Anglican Glossary

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A Glossary of Anglican Terms


Ablutions - The cleansing of the chalice(s), paten, and other vessels after the administration of Communion. This may be done at the altar or at the credence, or after the dismissal.

Absolution - The pronouncement of God's forgiveness, after the Confession of Sin, by a bishop or priest at the Eucharist, Daily Offices, or in the Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP, 447 ff.).

Acolyte - A term specifically applied to one who carries a torch or a candle in processions and at other times during the liturgy. This term is also commonly interchanged with server. Originally a minor clerical order but now usually a lay function in the church.

Acclamation - A versicle and response of praise at the beginning of the Eucharist and other services; also, in Rite II, the (memorial) response of the people during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Advent - The beginning of the Church Year and the four weeks leading up to and concluding with Christmas (the entire Christmas season).

Advent Wreath - A special wreath (circle of greens) containing five candles used in churches and homes as reminders of the four Sundays before Christmas. Four of the candles are arranged in a circle, the fifth--a white candle--is placed in the center. By tradition one additional candle is lighted each Sunday until on the fourth Sunday all four candles are lighted. On Christmas, the fifth candle is lighted.

A (continued)

Agnus Dei - One of the anthems at the Breaking of the Bread; also found at the conclusion of the Great Litany (BCP, 337, 407,152).

Alb - A long, white, sleeved (linen) vestment worn over the cassock (covering the body from neck to ankles). It is derived from the under-tunic worn in Roman times.

Alleluia - An exclamation of praise and joy, used in various parts of the liturgy, except during Lent. Derived from the Hebrew, meaning "Praise the Lord."

Alleluia Verse - A passage of scripture with the acclamation "alleluia" sung or said before the proclamation of the Gospel. The Alleluia Verse is not used in Lent (see Tract).

All Saints' Day - November 1; a feast day in the church in commemoration of all the known and unknown saints.

Alms - Money or other offerings of the people for the work of the Church.

Alms Basin - A large metal plate into which the money offerings of the people are placed before they are presented to the officiant.

Altar - A stone or wooden table at which the Holy Eucharist is celebrated.

Altar Book - The large book containing the texts from The Book of Common Prayer and music for the celebrant at the Eucharist and other liturgies.

Altar Cloth - A long piece of white linen that covers the top of the altar and hangs down the sides almost to the floor. When not in use, the altar cloth is usually protected with a dust-cover.

Altar Cross - A crucifix or cross which stands upon the altar or hangs above it.

Altar Guild - a special, usually lay, group in a church charged with the maintenance and preparation of the altar and its furnishings in a church; altar guilds may also supervise church decorations and flowers.

Altar of Repose - See Place of Reservation.

Altar Rail - The rail or kneelers where the people kneel or stand to receive Communion.

Altar Rail Gates - The gates or hinged top of the center of the altar rail. When opened, these allow access to the altar area, and are closed before the administration of Communion.

Ambo -See Lectern and Pulpit.

Ambry (or Aumbry) - A closed recess in the wall of a church for reservation of the blessed sacrament or holy oil for the sick.

Amen - (From the Hebrew for "verily," "it is so," or "I agree") Response said or sung at end of prayers, hymns and anthems, showing agreement with what preceeded.

Amice - A large square or rectangular piece of white cloth with strings attached. It is worn under the alb as a hood or over the shoulders. The strings are wound around the neck before being tied around the chest and waist.

Anglican - simply means English; a term indicating the English origins of the Anglican Church. Sometimes seen in the expressions Anglican Church or Anglican Communion--both of which terms simply indicate any national church which derives from the Church of England.

Antecommunion - Another name for the Liturgy of the Word, the first half of the Eucharist.

Anthem - sacred vocal music using scriptural words (a text from Scripture or other sources) that is sung or said during the liturgy; now also any vocal music or hymn sung by a choir but not by the congregation; also called Antiphon.

Anthem at the Fraction - The words that are said or sung at the Breaking of the Bread (BCP, 337 or 364).

Archbishop of Canterbury - the presiding bishop of the Church of England; sometimes acknowledged by many American Anglicans as the honorary spiritual head of the entire Anglican communion.

Archbishop - a bishop over a group of dioceses or national church; for instance, the Archbishop of South Africa or New Zealand.

Archdeacon - a priest who is on a bishop's staff and who exercises some administrative supervision over parishes, missions, priests, or programs for the bishop; archdeacons are referred to as "The Venerable" [The Ven.]: The Venerable Hudson Stuck. Salutation in letter: "Dear Archdeacon Stuck" or "Dear Mr. Stuck". The title `Reverend' is not used if Venerable is used. Archdeacons sometimes wear purple instead of black cassocks.

Articles of Religion (39) - The 39 Articles of Religion are the essential beliefs of the Anglican church codified. The articles were established by a Convocation of the Church in 1563, using as a basis the 42 Articles written under the direction of Thomas Cranmer in 1553. The 42 Articles were overturned under the fervently Catholic Mary I, but under Elizabeth I the pendulum swung back in favour of reform.

The articles repudiate Catholic beliefs such as transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass, and affirm the supremacy of scripture. They allow clergy to marry,and affirm the right of the monarch to influence church policy. In 1571 Parliament made adherence to the 39 Articles a legal requirement, and though that statute no longer holds, they remain the basis of Anglican faith in England to this day.

The far-reaching influence of the 39 Articles in Protestant faith cannot be underestimated. The Articles form the basis of creeds espoused by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the US, and other Protestant churches around the globe. Though they have been widely adapted depending on local circumstances, they still form the basis of many Anglican and Protestant churches today.

Ascension - The Feast commemorating the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to glory. This Feast is forty days after Easter and always occurs on a Thursday.

Ash Wednesday - The day of special devotion; the day which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a period of spiritual discipline, fasting and moderation in preparation for Holy Week and Easter; one of the most important days of the church year. In the Ash Wednesday service, ashes are lightly smeared onto the forehead of a person by the priest or bishop. On this day, a number of people may be seen who appear to have a black or gray smudge on their forehead. (see BCP, 264ff).

Aspergillum - A branch, brush, or perforated metal globe, with a handle, used for sprinkling holy water.

Assisting Ministers - Persons who assist the celebrant (see BCP,322 & 354).

Aumbry - A receptacle to hold the Reserved Sacrament, that is affixed to a wall, or sits on a shelf apart from an altar (see Tabernacle). An aumbry may also be used as a place where chrism and oil are kept; this aumbry is separate from the one used for the Sacrament, and is not identified by the burning of a Sanctuary Lamp.


Baptism - The sacrament of initiation by which a person is born anew by Water and the Holy Spirit and made a member of Christ's Body.

Baptismal Font - The basin or tub for the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Bishop-Co-adjutor - A bishop who is designated to assist the Diocesan Bishop in the administration of the diocese, similar to a co-Diocesan Bishop, with the right of succession upon the resignation or death of the current ruling diocesan bishop

Bishop's Chair - The seat of the bishop when he resides at the local church or the cathedral.

