone a priest or deacon,
by the laying on of hands by a bishop. Bishops, in turn,
are not ordained; they are consecrated.
See Holy Orders.
Return to Top of Page
- Palm Sunday
- The Sunday before Easter, where Jesus' final and
triumphal entry into Jerusalem is observed. In many Episcopal congregations
the passion narrative read is also read. Real palm
branches or crosses made from palms (or both) are usually distributed to the
congregation. In some churches, Palm Sunday palms are saved and later burned
to make the ashes for the next year's Ash Wednesday
- Parish hall/house
- A gathering place for a local congregation
separate from the church building. The term "parish hall" also is
used to refer to a large room inside the Parish Hall/House.
- The group of people of a certain area who are
organized into a local, self-supporting church. Sometimes the word is used
to refer to the geographic region around a church. In the South, many of the
present-day counties were once organized as parishes [as is still the case
- From the Latin word persona, meaning "person."
From the eleventh century English, where there term was a legal one, applying
to the parish priest, because in all matters he was
the designated "person" to deal with. Today, the term is not used
as often as it was, and often evokes rural connotations.
- Paschal Candle
- From the Hebrew word Pesach, meaning Passover.
A very large candle in a very tall holder and placed in a prominent display
in the epistle side of the sanctuary.
The candle is lighted throughout the Easter season,
and during baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
- Passion Narrative
- The name given to the gospel
reading on the Sunday of the Passion - Palm Sunday.
The reading chronicles the final hours of Jesus' earthly ministry. The reading
traditionally begins with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and continues
through his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death. It is the longest lesson
read in the Church year (see: seasons), and
the only gospel reading with an option allowing the congregation to sit during
the first part of the reading. In many parishes the narrative becomes a passion
play. Specific roles (Pilate, Peter, etc.) are assigned to different persons,
and the congregation plays the part of the crowd assenting to the crucifixion.
- Another name for a clergy
person. In both Latin and English the word simply means "shepherd."
All Lutheran clergy are called pastors, and many Episcopal and Roman Catholic
clergy are comfortable enough with the term to use it to describe them.
- From Greek, patane: a shallow vessel. The
paten is the vessel used to contain the consecrated bread during a Communion.
- Peace, The
- Also known as "passing the peace." A
part of the ritual in the Episcopal Church in which members of the congregation,
including the clergy, greet one another. The priest says, "The Peace
of the Lord be always with you." The congregation responds, "And
also with you." (When using Rite I, the response
is "And with thy Spirit.") Immediately after these words people
shake hands or speak or sometimes embrace in the church. Introduced as part
of the 1979 prayer book reform and still unpopular
in a few congregations among older members.
- The initials for the Protestant Episcopal
Church of the United States of America, which
is the original name of what we commonly call the Episcopal Church.
- Pension Fund
- The Church Pension Fund; the retirement program
for clergy and other church workers of the Episcopal Church
- The Festival Sunday that comes fifty days after
Easter in which we commemorate the coming of the Holy
Spirit on the twelve Disciples after Christ's Resurrection (Acts 2). Pentecost
is traditionally seen as the birthday of the church, and is also the beginning
of the longest season in the church - the season after Pentecost. The season
after Pentecost runs from the day of Pentecost to the first Sunday in Advent.
- Prior to the 1979 prayer book,
the day of Pentecost was known as Whitsunday.
- Long, single, and usually permanent seats in the
nave of a church building. In the earliest times there
were no chairs except for the clergy, and the congregation
"congregated" in the nave. Later individual seating was added particularly
for older members. Pews came into existence as a way for local churches to
support themselves financially, by renting or selling pews to families. After
the American Revolution and the disestablishment of the state-owned Anglican
church, pew rental was the sole means of income for many colonial churches.
In some parishes today, the family pew still exists. Today, however, the family
does not actually own the pew. They only think that they do.
