Back to Top 815:a short reference to the main office complex of the Episcopal Church in New York: Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Avenue, New York, N. Y. 10017, (212) 867-8400.
1928 Prayer Book: a version of the Episcopal book of worship in use from 1928 to 1979; some services from this prayerbook have been retained in the current prayer book as "Rite I" services. Preference for the use of the 1928 edition is sometimes associated with "conservative" attitudes in the Episcopal Church.
Acolyte: originally a minor clerical order but now usually a lay function in the church; the acolyte assists the priest, lights and carries candles, and performs other ceremonial functions.
Advent Wreath: a special wreath 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.
Advent: the season of the church year immediately prior to Christmas beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas; also the entire Christmas season.
Alb: the white robe worn by the priest when celebrating communion; generally worn over daily clothes but under other vestments, scarves, etc.
All Saints' Day: November 1; a feast day in the church in commemoration of all the known and unknown saints.
Altar Guild: a 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: a table [located in the sanctuary or the crossing] on which are placed the vessels for holding the bread, wine, and water used in the eucharist or communion.
American Episcopal Church: a separated group of American Episcopalians who differ with the "Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America" over matters pertaining to liturgy, ordination, and church government; this group has often favored the use of the 1928 Prayerbook, and has generally opposed the ordination of women.
Anglican: simply means English; a term indicating the English origins of the Episcopal 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.
Anthem: sacred vocal music using scriptural words; now also any vocal music or hymn sung by a choir but not by the congregation.
Archbishop of Canterbury: the presiding bishop of the Church of England; sometimes acknowledged by American Episcopalians 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.
Ash Wednesday: 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 in Sewanee, a number of people may be seen who appear to have a black or gray smudge on their foreheads.
Bishop: the head of a diocese; supervisor of local priests.
Bishop and Council: a type of diocesan government; the council is a governing or advisory body usually selected from several sub-divisions of a diocese.
Bishop, Assistant: a specially ordained or otherwise specially designated person who has the spiritual and liturgical rank of a bishop and who usually assists the Bishop of a diocese; some retired diocesan bishops become assistants to other bishops; some assistant bishops are specially ordained for their work. Assistant Bishops can perform most functions performed by other bishops.
Bishop, Co-adjutor: an ordained person consecrated to become the next bishop of a diocese when the diocesan bishop retires; when the bishop retires or resigns, the Co-adjutor becomes the Diocesan and the term Co-adjutor is dropped. Suffragan bishops do not automatically become diocesan bishops.
Bishop, Diocesan: the primary bishop of a diocese; sometimes referred to as "The Diocesan": the Diocesan of Atlanta is The Rt. Neal Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta.
Bishop, Suffragan: a working co-bishop in a diocese but without inherent right of succession when the diocesan bishop retires or resigns. Suffragan bishops are sometimes called by another diocese to become their Diocesan bishop.
Bishop's Chair: the place where the Bishop sits. In a parish church it is a representation of the bishop's throne in his cathedral. We do not use one when the bishop isn't here.
Book Of Common Prayer: a collection of prayers, readings, Psalms, devotions, and services used by the Episcopal Church; the worship book used by Episcopalians. Nearly all services in any Episcopal Church will be printed in this book.
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 _______" Salutation in letter: "Dear Canon _______" or "Dear Ms. ______".
Cantor: a person who chants or sings; often a solo voice that begins a service. This position is generally associated with "high churches."
Carillon: usually 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. Our carillon is a more modern version.
Cassock: the long black robe worn by priests, deacons, and acolytes; bishops' cassocks are usually purple.
Cathedra: the special chair that a bishop sits in during a church service: The cathedra is sometimes moved to a prominent place for special occasions--as for the conferring of honorary degrees. We do not use one.
Cathedral: an Episcopal 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"; usually, however, a reference to the Roman Catholic Church although the term also includes Anglican, Syrian, Greek, Coptic, Russian and other churches. The Episcopal Church is a catholic church. Catholic churches generally accept the teachings of tradition as well as scripture and usually accept the validity of one or more ancient creeds as the summary of the Christian faith.
Celebrant: the main priest in a eucharist, mass, or communion; the priest who performs the consecration of the bread and wine; the celebrant may be assisted by other priests, deacons, chalice bearers, acolytes, etc.
Chalice: the cup at communion. Usually silver except in Lent when they are usually ceramic or glass to be less ornate.
Chancel: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.
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. A minister who holds a service at a hospital would be referred to as a chaplain.