Bishop, Suffragan - A suffragan bishop is a bishop subordinate to a metropolitan bishop or diocesan bishop. They may be assigned to an area which does not have a cathedral of its own. In the Anglican churches, the term applies to a bishop who is an assistant to a diocesan bishop. For example, the Bishop of Jarrow is a suffragan to the diocesan Bishop of Durham. Suffragan bishops in the Anglican Communion are nearly identical in their role to auxiliary bishops in the Roman Catholic Church.


Candle - The use of candles on the altar is an ancient practice. It reminds us that Jesus, the light of the world, shines in the darkness of out lives.

Candlebearer - See Torchbearer.

Candle Lighter/Extinguisher - A long pole with a two-pronged end. One side is a tube into which is inserted a taper; a knob is used to raise or lower the taper for lighting of candles. The other side is a bell-shaped snuffer used to extinguish the candles.

Candlemas - The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, February 2nd. The term comes from the tradition of blessing candles on this feast and carrying them in procession as a symbol of the "Light to Lighten the Nations" (see Nunc Dimittis).

Canon - the title of a priest who serves on the staff cathedral, except that the head staff priest of the cathedral is the dean; the canon is addressed as "The Rev. Canon Jane A. Doe" Salutation in letter: "Dear Canon Doe" or "Dear Ms. Doe".

Cantor - a person who chants or sings; often a solo voice that begins the service. The Festival of Lessons and Carols begins with the solo of the cantor.

Canticle - A hymn, usually taken from Scripture, sung or said after the lessons at Morning or Evening Prayer, or as the Song of Praise at the Eucharist (see BCP 144-145 for list).

Carillon - a set of church bells; generally found only in churches large enough to have a tower or steeple strong enough to support the weight of the many bells; some of the bells may weigh a ton or more.

Cassock - A long garment with sleeves, normally black, worn over street clothes when one serves at the altar. It buttons in the front, and should be long enough to cover the ankles. Worn by lay readers, vergers, chalice bearers (and others "serving" during a worship service), and priests; bishops' cassocks are usually purple.

Cassock-Alb - A combination of the amice and alb worn in place of cassock and surplice or amice, alb, and cincture. It is normally white and should be long enough to cover the ankles. A cincture around the waist should be worn with this vestment, although it is not essential. A surplice is not worn over the cassock-alb, but a tunic may be.

Catechism - The catechism (found in the Book of Common Prayer) is primarily intended for use by parish priests, deacons, and lay catechists, to give an outline for instruction. It is a commentary on the creeds, but is not meant to be a complete statement of belief and practice; rather, it is a point of departure for the teacher, and it is cast in the traditional question and answer form for ease of reference; a second use of this catechism is to provide a brief summary of the Church's teaching for an inquiring stranger who picks up a Prayer Book.

Cathedra - the special chair that a bishop sits in during a church service: The Bishop's Cathedra. The cathedra is sometimes moved to a prominent place for special occasions--as for the conferring of honorary degrees.

Cathedral - a Church which is the official church of a bishop of a diocese; sometimes such churches are indicated by the word Cathedral in their name, but not always. Cathedrals are usually in the charge of a priest who is referred to as the Dean of the Cathedral; such Deans are referred to as "The Very Reverend...". Not all large churches are cathedrals; not all cathedrals are large.

Catholic - literally, "universal" or "found everywhere. "

Celebrant - The principal officiant at the Eucharist and other Sacraments. The bishop is the normal celebrant, or, if the bishop is not present, a priest. The priest who performs the consecration of the bread and wine; the celebrant may be assisted by other priests, deacons, chalice bearers, acolytes, etc.

Celebrant's Chair - See Sedilia.

Censer - See Thurible.

Chalice - A metal or ceramic cup into which the wine (and a little water) for the Eucharist is poured.

Chalice Bearer - One who is licensed by the diocese to administer the chalice at communion.

Chalice Veil - A square piece of material (of the same liturgical color as the vestments) used to cover the chalice and paten when they are not in use. The burse (with the corporal inside) rests on top of the veiled chalice.

Chancel or Choir -The area of the church between the nave and the sanctuary (the portion of a church between the front row of pews and the altar; usually the place the choir sits; sometimes also called the "choir").

Chancellor - the spiritual head of a clerical house, order, college, or university; in some dioceses the chancellor is the chief administrative assistant to the bishop.

Chant - a musical recitation of words midway between reading and singing; in some churches, the Psalm in the worship service is often chanted.

Chapel - a place of worship lacking a parish congregation [although chapels may have a permanent clergyman]; chapels may be large or small, private or institutional. A term for a place of Episcopal worship associated with a college, university, or seminary. A small place of worship attached to a larger structure.

Chaplain - the minister in charge of a chapel or a minister to a group of people who are not organized as a mission or church; the minister of a hospital of nursing home is a chaplain.

Charcoal - Substance upon which incense is burned in the thurible. There are various types of "self-lighting" charcoals.

Chasuble - A long, wide sleeveless vestment, worn by the celebrant at the Eucharist. It is usually oval when laid out flat, with an opening in the center to accommodate the celebrant's head. It is of the liturgical color of the day or season and usually worn over all other vestments (see Eucharistic Vestments).

Choir - A group of singers who assist in the celebration of the liturgy. They may be either in the chancel or in some other part of the church; also, the part of the church where the choir sits.

Chrism - Oil consecrated by a bishop for use at Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination (BCP, 307).

Chrismation - The anointing of a person with chrism at Baptism (BCP, 308).

Christmas - The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrated on December 25th. The Christmas season extends through January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

Church of England - the name of the National Church in England.

Church Year - See BCP, 5 ff.

Ciborium - A covered metal or ceramic vessel in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept when reserved in a tabernacle or aumbry.

Cincture - A rope, usually white, worn with the alb or cassock-alb, tied with a slip knot at the right side of the waist and allowed to hang down the right side. The ends of the rope may have either knots or tassels. This rope is sometimes called a girdle.

Clergy - the group of ordained ministers of a church or denomination; all ministers together as distinguished from lay persons. When used in distinction from laity, the term includes both bishops and priests; sometimes the term refers to all priests except the bishops: as in the expression, "All bishops and other clergy..."

Clerical - an adjective referring to ordained persons and their work.

Co-adjutor Bishop - see Bishop Co-adjutor.

Coals - The burning charcoal in the thurible.

Collar, clerical - a stiff round shirt collar worn by Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and some Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and other clergy; widely regared as a sign or identifying mark of clerical status.

Collect - A prayer that is sung or said on behalf of the people by the celebrant or officiant at liturgical celebrations.

Colors, Liturgical - By tradition, various colors are used for the vestments and altar hangings for the different seasons and feasts of the Church Year. In Western use the tradition is:

  • Red - on Pentecost, Feasts of Martyrs, and during Holy Week.
  • White - on Feasts of our Lord, Feasts of Saints who were not martyrs, Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in some places at the Burial of the Dead.
  • Green - on the Sundays and Ordinary days of the Year after Epiphany and Pentecost commonly referred to as Trinity Season.
  • Blue - in some places used during Advent.
  • Purple or Violet - for penitential occasions, during Lent, at Requiems or the Burial of the Dead, and Advent.
  • Black - in some places for Good Friday, the Burial of the Dead and Requiems.
  • Lenten Array - in some places used during Lent in place of purple (see Lenten Array).