- From Latin, meaning "fish pond." The
piscina is the stone or porcelain basin (traditionally set in the south wall
of the Sanctuary) from which a drain pipe carries
to the ground the water used in the ablutions.
It is also the most convenient way for many Altar Guilds
to dispose of the remaining consecrated wine after
a service. The piscina is never, ever to be hooked up to the building's plumbing.
- Prayer Book
- A shorter and the most common way of referring
to the Book of Common Prayer.
- (Also sometimes called a footpace) The raised
area or platform on which some Altars or Holy Tables
stand. The word is Italian and literally means "a footstool."
- The actual, official name for an Episcopal priest.
The word is a Celtic contradiction of the Greek word presbyteros, meaning
"elder." The presbyter represents the bishop in a parish or mission,
as he or she has since the earliest of Church times, when older members of
a congregation were chosen to represent the bishop.
- Presiding Bishop
- The elected episcopal head of the Episcopal Church
in America [PECUSA]; the chief administrator and spiritual
head of the Episcopal Church. Until the 1920's, the Presiding Bishop was simply
a diocesan bishop elected to preside over General Convention. In more recent
history the Presiding Bishop has become the American equivalent of an Archbishop
and the head of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.
Title: The Most Reverend. The current Presiding Bishop is the Most Rev. Katharine
Jefferts Schori, the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
- A special term for an ordained
minister of a Roman Catholic or Episcopal or Orthodox church; In Roman circles,
the term refers to those who recite the Mass, but the
Episcopal Church traces the word's origin to a Celtic corruption of the official
term for Clergy - Presbyters. The duty of a priest,
according to the prayer book, is to baptize,
preach the Word of God, and to celebrate the Eucharist,
and to pronounce Absolution and Blessing in God's
- Another title for the vicar
of a mission.
- From the Latin word primus, meaning "first."
Primate is a title bestowed upon almost all archbishops
of the Anglican Communion, reflecting the archbishop's
precedence over all the other bishops in his province.
The Episcopal Church does not have an archbishop because the Episcopal Church
considers all of her bishops to be equals. Thus, technically the Episcopal
Church can not have a Primate. However, in 1999 the previous Presiding
Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, began referring to himself
as "Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church."
So perhaps we now want to think that we can.
- The part of the Communion service that proceeds
the Proper Preface or the Sursam
- The line of choir, clergy,
acolytes, crucifer, torchbearers
and others walking into a church building to begin a service.
- Pertaining to the procession. A processional hymn
is a hymn sung while the procession is entering the church building.
- (Often referred to as "the propers")
"The Proper of the Church Year includes the appointed Collects;
the Proper Prefaces... and the appointed Psalms
and Lessons..." (page 158, BCP)
- Proper Preface
- An addition to the words of the Communion
part of the Eucharist which follows the Sursam
Corda. There are Proper Prefaces provided for all the the Church's seasons,
as well as for major feasts of the Church. The
Prefaces are found beginning on pages 345 and 378 in the BCP.
- Processional Cross
- The large cross carried by the crucifer
during the procession.
- From the Latin pro, meaning "for,"
and testare, meaning "witness." Thus literally, if one was
to be a protestant it would mean he or she would be a witness for something.
The word was first used in 1529 as part of Martin Luther's reform movement.
The Episcopal Church does not officially consider itself to be a Protestant
church, but is considered to be Protestant by Roman Catholics, as well as
by many lay members of the Episcopal Church.
- One of the major organizational divisions of the
Episcopal Church; a group of dioceses in a particular
region of the United States, usually under the direction of a diocesan
bishop who serves as president of the province. South Carolina is in Province
IV of the Episcopal Church. "Province" is also used to describe
an individual and autonomous member country of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
- From the Latin, pulpitum, meaning "a
platform." A raised platform or podium used for the sermon
or homily; generally located in the front of the gospel
side of the nave. In some Colonial church buildings
and in many non-Episcopal churches, the pulpit is in the center, to signify
the importance of the sermon.