Choir: a special group of singers who chant or sing during a worship service; also, the part of the church where the choir sits.
Church Annual The Episcopal Church Annual: the yearbook of the Episcopal Church containing names and addresses of all Episcopal organizations, dioceses, churches, a list of all clergy, etc. Sometimes also called the "Red Book".
Church of England: the name of the Episcopal Church in England.
Church: local the smallest social division of the Episcopal Church; above the church is the diocese; above the diocese is the province; above the province is the national church. Sometimes church refers to the local building; sometimes to the local congregation. See also parish, congregation, communicants.
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.
Clerical Directory/The Episcopal Clerical Directory: a biennial listing of all Episcopal clergy with short biographical paragraphs about each person including schooling, ordination, churches served, family information, address, service to the Episcopal Church.
Clerical: an adjective referring to ordained persons and their work. Co-adjutor Bishop: see Bishop Co-adjutor.
Collar: clerical a stiff round shirt collar worn by Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and some Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and other clergy; widely regarded as a sign or identifying mark of clerical status.
Collect: a prayer which gathers people together around the theme for a particular liturgy.
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. Communion: the Christian sacramental meal, also called the Lord's Supper; now more commonly called 'eucharist' in Episcopal churches; also called Mass in Roman Catholic churches.
Compline: an evening service to end the day; although the service is an old Christian usage, it has only recently been added to the Prayerbook of the Episcopal Church.
Congregation: the group of people who attend church; the members present for the worship service.
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 and 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.
Cotta: the short white robe worn over a cassock.
Council/Diocesan Council: a group for diocesan government; an 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".
Crossing: in church architecture, the main intersection of aisles at the front of some churches; 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.
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; usually thought of as a "very Catholic symbol" by some protestants.
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.
Cursillo: a contemporary, popular movement of Christian renewal in the Episcopal Church; usually involves a very close-knit group of people in an intense retreat for a weekend, followed by spiritual disciplines and gatherings.
Daily Office: prayers for daily usage found in the Book of Common Prayer.
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: the initial level of ordination in the Episcopal Church. Unlike protestant churches where deacon is a lay order, in the Episcopal Church deacon is a clerical order. Deacons often have special clerical duties; by tradition the Gospel is read by the deacon if a deacon is on the staff of a church or chapel.
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.
EFM Education For Ministry: the four year extension program of the Sewanee School of Theology.
Epiphany: January 6; a feast celebrating the visit of the Wisemen to the infant Jesus; the end of the Christmas season.
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 a reading from the New Testament other than from the Gospels; 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 many churches.
Eucharist: a "good gift" or thanksgiving; the current usage in the Episcopal Church to refer to communion or the Lord's Supper.
Eulogy: a speech or homily in praise of a deceased person; brief remarks about the deceased at a funeral.
Evensong: an evening worship service; evening prayer; and evening prayer service featuring a choir.
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.
Father: a familiar or direct way of referring to some ordained clergy. Typically used of all Roman Catholic clergy and of 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.
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: a basin of water used in baptism. The Episcopal Church practices baptism by "sprinkling" rather than by "full immersion"
High Church: a designation of a church emphasizing theological or liturgical formality; a church that sings or chants its service rather than reading or speaking it. Such churches sometimes appear to be more Roman Catholic.
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 Week: 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.
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.
Incense: the "smell" element in Smells & Bells; a fragrant [and now usually hypo-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.
Inclusive Language: forms of religious expression which are not biased in favor of a particular gender group. Some churches favor an Inclusive Lectionary, and some have altered prayers and hymns so that gender-restrictive images and pronouns are removed: "Our God who art in heaven..."
Laity: the non-ordained members of a church; all lay persons together; "the people" as distinguished from "the clergy".
Lay Chaplain: a lay person whose vocation is to work in a chapel or as a minister to a non-congregational group such as 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 unpaid 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 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.
Lay: from laios, a Greek word meaning the people.
Lectern: a raised platform used for reading prayers or scripture; usually located at the front of the nave opposite the pulpit.
Lectionary: inclusive the use of Biblical texts which are not biased in favor or male or female images and which avoid male or female pronouns. Texts which avoid the use of images of God as Father. See Inclusive Language.
Lectionary: the complex series of Biblical readings used in the Episcopal Church throughout the year.
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." The season recalls the period of Christ's fasting and meditation in the wilderness, so traditionally is for a period of forty days (excluding Sundays which are always feast 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.
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.
Liturgy: 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.
Low Church: a church that is less formal; a church that does not chant or sing its service; such churches sometimes appear to be more "protestant".