Comfortable Words - See BCP, 332.

Commendation - The rite at the conclusion of the Burial of the Dead (BCP, 482 or 499).

Communicants - the members of a local church; those who do or who are eligible to receive communion; loosely identified with the roll of the local church: "St. Mark's has 300 communicants [=official members]." But, "There were 37 communicants at the Eucharist at the early service [=37 people received the Lord's Supper]."

Communion - the Christian sacramental meal, equivalent to the Lord's Supper; now more commonly called 'Eucharist'; also called Mass in Roman Catholic churches.

Communion Rail - See Altar Rail.

Communion Rail Gates - See Altar Rail Gates.

Compline - Compline (also Complin, Night Prayer, Prayers at the End of the Day) is the final church service (or office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day.

Concelebrant - An ordained bishop or priest who celebrates the Eucharist with the principal celebrant.

Confession of Sin - A public prayer of penitence at the Eucharist (BCP, 330, 360, & 393), the Daily Offices and other times. Also, the Reconciliation of a Penitent (see BCP, 447ff.).

Confirmation - A mature public affirmation of the faith and commitment to the responsibilities of one's Baptismal vows, and, the laying on of hands by the bishop (see BCP, 412ff.); Sacramental act whereby, through the laying on of hands by a bishop, the strengthening gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed on those affirming their commitment to Christ made in Baptism.

Congregation - the group of people who attend church; the members present for the worship service.

Consecrate - The setting apart of anything for God's service. The Prayer of Consecration invokes God's Presence on the elements of bread and wine whereby they become the body and blood of Christ.

Consecration - a special service of dedication or ordination; a church [without debt] may be consecrated-- made holy to God's purposes; a service by which an ordained person becomes a bishop.

Convent - a disciplined spiritual residential community for women; similar to a monastery.

Convention, General - a gathering every three years of the national Episcopal Church; at General Convention each diocese is represented by appointed or elected deputies. At General Convention the basic regulations and decisions that govern the church are made. For voting, the General Convention consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

Convention - a meeting of a church body, as in a diocesan convention

Convocation - a special gathering of a religious or academic group, usually marked by use of special vestments, ceremony, procession, etc. Also the name of a special group of ordained persons. Some dioceses meet as a convocation. Sometimes the meeting of all the clergy of a diocese is called a convocation.

Cope - A long cape, worn over the shoulders by the celebrant and others at various liturgies (processions, the Burial of the Dead, etc.), or by a bishop. It is usually of the liturgical color of the day or season, has a clasp at the chest and is worn over alb and stole or over cassock and surplice.

Corporal - A large square white cloth, usually linen, that is placed on the altar at the time of the Offertory and upon which the chalice and paten are placed. The corporal may be kept in the burse when not in use on the altar.

Cotta - a short robe often worn by choir members over cassocks.

Council/Diocesan Council - a group for diocesan government; and appointed or elective group that advises the bishop; at the diocesan level similar to the vestry at the parish level; sometimes referred to as "Bishop-and-Council".

Credence or Credence Table - A shelf or table, usually to the right of the altar, on which the vessels and other items for celebration of the Eucharist are kept.

Creed - The affirmation of the faith of the Church (see BCP, 53 for "Apostles' Creed"; BCP, 326-327 for "Nicene Creed"; and, BCP, 864 for "Athanasian Creed").

  • Apostles' Creed - Originally used for baptismal instruction, outlining the faith of the Apostles; currently used in the Daily Office.
  • Nicene Creed - Statement of Christian faith dating from the 4th century. It was composed to fight heresy and is used regularly at the Eucharist.
  • Athanasian Creed - The Athanasian Creed, also known as Pseudo-Athanasian Creed or Quicunque Vult (also Quicumque Vult), is a Christian statement of belief focused on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicunque vult, is taken from the opening words, "Whosoever wishes". The creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated. It differs from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan and Apostles' Creeds in the inclusion of anathemas, or condemnations of those who disagree with the creed (like the original Nicene Creed).

Cross - An ancient instrument of execution. Jesus died on a cross, and thus it became the emblem of faith and hope.

Crossbearer - See Crucifer.

Crossing - in church architecture, the main intersection of aisles at the front of the church; if viewed from above, these aisles form a large cross. Sometimes the altar is located at the crossing. 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.

Crozier - The bishop's staff representing a shepherd's crook.

Crucifer - a person in a religious procession who bears the cross and who leads the procession into the church.

Crucifix - a kind of Christian symbol which is a cross with a likeness of the body of Christ on it (either crucified or in eucharistic vestments); usually thought of as a "very Catholic symbol" by some protestants.

Cruciform - Constructed in the form or shape of a cross.

Cruets - Glass or metal containers for the wine and water used at the Eucharist. Cruets have handles and tops (either a removable stopper or a lid that can be raised). If the cruets are metal, it is helpful if the wine cruet has a "V" engraved upon it (vino-Latin for wine) and the water cruet an "A" engraved upon it (for "aqua"-Latin for water). This makes for easy identification of the contents. Cruets should be held in the palm of the hand with handles facing out when the celebrant or other person will be pouring (as at the Offertory). When the server is to pour from a cruet (as at the lavabo or ablutions) it should be held by the handle.

Curate - a deacon or other person not fully ordained who receives a fee for working in a small parish; the parish a curate works with is his 'cure'; sometimes a curate is the newest assistant to a senior minister at a large parish. Curates generally work under the supervision of a senior minister and do not have full responsibility for their parish. Equivalent to a vicar.


D. Min. - Doctor of Ministry; a special graduate program for clergy offered by many seminaries; courses are often scheduled in the summer so that parish clergy may attend.

D.D. - 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. John C. Doe, D.D.

Daily Offices - Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline (see BCP, 35ff.). An Order of Worship for the Evening is also considered an Office (see BCP, 108ff.).

Dalmatic - Similar to the tunic and worn by the deacon.

De-consecration - 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 de-consecrated before being sold or destroyed.

Deacon - An ordained assisting minister whose main functions at the Eucharist are to read the Gospel, (in some churches to lead the Prayers of the People), prepare the gifts at the Offertory, assist with the administration of Communion, help with the ablutions, and dismiss the people. In the absence of a bishop or priest, a deacon may administer Communion from the Reserved Sacrament (BCP, 408-409). The initial level of ordination in the Anglican Church. Unlike protestant churches where Deacon is a lay order, in the Anglican Church Deacon is a clerical order. Deacons often have special clerical duties.

Dean - title used for the resident clergyman of a cathedral; also used for the chief academic officer of a college or seminary. If the dean is ordained, the title "The Very Reverend" is appropriate; if the dean is a lay person, this title is not used.

Deputy - an official church or diocesan delegate to a meeting; a deputy may be clerical or lay.

Diaconate - 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 documents.

Diocese - a unit of church organization; the spiritual domain under a bishop. A diocese may contain many parishes and churches.

Dismissal - The words said or sung by the deacon (or celebrant) at the conclusion of the Eucharist (see BCP, 339 or 366). The response to the dismissal is "Thanks be to God" (during the Fifty Days of Easter, "Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.").