- From Latin purus (pure) and facare
(to make). A purificator is a small piece of white linen used at Communion
to cleanse the chalice, by wiping the rim of the chalice
with the purificator.
- The primary color used in the season of Lent,
and the most popular color used in Advent. Purple signifies
penitence and preparation. Purple was originally a sign of royalty, as purple
dye was rare. Thus, a purple clergy shirt (or some shade of violet) usually
indicates that the wearer is a bishop.
- A small container used for transporting the Host.
Most commonly used by a priest or LEM
when taking Communion to a sick person or shut-in.
Return to Top of Page
- Anyone who reads a lesson,
psalm or prayer in a service. Lay persons may read any
lesson but if the service is Eucharist, the Gospel
reading must be read by a deacon or priest.
see: Lay Reader
- Real Presence
- a distinctively Anglican doctrine that emphasizes
the actual presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. This
is in contrast to theologies that hold that the Body and Blood are present
only figuratively or symbolically. The Anglican doctrine of Real Presence
stops short of Transubstantiation in defining how the presence happens. (Transubstantiation
says that at a specified point in the liturgy the wine and bread become actual
flesh and actual blood.)
- The lessons that are read
during a worship service.
- The procession of the crucifer,
acolytes, choir, readers,
clergy and other assistants out of a church building
at the end of a service.
- The final hymn sung as the recession takes place.
- The head priest of a parish;
the word, in Latin means "ruler." If a parish has more than one
clergy, the others are called Assistant Rectors or Associate Rectors. A mission
cannot have a rector. A mission has a priest-in-charge, who is often called
- The residence of a rector;
the place where an Episcopal (or Roman Catholic) clergy
lives. Called a parsonage or manse in most other Christian denominations.
- A funeral service or memorial service. Sometimes
the word is preceded by the word 'solemn': (Solemn Requiem.) Sometimes
the word is preceded by 'high': High Requiem--which only indicates
that portions of the service will be sung or chanted.
A High Requiem Mass is a funeral service with communion
and singing of parts of the service.
- [rear-re-doss] any decoration behind or above
an altar; may be in the form of statues, screens, or
- Reserved Sacrament
- Consecrated bread and wine kept in the church
building after a Communion service; kept primarily for distribution to the
sick of the Church.
- Also called a gradine, the retable is
a narrow shelf located behind an altar that is placed
against the wall. Candles and flowers are sometimes placed on the retable.
The retable is also sometimes used to house a tabernacle.
- Reverend, The
- An honorific title given to ordained
clergy in most Christian churches. The correct form
of address is "The Reverend John Doe," and never
"Reverend John Doe."
- Reverend Doctor
- An ordained person [hence
Reverend] who also holds some degree at the doctorate level [hence Doctor]--a
way of referring to a clergy person who was also a professor,
or to a memver of the clergy who holds an honorary or earned doctorate. A
bishop who held a doctorate would be referred to as
the Right Reverend Doctor.
- Reverend Father
- An affectionate, devotional or pietistic way of
referring to a priest who has accepted the term Father.
- Right Reverend, The
- A form of address for a bishop in the Episcopal
Church, as in "The Right Reverend Edward L. Salmon, Jr."
- Rite I
- A portion of the Book of Common
Prayer which contains worship services using the traditional worship language
of the Church from as used from the 1600's until 1976.
- Rite II
- A portion of the Book of Common
Prayer containing worship services which use more modern language and
place importance on a different theological emphasis than traditional Episcopal
- Rite III
- There is no Rite III service in the prayer
book, but the alternative forms 1 and 2 (pages 402 -405) have been euphemistically
called Rite III since the introduction of the 1979 prayer
book. These forms for Eucharist are intended
for informal use, and never intended for a regular, weekly worship service.
- A bishop's full-length vestment
similar to a surplice with full sleeves, and usually
worn under a chimere.