Divine Liturgy - See Liturgy; also, Eucharist.

DOCC - Disciples of Christ in Community; an extension program of the School of Theology.

Doxology - Words said or sung in praise of the Holy Trinity (see Gloria Patri; also, the conclusion of each Eucharistic Prayer in BCP).

Dust-Cover - A cloth placed over the altar cloth at times when the altar is not in use.


Easter - The day celebrating the Lord's Resurrection and the Fifty Days following.

Easter Eve - See Easter Vigil below.

Elements - The bread and wine to be consecrated at the Eucharist, and the water of Baptism.

Elevations - The lifting up of the Consecrated Elements after the Words of Institution, at the conclusion of the Great Thanksgiving, or at the Invitation to Communion.

Epiphany - The Feast of the Manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ observed on January 6th (a feast celebrating the visit of the Wisemen to the infant Jesus; the end of the Christmas season). The Epiphany Season continues until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Episcopal - the name of a form of church organization which means government by an overseer

Episcopos - Episcopos is the Greek word from which we derive the English word 'bishop'.

Epistle - The lesson at the Eucharist preceding the Gospel taken from one of the Letters of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, or the Book of Revelation; also any reading from the Bible other than the Gospels or Psalms.

Epistle Side - the right side of a church when facing the altar; this older usage is now no longer accurate in churches reading the gospel from the right side of the pulpit. See Gospel Side.

Epistoler - See Subdeacon.

Eucharist - The principal act of worship on Sundays and other Feasts (see Mass, Lord's Supper, Liturgy, The Holy Communion); a "good gift" or thanksgiving; the current usage in the Episcopal Church to refer to communion or the Lord's Supper.

Eucharistic Prayer - That part of the Great Thanksgiving beginning with the salutation and preface and concluding with the doxology and Amen. In The Book of Common Prayer there are several Eucharistic Prayers: two for Rite I (BCP, 333ff. & 340ff.); four for Rite 11 (BCP, 36]ff., 367ff., 369ff., & 372ff.); and two forms in An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist (BCP, 402 & 404).

Eucharistic Vestments - The stole, (maniple), and chasuble worn by the celebrant at the Eucharist. The stole may either be worn under the chasuble or, in some places, over it. The Eucharistic vestments are worn over amice, alb, and cincture, or over a cassock-alb.

Eulogy - a speech or homily in praise of a deceased person; brief remarks about the deceased at a funeral.

Evensong - Sung Evening Prayer (BCP, 6]ff. or 1]5ff.); an evening worship service; evening prayer; and evening prayer service featuring a choir.

Ewer - See Flagon, for water at Baptism or on Maundy Thursday at the Washing of Feet.

Executive Committee - a type of diocesan government in which a committee advises the bishop; the executive committee is smaller and usually less representative than the Bishop-and-Council type of government.

Exultet - The paean of praise that is sung or said during the first part of the Great Vigil of Easter by the deacon or other person appointed (BCP, 286).

Easter Vigil

Since the early days of the church, Easter eve was a time set aside for baptisms. They were elaborate, dramatic services carefully timed to coincide with the proclamation of the Resurrection, symbolizing a new light shining, a new beginning. and the Great Vigil is one of the most dramatic services the church offers. A study in contrasts, it begins in the darkness that we entered at Wednesday’s Tenebrae service. As the congregation waits in the darkened church, the paschal candle is lit from a special fire that uses palm fronds; these become the ashes that will be used the next year on Ash Wednesday. The procession then moves into the church following the paschal candle, and hundreds of candles held by congregation, choirs, lay ministers and clergy are lit. An ancient hymn, the Exultet is sung. The Exultet is an ancient chant which reminds us of our links to the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. Several Old Testament lessons are read, one of which is always the wonderful story of the parting of the Red Sea, and songs are sung. These lessons and songs trace the history of our redemption from the time of creation up through the prophets. The promise of redemption is further realized in the Sacrament of Baptism, and finally realized with the words proclaimed by the deacon at the conclusion of the baptisms: “Alleluia. The Lord is Risen.” The lights come on. The organ plays. Bells are rung in a great fanfare to indicate that this is indeed a festival. (Worshippers are encouraged to bring their own bells from home and to join in.) When the church is fully bathed in light, we then celebrate the first festive eucharist of Easter together, as the light of Christ returns to our midst.


Fair Linen - See Altar Cloth.

Faidstool - See Bishop's Chair.

Fast - A day of special devotion (Ash Wednesday, other weekdays of Lent and of Holy Week, Good Friday and all other Fridays of the year, except for Fridays in the Christmas and Easter seasons, and any Feasts of our Lord which occur on a Friday) observed by acts of discipline and self-denial.

Father - a familiar or direct way of referring to some ordained clergy: the Reverend John B. Smith, but--in personal conversation or in the salutation of a letter--Father Smith, Dear Father Smith. Typically used of all Roman Catholic clergy and some Episcopal clergy. Be careful in using or not using this term: some clergy do not like it; others are offended if it is not used. Usually the people who prefer the term assume that you know they prefer it. There is no easy way to tell what the clergy preference is except by paying attention to letters, conversations, etc.

Feast - A day of celebration associated with the life of Our Lord, of the Saints, or days of thanksgiving (see BCP, 15-18).

Fifty Days of Easter, The - From the Great Vigil of Easter up to and including the Day of Pentecost.

Flagon - A large metal or ceramic pitcher often used for wine (and water) to be consecrated at the Eucharist. If more than one chalice is used during the administration of Communion, the flagon (or an additional cruet filled with wine and water) is placed on the altar at the Offertory, and other chalices are brought to the altar after the Breaking of the Bread. There should be only one chalice on the altar during the Great Thanksgiving (see BCP, 407).

Folk Mass - communion in which the music is often guitars or other instruments instead of organ music; a term for a less formal communion service which incorporates new songs, spirituals, folk songs, and contemporary poetry as part of the worship service.

Font - See Baptismal Font; a basin of water used in baptism. The Episcopal Church practices baptism by "sprinkling" rather than by "full immersion"; also, a fixed receptacle for holy water at the entrance to the church or in the sacristy.

Frontal- A covering for the altar, usually of the same material as the vestments or of the liturgical color of the season or feast. It may either cover all sides of the altar, or only the front. The altar cloth is spread over the frontal.

Funeral - The Burial of the Dead.


Genuflection - The bending of the right knee when reverencing the Blessed Sacrament and at other times of solemn reverence.

Gifts - The offerings of Bread and Wine (and Alms) presented to the celebrant at the Offertory of the Eucharist.

Girdle - See Cincture.

Gloria in Excelsis - See Song of Praise; also, BCP, 52, 94, 324, 356.

Gloria Patri - The Doxology which concludes the recitation of a psalm at the beginning of the Eucharist; at the end of the psalms in the Daily Offices; and at other times as listed in the Prayer Book (see BCP,63).

Good Friday - The Friday before Easter Day on which the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated. It is, traditionally, a day of fasting (see BCP, 156 - 161).

Gospel - The final lesson in The Word of God taken from one of the four Gospels in the New Testament. It is normally read by a deacon or priest, and as a sign of reverence, the people and assisting ministers stand when the Gospel is proclaimed (see BCP, 326 or 357).