- Rogation Days
- Days that were (and still are) set apart for special
prayers for God's blessing on crops, flocks, herds and other agricultural
means of livelihood. From the Latin word rogare, meaning "to
beseech." Rogation Days were observed (and still could be observed) on
the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day.
Return to Top of Page
- Another name for the altar book or missal.
- From the Latin word sacrare, meaning to
"consecrate." According to the prayer book, sacraments are "outward
and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace." Sacraments are physical
actions that point us to deeper realities than we are able to experience with
our five senses. The Episcopal Church recognizes two major, or "gospel"
sacraments, and five minor sacraments, or sacramental acts. The two major
sacraments, Baptism and Communion,
and called gospel sacraments because Jesus told us (in the gospels) to do
them until he comes again. The five sacramental acts (or minor sacraments)
are not all necessarily required of all Christians. They are Confirmation,
Marriage, Ordination, Reconciliation, and Unction.
- In earlier times the sacristan was the man in
charge of the sacristy. Some cathedrals will still
designate a priest as a Canon Sacristan,
but now the usage of the word has largely become interchangeable with the
- A room near the altar where
the communion vessels, altar hangings, candlesticks,
etc. are kept and cleaned. The room is often seen as the exclusive domain
of the Altar Guild.
- From the Latin word sanctus, meaning "holy."
The sanctuary is the part of the church building where the altar
or holy table is -- the area behind the altar rail. Many Protestant
denominations use the word to refer to the whole inside of the church building,
but this is not the usual Episcopal usage.
- Sanctuary Lamp
- A lamp hanging somewhere in the sanctuary.
Sometimes there are three lamps, sometimes seven, but usually only one. A
single, continuously burning sanctuary lamp indicates the presence of the
- The part of the Holy Communion
service that beings with the words, "Holy, Holy, Holy."
- Sanctus Bell
- The actual name for the bell is a "sacring
bell," but most refer it as a "sanctus bell" because it is
rung at the time of the sanctus. In medieval times,
when the service was said in Latin and the masses spoke English, the bell
was rung at the Sanctus as a signal that it was time to pay attention.
- A way of marking time in the Church.
There are six seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the
season after Pentecost. The church new year begins with the season of Advent,
which marks the Advent (Latin: adventus) or coming of our Lord. Advent
begins four Sundays before Christmas day. Christmas
is a twelve-day season that begins Christmas day and continues to January
6th. Epiphany is both a day (Jan.6) and
a season, and represents the manifestation (epiphany) of the gospel into the
world. Lent begins 46 days before Easter with Ash Wednesday,
and is a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
Easter is a six week (50 day) season which ends on Pentecost
Sunday. The season after Pentecost runs from Pentecost to Advent.
See also: Colors
- The seats inside the sanctuary,
used by clergy and acolytes.
- From the Latin word sedes, meaning "seats."
Originally used to refer to the bishop's seat, the earliest of all symbols
of authority. The seat was kept in the cathedral,
and the bishop's see was the town where the cathedral was located. Now the
word is used (primarily by Roman Catholics) to refer to a whole diocese.
- A student enrolled in a seminary.
- A general term for a residential academic program
for the study of theology. Priests in the Episcopal
Church are usually (but not always) required to be seminary graduates. The
academic program is generally three years, and culminates with the conferring
of a masters degree called a Masters of Divinity, or M.Div.
- Senior Warden
- See Warden, Senior
- A verbal address given after the readings,
and hopefully given to further explain the readings and to put them in a modern
context. In the Anglican Church the sermon is seen
as a bridge between the Biblical world and the modern world.
- Someone who assists the celebrant
at the altar, helping him or her set the table and perform
- An older English title for the person in charge
of the church building [or a special portion of it] and grounds; in America
the Sexton is also commonly head of maintenance and custodial services and
may perform additional duties such as ringing the church bell.
- Shrove Tuesday
- The final day before the season of Lent
begins, usually marked by pancake suppers in parish halls throughout the Episcopal
church. Shrove Tuesday is also the final day of Mardi Gras, and various Carnivals
throughout the world.
- "Smells &
- A lighthearted way of describing a "high"
church, referring to the parish or mission's
frequent use of incense (Smells) and Sanctus
- A long strip of cloth (often silk) worn around
the neck of the priest and allowed to hang down the
front of the clerical vestments. Only bishops,
priests and deacons are allowed
to wear stoles. The stole is usually worn at all eucharistic
services, weddings and funerals, but never worn at Morning Prayer
services. The stole is said to represent the yoke of obedience to Christ.
- see Bishop, Suffragan
- A white over-garment worn over other vestments
(usually a cassock); somewhat longer and fuller than
a cotta; The surplice and cassock are the traditional
garments of the Anglican Church.
- Sursum Corda
- Latin for "Lift up your hearts."
The Sursum Corda is part of an antiphon that has been
in the Eucharist since the third century.
- A small cabinet (sometimes a vessel) designed
to contain the Reserved Sacrament. The tabernacle may
be found built into the altar, sitting on the altar,
on the retable, or it may be built into another part
of the sanctuary. In very Low
Churches the tabernacle will not be found anywhere.
- Torch [Torch Bearer]
- A person who carries a candle in a religious procession;
often the Crucifer is followed by two "Torches"
-- two persons each carrying a candle mounted on a short staff.
- Trinity, The
- A fundamental symbol of the Christian faith and
a critically important, basic, core doctrine in Christianity. The Trinity
refers to the oneness and essential unity of God as Father, Son, and Holy
- The section of a cross-shaped (cruciform) church
at right angles to the nave. It is also the name for the
aisle in front of the first pew,
that separates the nave from the chancel.
- True Presence
- see Real Presence
- A high church garment -
a kind of ecclesiastical coat - worn by a deacon or
server during certain celebrations.
- Twelve Days of Christmas
- The time from December 25th to January 6th, that
is from Christmas day to Epiphany.
The time from the first Sunday in Advent until Christmas
Eve is, properly, Advent; the time from December 25th to January 6th is the
Christmas season or the "Twelve Days of Christmas."
Return to Top of Page
- From Latin, unguere, meaning "to anoint."
Unction is the process of anointing someone with consecrated
oil for religious purposes. Episcopalians use the word to refer to anointing
the sick for the purpose of making them well (see James 5:14).
- From Latin vela: a sail or curtain. In
the Church, the veil refers to the solid cloth that
covers the chalice and paten at
the Eucharist, or the loose-woven netting that is draped over crosses (and
sometimes pictures) during Lent and Holy
- Venerable, The
- A form of address for clergy
who hold the office of Archdeacon.
- From the Latin word, verga, meaning "a
rod." An older usage for someone who carries a mace or ceremonial staff
in a procession, and comes before some dignitary.
- Very Reverend, The
- A form of address for clergy who hold the office
of dean in a diocese, church or
- From the Latin word vestis, meaning "garment."
Vestments are clothing worn by clergy or people leading
a worship service. A monk or nun's clothing is usually named a "habit,"
and the clothing worn by choir members is usually called a "robe."
The clothing worn by some pastors of Protestant
denominations and by college professors is usually called a "gown."
- Vestments started out as everyday clothing. In
the Roman times, the clergyman wore normal street clothes -- a tunic, and
perhaps a toga over it. Between the sixth and ninth century, secular fashion
began to reflect the occupation of a person. It was possible to tell what
one did by what he or she wore. The Church reflected
this change by not changing the style of their garments. Vestments, then,
came to us as a result of the clergy being "out of style" when it
came to fashion.
- From the Latin word vestire, meaning to
clothe, or to put on. Originally the word referred to the room where the priest
would vest. In the early days the local lay leaders
would gather with the priest as he vested to discuss the affairs of the parish.