Gospel Book - The book (usually with an ornamented cover) which contains the Gospel lessons appointed for use at the Eucharist. It is carried in procession (at the entrance) and at the proclamation of the Gospel by the deacon or other reader. "It is desirable that the lessons and Gospel be read from a book or books of appropriate size and dignity".

Gospel Side - an older usage for designating the interior of a church; originally, the Gospel Side was the north side [the left side facing the altar]. See Epistle Side.

Gospeller - See Deacon.

Gospel Procession - The movement of the deacon (or celebrant) with torches (incense and processional cross) to the place of the proclamation of the Gospel (the nave, the lectern, or the pulpit).

Gradual Psalm - The psalm appointed to be read or sung after the lesson at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Great Thanksgiving, The - The major prayer of the Eucharist beginning with the Sursum Corda (see Sursum Corda below) and concluding with the Lord's Prayer (see BCP, 76 - 82)


High Church - a designation of a church emphasizing theological or liturgical formality; a church with several vested assistants and many fine utensils used in the service; a church that sings or chants its service rather than reading or speaking it; a church that celebrates the Eucharist every Sunday.

Holy Communion, The - The second part of the Holy Eucharist, following the Word of God and beginning with the Offertory (see BCP, 333 ff., 36 ff.). This term may also refer to the whole service in the same way as Mass, Lord's Supper, Holy Eucharist, or Divine Liturgy.

Holy Orders - a way of referring to ordination among Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and 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 Saturday (Easter Eve) - See BCP, 161; also, see Great Vigil of Easter.

Holy Water - Water blessed by a bishop or priest for use in blessing the people, in the setting apart of objects for use in the church, or for other liturgical purposes. Holy Water is often used at the Burial of the Dead, at Weddings, and at other times at the discretion of the priest.

Holy Week - The week that commemorates our Lord's Passion and Death: The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday; Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week; Maundy Thursday; Good Friday; and, Holy Saturday (see BCP, 270-283). The Great Vigil of Easter is the climax of Holy Week and the beginning of the Fifty Days of Easter celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord; the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday; most important period of the church year with many special services.

Homily - a short sermon often on a single topic of devotion or morality.

Honorary Degree - a kind of degree awarded by a university to honor worthy candidates; honorary degrees are awarded in recognition of work done by the recipient, but not for academic work; academic work is recognized by what are called "earned" degrees or degrees-in-course.

Host - (Literally, a "sacrificial victim") The consecrated bread in the Eucharist.

House of Bishops - all the bishops of the Episcopal church sitting as a legislative and judiciary body of the church.

House of Deputies - as the lay and presbyter delegates to a general convention sitting as a legislative body.

Hymn - sacred words set to music; church vocal music involving the congregation and distinguished from the Psalm or anthem; Sacred poetry set to music and sung during the liturgy.


Incarnation - The Christian doctrine that the eternal Son of God took human flesh from his human mother and that the historical Jesus is at once fully God and fully human.

Incarnatus - That part of the Nicene Creed which states "He became incarnate ... and was made man." In many churches it is customary to bow or genuflect at this part.

Incense - the "smell" element in Smells & Bells; a fragrant [and now usually hpyo-allergenic] powder burned in a small dish or pot; used during the service or in the processions in recollection of one of the three gifts of the Wisemen to the Christ Child; A mixture of perfumed spices, burned on the coals in the thurible, and used as a sign of prayer, honor, and solemnity at liturgical functions.

Installation - a service in which a person is made the official bearer of a clerical or academic office: the Installation of the Dean or Vice-Chancellor; a service at which an already consecrated bishop is installed as bishop of a diocese.

Introit - The hymn, psalm, or anthem sung (or said) at the entrance of the ministers at the Eucharist.

Invitatory - At Morning Prayer: the Venite, Psalm 95, Jubilate, or Christ our Passover; at Evening Prayer: O Gracious Light (Phos Hilaron) or other suitable hymn or psalm. The invitatory is used at the beginning of an Office after the opening versicle and response and before the appointed psalms.


Junior Warden - the assistant to the Senior Warden; usually becomes Senior Warden after the Senior Warden's term is up.


Kneeling - A posture signifying reverence or penitence.

Kyrie Eleison - See Song of Praise; also, BCP, 70.


Laity - the non-ordained members of a church; all lay persons together; "the people" as distinguished from "the clergy".

Lavabo - The washing of the celebrant's fingers after the Offertory at the Eucharist or at other times such as when oil or chrism is used or after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Lavabo Bowl - The metal or ceramic dish into which the water is poured by the server at the lavabo.

Lavabo Towel - A piece of cloth, usually linen, presented to the celebrant by the server at the lavabo to dry the fingers. It is presented hung over the server's left arm.

Lay Chaplain - a lay person whose vocation is to work in a chapel or as a minister to a non-congregational group such as college undergraduates or the visitors at a hospital or campground.

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 Anglican church today, lay person is often used instead of the older protestant usage "layman".

Lay Reader - any non-ordained person who participates in reading part of a church service. In some churches Lay Readers are officially recognized as a special group assisting in church services; A person licensed by the Bishop to read the lessons at the Eucharist or at the Daily Offices and who may assist the Celebrant or Officiant in other ways; if specifically licensed by the Bishop, may administer the chalice at Communion. Many Lay Readers wear a "Readers' Scarf", which is Blue in color, as a part of their vestments.

Lay - from laios, a Greek word meaning the people.

Lectern - The book-stand or podium from which the lessons and sometimes the Gospel are read at the Eucharist and other Offices. Also called an Ambo.

Lectionary - The appointed lessons and psalms for use at the Eucharist and Daily Offices.

Lector - A person who reads a lesson at the liturgy.

Lent - the period of fasting, sobriety and meditation following Ash Wednesday; in the past Lent was widely associated with denial or "giving something up for Lent.": "I gave up smoking for Lent." Or, "I gave up desserts for Lent." The season recalls the period of Christ's fasting and meditation in the wilderness, so traditionally is for a period of forty days--from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. The term is derived from an old word for 'lengthen' which referred to the lengthening days of early spring; The season of penitence and preparation for Holy Week and Easter which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Lenten Array - In some places, the use of sack-cloth or similar fabric in place of purple for vestments, coverings, and hangings during Lent and Holy Week.

Lenten Cross - In some places, a plain wooden processional cross (painted red with black edges) used during Lent and Holy Week.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts - A book containing the collects, lessons, psalms, and short biographical material for the minor saints' days and observances found in the calendar of The Book of Common Prayer.

Lesson and Carols - popular name of the Festival of Lessons and Carols.

Lesson (also the Epistle) - any reading from the Bible except the Gospels or Psalms; usually read on the opposite side of the church from where the Gospel is read; in older practice the Lesson was read from the "Epistle Side"--the right side facing the altar, while the Gospel was read from the "Gospel Side"--the left side facing the altar. Current practice in many Episcopal churches does not conform to this older pattern; The first reading from scripture at the Eucharist; also, the scripture readings at the Daily Offices or at other liturgies.