Later, the word came to refer to the leaders, instead of the room.
- The vestry is the governing board of a local Episcopal
parish consisting of the rector,
the wardens, and lay members.
In many parishes, the rectors, wardens and the treasurer form an executive
committee, and will often meet separately from the whole vestry between vestry
- Unlike some denominations, the Episcopal Church
uses a representative form of government, instead of a pure democracy. The
vestry is the group elected by the individual members to make the basic decisions
about the church budget, and manage the temporal affairs of the parish.
- Via media
- A Latin phrase which means "by the way
of the middle." Many would say that the adherence to the middle way
in all matters is one of the major identifying characteristics of classical
- From the Latin word vicarius, meaning "a
substitute." An English term referring to a priest
in charge of a mission. Technically, the diocesan
bishop is the rector of all diocesan missions, and
vicars are appointed to their mission by the local diocesan bishop to represent
him or her. The term "Vicar" is still the terminology used today
to describe an English priest in who is charge of a congregation.
- Originally, a vigil was a Fast
Day observed on the day before certain major Feast Days.
In the 1979 Prayer Book a new service called the Great
Vigil of Easter (BCP page 285) became a way to celebrate
Easter on Holy Saturday.
- An official appearance by a diocesan
bishop. According to the national canons, the bishop
must visit each congregation within his or her
jurisdiction at least once every three years.
- Votive candle
- A devotional candle placed in a church or chapel
in some "higher" Episcopal Churches. Votive
candles are usually small, short candles in a special glass holder.
- The bread part of the Lord's
Supper signifying to us the Body of Christ, and is often an unleavened,
and very thin cracker-like substance. After the wafer is consecrated,
it is usually called the Host. Sometimes the wafer is
imprinted with a cross, sometimes it is smooth. Wafers that will serve as
priest's hosts are larger than the people's hosts, and can range from one
inch to several inches in diameter. The people's host is usually about a half
inch in size.
- Warden, Junior
- One of two vestry members
chosen to serve his or her parish in a special capacity.
Wardens (both junior and senior) can either be elected or appointed, depending
on local parish or diocesan canons. Junior wardens are
often elected by the parish at the annual congregational meeting, and are
thus referred to as "the people's warden." The tasks for a junior
warden vary from parish to parish, but the majority of Junior Wardens find
themselves placed in charge of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.
- Warden, Senior
- The other of two vestry
members chosen to serve his or her parish in a special
capacity. Although the duties vary widely due to local canons,
in most cases the Senior Warden is viewed as the "top" lay
person in a parish. In many parishes the Senior Warden is chosen by the rector,
and serves as a liaison between the rector and the parish. Because of this
function, the Senior Warden is sometimes referred to as "the rector's
- The beverage portion of the Lord's
Supper. As Scripture reminds us, "And he took the cup, and gave thanks,
and he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of
the new testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins."
(Matthew 26:27-28) In the Episcopal Church, wine is used at communion
(instead of grape juice) and is often a port wine.
- The old name for Pentecost
Sunday, the day described in Acts 2. As of the 1979 Book
of Common Prayer, the day became known as Pentecost. The term "Whitsun"
is a corruption of the German "Pfingsten," which means "pentecost"
or "fiftieth," which is how many days Pentecost occurs after Easter.
(source: The Prayer Book Reason Why - Nelson Boss, Morehouse-Gorham,
- This collection is by no means
intended to be exhaustive, and is a work in progress. As far as I know, this
is the only hyperlinked work of its kind on the web today.
The majority of the inspiration for this work (especially the etymology) came
from an out-of-print book by Howard Harper, entitled the Episcopalian’s
Dictionary (Seabury Press, 1974).
- If you have a word you’d
like added to this list, or if you’d like to take issue with any of my
definitions, please contact our Webmaster by clicking
- Last Update: December, 2006