Licentiate - Licentiate in Theology; an earned degree for persons who complete a theological degree but who do not hold a bachelor's degree; if a person holds a bachelor's degree and completes the basic theology program, that person is normally awarded a Master of Divinity [M.Div.] degree; without a bachelor's degree that person, taking the same courses, would be awarded a Licentiate in Theology.

Litany - Any form of prayer with petitions and responses; the Great Litany.

Liturgical Colors - See Colors, Liturgical.

Liturgy - The "work of the people." In Western usage this term may apply to any public celebration of the Church. In the Churches of the East, The Divine Liturgy refers specifically to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist; literally the word means the work of the people; generally used to refer to the full text of the words of a worship service; any ritual order for holding a church service.

Lord's Supper, The - The celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Lord's Table, The - See Altar.

Low Church - a church that is less formal; a church that does not chant or sing its service; a church that alternates Morning Prayer with Eucharist; such churches sometimes appear to be more "protestant" or "reformed".


Mace - a staff or baton usually embellished with metal used as an insignia of office; the Mace precedes the Vice-Chancellor in academic processions; the Mace is traditionally carried by the President of the Order of Gownsmen.

Magnificat - The song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) normally used as one of the canticles at Evening Prayer; also, may be used as a Song of Praise on Feasts of St. Mary or at other times.

Maniple - A band of cloth worn, in some places, over the left arm by the celebrant at the Eucharist. It is of the same liturgical color as the stole and chasuble (see Eucharistic Vestments).

Mardi Gras - literally "fat Tuesday"; a festival day ending a period of celebration and excess; usually occurs mid to late February, sometimes early March. Immediately followed by Ash Wednesday and Lent. Traditional Mardi Gras celebrations are held in Mobile and New Orleans.

Marshal - an official of universities and some religious organizations who organizes processions, seatings, etc.

Mass - the Anglican / Roman Catholic name for the Christian sacramental meal but sometimes used by conservative Episcopalians to refer to communion or eucharist; The celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Master of Ceremonies - A person designated to direct the ceremonial at the liturgy (also see Verger).

Matins - Morning Prayer.

Maundy Thursday - Thursday in Holy Week (see BCP, 274); the name is from Latin `mandatum' referring to Christ's commandment concerning foot-washing; also the day on which the first Lord's Supper was celebrated.

Ministers - The Celebrant, Officiant and any others (lay persons or ordained) who assist in the celebration of the liturgy.

Missal - See Altar Book.

Missal Stand - The stand (or, in some places, a pillow) upon which the Altar Book rests when in use at the altar.

Mission - a local Anglican congregation that has not yet attained the status of a church with a full-time priest; also a church that has lost its church status and reverted to mission status. Usually a mission does not have a full-time minister and does not have the full complement of daily or weekly services.

Mitre/Miter - The triangular-shaped head covering worn by a bishop; not often used in Episcopal churches.

Monstrance - A receptacle for the Blessed Sacrament used at Benediction.

Morning Prayer - a morning worship service without communion; now this service has generally been replaced by a eucharistic or communion service.

Mr. - used in referring to clergy when the full name is not used: The Reverend John C. Smith, but: The Reverend Mr. Smith; the Very Reverend John Q. Public, but: the Very Reverend Mr. Public.


Narthex - an enclosed space at the entry end of the nave of a church; "The ushers will line up in the Narthex."

Nave - the main part of a church; the place where the congregation sits. Derived from an old word for ship; in older churches the beams of the roof resembled the beams and timbers in the sides of a ship; The area of the church where the people gather for the liturgy.

Nunc Dimittis - The Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) normally used as one of the canticles at Evening Prayer and Compline (see BCP, 28). This canticle is also used at Candlemas.


Oblations - Offerings to God at the Eucharist.

Occasional Services, Book of - A book containing optional services and prayers authorized for use by the Episcopal Church.

Offertory - The presentation, reception, preparation, and offering of the gifts at the beginning of The Holy Communion, the second part of the Eucharist.

Offertory Sentence - A passage of scripture that may be said or sung at the beginning or during the Offertory.

Offertory Procession - At the Eucharist, the presentation of the bread, wine, and other gifts by members of the congregation.

Office - See Daily Offices.

Officiant - A person who officiates at the Daily Offices and other rites.

Oil - A liquid substance blessed by a bishop or priest for use in the Ministration to the Sick (BCP, 455). See also Chrism.

Ordination - a special service for inducting a person into holy orders; the ritual that makes a person a priest or minister.

Orphery - An embroidered band on an ecclesiastical vestment or hanging.


Pace - a small aisle or passage way off the main nave aisle in a church.

Pall - A stiffened square of linen (or other) white cloth that is placed over the chalice to keep objects from falling into the wine. The term may refer also to the cloth covering the casket or urn during the Burial of the Dead.


Quiet Day - usually Ash Wednesday; a day of prayer and meditation, often in conjunction with a retreat.


Reader - anyone who reads a lesson, psalm or prayer in a service. Lay persons may read any lesson but the Gospel reading is usually done by an ordained person. (Also see Lector).

Recession - a procession out of a church.

Rector - the priest or minister of a local church or parish; the head priest of a parish.

Rectory - the residence of a rector; the place where an Episcopal minister lives.

Requiem - A celebration of the Eucharist for the commemoration of the dead; 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.

Reredos - [rear-re-doss] any decoration behind or above an altar; may be in the form of statues, screens, or tapestries.

Reverend Doctor - and ordained person [hence Reverend] who also holds some degree at the doctorate level [hence Doctor]--a way of referring to a priest who was also a professor or to a priest who held an honorary 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 accepted the term Father.

Reverend Mr. - see Mr.

Reserved Sacrament - The consecrated Bread and Wine reserved for administration to the sick or others who could not attend the celebration of the Eucharist.

Reverence - (of the Altar or the Blessed Sacrament) A genuflection or solemn bow.

Rubric - The ceremonial and other directions found printed in italics in The Book of Common Prayer. The word comes from the Latin for "red" since the directions were traditionally printed in that color.


Sacrament - Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n. 4, ex St. Augustine, "De Catechizandis rudibus"). According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, accepted today by many Episcopalians, the sacraments of the Christian dispensation are not mere signs; they do not merely signify Divine grace, but in virtue of their Divine institution, they cause that grace in the souls of men. "Signum sacro sanctum efficax gratiae" — a sacrosanct sign producing grace, is a good, succinct definition of a sacrament of the New Law. Sacrament, in its broadest acceptation, may be defined as an external sign of something sacred.

Sacrament Lamp - A clear or white container with oil or a candle that burns in front of or near the place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. This candle is never extinguished when the Sacrament is present. The Sacrament Lamp may also be known as the Sanctuary Lamp or Light. (The light can also be electric).

Sacristan - liturgical assistants who have charge of sacred vessels, vestments, etc.

Sacristy - A room or rooms where the vessels, vestments, and other liturgical objects are kept, and where the celebrant, officiants, and assistants vest before the liturgy.

Sacristy Bell - A bell in the sacristy rung at the entrance of the ministers.

Sanctuary - the portion of a church at the head of the chancel around the altar; the space immediately around the altar. Sometimes used to refer to the whole interior of the church, but this is not the usual Episcopal usage.

Sanctuary Lamp or Light - See Sacrament Lamp.

Sanctus - The acclamation "Holy, holy, holy . . ." sung or said at the conclusion of the Preface of the Great Thanksgiving.

Sanctus Bell - A bell or set of bells in the sanctuary (or in a tower) that is rung or struck during the sanctus, elevations, and at other times.

Sedilia - The chair from which the celebrant presides at the Word of God. In some places, this may be called the President's Chair. It is usually flanked by chairs for the assisting ministers and others.

See - generally Roman Catholic usage referring to the ecclesiastical residence of a bishop.

Seminarian - a student in a seminary; a student in residence in a school of theology.

Seminary - a residential academic program for the study of theology.

Senior Warden - the chairman of the vestry; the layperson who heads the governing board of the local church.

Sequence Hymn - A hymn sung between the Epistle and Gospel (after the Alleluia Verse or Tract) which normally relates to the lessons appointed for the day.

Sermon - A talk, usually based on a Bible text, generally delivered the pulpit, to give religious instruction and encouragement.

Server - One who assists at the altar.

Sexton - 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.

Shell, Baptismal - The metal or ceramic cup or dish used to pour water during the administration of Holy Baptism.

Sign of the Cross - The tracing on one's forehead, chest and shoulders of the outline of the Cross.

Simple Bow - The inclination of one's head and shoulders as a sign of respect.

Solemn Bow - An inclination from the waist as a sign of reverence.

Song of Praise - The hymn or canticle at the beginning of the Eucharist following the Acclamation.

SPCK - Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; one of the oldest missionary organizations of the Anglican Church. SPCK specializes in publications and other media for promoting Christian knowledge. The North American office of SPCK is located in Hamilton Hall at the School of Theology.

Spoon - A utensil used with the boat to place incense on the hot coals in the thurible.

Station - In a solemn procession, a place where a pause is made for a versicle, response, and collect, such as at the creche at Christmas, at the entrance to the church on Palm Sunday (BCP 271-72), or at the Baptismal Font on the Day of Pentecost.

Stations of the Cross - See Way of the Cross.

Steps, Altar - The one or more steps leading up to the altar.

Stole - A long strip of material worn by bishops, priests, and deacons when officiating at the Eucharist or other sacramental functions. The priest wears the stole around the neck and hanging down in front (either crossed or straight) over an alb or surplice. The deacon wears the stole over the left shoulder and crossed under the right arm, again either over an alb or surplice. The stole is of the liturgical color of the day and matches the material of the other vestments (see Eucharistic Vestments) ; some stoles are decorated with parish, diocesan or school insignia near the lower ends.

Stripping of the Altars - On Maundy Thursday, the celebrant, having removed the ciborium from the high altar, goes to the sacristy. He there lays aside the white vestments and puts on a violet stole, and, accompanied by the deacon, also vested in violet stole, and the subdeacon, returns to the high altar. Whilst the antiphon "Diviserunt sibi" and the psalm "Deus, Deus meus" are being recited, the celebrant and his assistants ascend to the predella and strip the altar of the altar-cloths, vases of flowers, antipendium, and other ornaments, so that nothing remains but the cross and the candlesticks with the candles extinguished. In the same manner all the other altars in the church are denuded. If there be many altars in the church, another priest, vested in surplice and violet stole, may strip them whilst the celebrant is stripping the high altar. The Christian altar represents Christ, and the stripping of the altar reminds us how He was stripped of his garments when He fell into the hands of the Jews and was exposed naked to their insults. It is for this reason that the psalm "Deus, Deus meus" is recited, wherein the Messias speaks of the Roman soldiers dividing His garments among them. This ceremony signifies the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice. It was formerly the custom in some churches on this day to wash the altars with a bunch of hyssop dipped in wine and water, to render them in some manner worthy of the Lamb without stain who is immolated on them, and to recall to the minds of the faithful with how great purity they should assist at the Holy Sacrifice and receive Holy Communion. St. Isidore of Seville (De Eccles. Off, I, xxviii) and St. Eligius of Noyon (Homil. VIII, De Coena Domini) say that this ceremony was intended as an homage offered to Our Lord, in return for the humility wherewith He deigned to wash the feet of His disciples.

Subdeacon - A role performed in the full ceremonial celebration of the Eucharist. While the deacon sits and stands to the right of the celebrant, the subdeacon sits and stands to the left. When full eucharistic vestments are available, the subdeacon wears a tunicle. In the early days of the Catholic and Anglican Church, thesubdeacon was an ordained office (like the deacon), but that is no longer true. The subdeacon is now usually a layperson, probably a licensed layreader and chalice bearer who reads the epistle, carries and holds the Gospel Book, leads the intercessory prayers, and/or assists the priest or deacon in the setting of the "Eucharistic Table". (It should be noted that today - the term Subdeacon is a "job description" rather than the designation of a person. Almost anyone can serve as a subdeacon - including a Lay Reader, Licensed Eucharistic Minister, Deacon, or Priest - as needed.) A powerful mechanism of the church is to have a bishop or priest as celebrant, a deacon as deacon, and a layperson as subdeacon, so that all the orders of ministry are represented around the altar. Occasionally, the title Subdeacon is given to a Lay Reader or Licensed Eucharistic Minister in a church to indicate that he or she is the "head" Lay Reader or Licensed Eucharistic Minister.

Suffragan - see Bishop, Suffragan.

Sunday of the Passion, The - Palm Sunday.

Surplice - An ample white vestment worn over a cassock or other vestments. It has full sleeves, a round or square yoke (neck), and is at least mid-calf in length; somewhat longer and fuller than a cotta.

Sursum Corda - The opening dialogue to the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer in the liturgies of the Christian Church (BCP 76).

Synagogue - A building or place of meeting for Jewish worship and religious instruction.


Tabernacle - A box or receptacle for the Reserved Sacrament located on an altar (see also Aumbry).

Taper - A long narrow wax-covered wick that is put into the candle lighter; or, a small candle for use by members of the congregation at vigils and other services; also, any candle.

Te Deum - A canticle used at Morning Prayer, as a Song of Praise at the Eucharist, or added to a service on days of special Thanksgiving (see BCP, 10).

Throne - A term sometimes used for the Bishop's Chair.

Thurible - The container in which incense is burned.

Thurifer - The server whose duty it is to handle the thurible and boat.

Tippet - A black scarf worn by the priest during some services other than the Eucharist.

Tongs - A two-pronged hand-held device for holding charcoal when lighting).

Torch - A candle on a pole or stand that is carried by an acolyte.

Torch Bearer - a person (Acolyte) 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.

Towel - A cloth used to wipe the celebrant's hands, also called the lavabo towel.

Tract - A sentence of scripture sung or said in place of the alleluia verse during Lent.

Trinity, The - a fundamental symbol of the Christian faith and a very important doctrine in catholic Christianity; the Trinity - refers to the oneness and essential unity of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tunic or Tunicle - A vestment with ample sleeves worn over an alb or cassock alb of the same liturgical color as the vestments of the celebrant or some other festive color. This vestment is usually worn by the subdeacon, and may be worn by the crucifer on festive occasions.

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."

Twenty-eight Book (Twenty-eight Prayer Book) - a way of referring to the edition of the Book Of Common Prayer approved by the Episcopal Church in 1928; a version of the prayer book which retained older forms of language; This was the prayer book in use in the Episcopal Church until 1981;The prayer book used by Anglican Churches.


Unction of the Sick - Also referred to as Annointing of the Sick, is a sacrament of the Catholic Church that is administered to a sick person "who, having reached the age of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age", except in the case of those who "persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin". Proximate danger of death, the occasion for the administration of Viaticum, is not required, but only the onset of a medical condition considered to be a possible prelude to death. See BCP p. 320.

Urn - A receptacle containing the remains of a body that has been cremated.


Veil - A covering (see Chalice Veil).

Venerable - see Archdeacon.

Venite - See Invitatory, also, BCP, 9.

Veneration of the Cross - On Good Friday, after the cross has been brought into the church, it may either be venerated while all kneel in place or each person may come forward individually to venerate the cross (see BCP, 28]ff). In some places, the veneration is an act of kissing the foot of the cross.

Verger - A verger is a committed lay minister within the Church who assists the clergy in the conduct of public worship. It is said that the Verger serves the church in a ministry of welcome and the duties of the Verger vary from parish to parish. Vergers can be full-time or part-time, paid or volunteer. Their duties can be purely ceremonial or include other responsibilities such as parish administration, leadership of the worship committee, sexton, etc. He or she may serve in other capacities throughout the church; such as Sacristan, Acolyte Master, Sexton, Chalice Bearer, Lay Reader, Usher, Protector of the Procession, Doorkeeper, Grave Digger, Master of Ceremonies or anything else that the parish requires. The Office of Verger dates back to the Middle Ages when the Verger was the "Protector of the Procession." He led the Procession into the Church or Cathedral, clearing the way for the Procession and protecting it from vagabonds and animals that tried to attack it. Today, in many parishes and cathedrals you will see a Verger ceremonially leading the Procession. The Verger wears a gown and carries a Virge (staff of Office) to help clear the way, and point the way for the procession. (NOTE: Every Church has one or more Vergers, however they are called by many names, and are not necessarily vested.)

Verger's Gown - (also called a chimere) - A Verger's vestments can be as varied as the duties of the verger! The basic vestment of a verger is a black cassock. In some places, the cassock may be of another color such as purple at many cathedral parishes. In some parishes the cassock is not worn at all. Over the cassock (also known as street clothes), when performing a ceremonial function, the verger might wear a gown. One type of gown is sleeveless and resembles a bishop's chimere; the other is cut more fully and resembles an academic gown.

Versicle - A short sentence, often taken from the Psalms, sung or said at the liturgy and followed by a response from the people.

Vessels, Sacred - See Chalice, Paten, Ciborium; Flagon.

Very Reverend, The - a form of address for clergy who hold the office of dean in a church or school: the dean of a cathedral would be referred to as "The Very Reverend John C. Smith, Dean of Trinity Cathedral". See also Dean.

Vesting - Those who serve at the altar are regularly vested (dressed) in either cassock and surplice, alb and cincture, or cassock-alb. Vesting is the action of "putting on" this clothing.

Vestments - clothing worn by people who lead the services of a church; clothing worn by clergy. [The clothing worn by monks and nuns is usually called a 'habit'; the clothing worn by choir members is usually called a `robe'; the clothing worn by professors is usually called a `gown'.] Colors used in some vestments are changed during the year to indicate the seasons of the church year. Vestments are usually styled by cut and color to indicate whether a person is a deacon, presbyter, or bishop. Bishops' vestments for instance include a purple shirt; Any article of clothing worn over street clothes by those officiating or assisting at liturgical celebrations.

Vestry - governing board of a local Anglican church consisting of lay members, much like the board of deacons in a Baptist church; the group that usually makes basic decisions about church budget, building plans, etc. Usually headed by a Senior Warden assisted by a Junior Warden who often follows the Senior Warden in office.

Vicar - an older English term referring to a priest in charge of a vicarage--a small parish or Mission Church; usually such priests were substituting for the "official" or assigned priest;

Vigils - A period or service of preparation before major festivals or celebrations.

Virge - A virge is a staff that a verger carries in procession. The name comes from the Latin "virga" which simply means a rod or staff; hence, a "verger" is one who carries a staff. The virge can trace its history back to the ceremonial maces carried before civic and ecclesiastical dignitaries. The Maces of State used in the House of Lords and the House of Commons of the British Parliament are examples of another modern use of the medieval symbols. Originally used to clear the way for processions (and control unruly choristers!), its use is now principally honorific. The size, style, and shape of a virge varies from place to place; but one end typically has a cross or other Christian symbol mounted on it. A longer variation of the virge is called the "beadle" originally used to lead academic processions.

Votive candle - a devotional candle placed in a church or chapel; many votive candles are placed in many churches for the Festival of Lessons and Carols. Votive candles are often small, short candles in a special glass holder.


Wafer - the bread part of the Lord's Supper; often an unleavened, thin cracker; sometimes the wafer is imprinted with a cross; some wafers are large, being several inches in diameter.

Washing of Altars - In some places, this act is performed by ministers and servers after the stripping of the altars on Maundy Thursday.

Washing of Feet - The rite performed on Maundy Thursday commemorating Our Lord's washing of the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.

Watch (before the Blessed Sacrament) - The vigil kept at the Place of Reservation after the Maundy Thursday liturgy.

Way of the Cross - A Procession with stations commemorating the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Also called the Stations of the Cross. The classical Stations of the Cross--14 events which happened within the last 24 hours Jesus was on the earth, are as follows. (NOTE: Some add the 15th station - the Resurrection of Jesus.)

  1. Jesus is condemned to death.
  2. Jesus carries His cross.
  3. Jesus falls the first time.
  4. Jesus meets His mother.
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
  7. Jesus falls the second time.
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
  9. Jesus falls a third time.
  10. Jesus is stripped of His garments.
  11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross.
  12. Jesus dies on the cross.
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Wedding - The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage (BCP 300).

Wine - the beverage portion of communion symbolizing the blood of Christ; equivalent to the grape juice used in some protestant churches. Communion wine is fermented grape juice and is therefore alcoholic. Wine and vineyards were symbols of happiness and signs of God's blessing in the Promised Land. Mixing wine and water has roots in historical practicality and theological insight. Historically, wine carried by the traveler was mixed with the water of the desert to purify it. Theologically, the ordinariness of our lives (water) is mingled with the extraordinariness of the Divine Life (wine). This also serves to remind us of the dual nature of Christ, both God and human being; and that out of his side flowed water and blood.

Word of God, The - The first part of the Holy Eucharist ending with the Peace. The focus of this part of the Eucharist is on the reading of Scripture and prayers of praise and petition.

Words of Institution - That part of the Eucharistic Prayer recalling the words and actions of Our Lord at the Last Supper.

Worship - The expression of love and devotion to God through participation in Divine rites and/or services and through personal player.


Year, Church - See BCP, 5ff.