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.
Mass: the Roman Catholic name for the Christian sacramental meal but sometimes used by conservative Episcopalians to refer to communion or eucharist. It comes from the Latin, "Missa Es", the Latin words of dismissal.
Maundy Thursday: the Thursday of Holy Week; 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.
Mission: a local Episcopal 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.
Miter/mitre: the liturgical hat or head dress of a bishop.
Morning Prayer: a morning worship service without communion; now this service has generally been replaced by a eucharistic or communion service.
Narthex: an enclosed space at the entry end of the nave of a church; the area just inside the front door.
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.
Palm Sunday: the Sunday before Easter. In an Episcopal Church, members of the congregation carry real palms during the service; in some churches, the tradition is that palms from one year are saved, dried and later burned to make the ashes used at the next year's Ash Wednesday service.
Parish Hall/Fellowship Hall: a gathering place for conversation before and after services.
Parish: the group of people of a certain area who are organized into a local church; sometimes the word also refers to the geographic region around a church.
Parson: now rare in Episcopal usage. Any priest or minister; often a reference to low-church or non-Episcopal clergy. Sometimes a term of affection for an older clergyman especially of rural background.
Paten: the plate for bread at communion.
PB: Presiding Bishop, the head the entire Episcopal Church.
Peace: the also known as Passing the Peace; a ritual in the Episcopal Church in which members of the congregation, including the clergy, greet one another in God's Peace. The priest says, "The Peace of the Lord be always with you." The congregation responds, "And also with you." Immediately after these words people shake hands or speak or sometimes embrace.
PECUSA: initials of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
Prayer Book: a short way of referring to the Book of Common Prayer, the worship book of the Episcopal Church containing services, psalms, prayers, etc.
Presiding Bishop: the elected episcopal head of the Episcopal Church in America [PECUSA]; the chief administrator and spiritual head of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church does not refer to its head bishop as an archbishop.
Priest: a special term for the minister of a Roman Catholic or Episcopal or Orthodox church; originally the term mean someone who performed a sacrifice; later the term referred to those who said Mass; now often synonymous with minister although the older terminology is still familiar in some churches.
Procession: the line of choir, clergy, acolytes, crucifer, torchbearers and others walking into a church to begin a service.
Province: one of the major organizational divisions of the Episcopal Church; a group of dioceses usually under the parliamentary direction of a diocesan bishop who serves as president of the province. Atlanta is in Province IV of the Episcopal Church.
Pulpit: a raised platform used for the sermon or homily in some churches; generally located to one side [usually the right side facing the altar] of the front of the nave, not in the center as in most protestant churches.
Purple: this color [or some shade of violet] in vestments usually indicates that the wearer is a bishop.
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.
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.
Red Book: see Church Annual.
Requiem: 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 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 [re-re-doss]: any decoration behind or above an altar; may be in the form of statues, screens, or tapestries.
Reverend Father: an affectionate, devotional or pious way of referring to a priest who accepted the term Father. Rite One worship services using the older language of the 1928 edition of the prayerbook; sometimes the phrase "Rite One" is used as a derogatory reference to older or more "conservative" Episcopalians: "He is a Rite One type."
Rite Two: worship services which use more modern language.
Sacristan: liturgical assistants who have charge of sacred vessels, vestments, etc.
Sacristy: the room near the altar where priests vest for the service; the room where the communion vessels and vestments are kept.
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.
Seminary: a residential academic program for the study of theology.
Senior Warden: the chairman of the vestry; the lay person who heads the governing board of the local church.
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.
"Smells & Bells": a way of describing a "high" church; a church that frequently uses incense, bells, candles, chimes, vestments all together in worship services.
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 Sewanee School of Theology.
Stole: a long, narrow strip of cloth worn around the neck of the priest and allowed to hang down the front of the clerical vestments; some stoles are decorated with diocesan or school insignia near the lower ends.
Suffragan: see Bishop, Suffragan.
Surplice: a white over-garment worn over other vestments; somewhat longer and fuller than a cotta; always worn by the priest when celebrating the eucharist.
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.
Transept: in churches built in the shape of a cross, either "arm".
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.
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: a way of referring to the edition of the Book Of Common Prayer approved by the Episcopal Church in 1928; a version of the prayerbook which used older forms of language.
Verger: someone who carries a mace or ceremonial staff in procession; vergers sometimes also had responsibility for the condition of the interior of a church.
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 H. Martin, Dean of Trinity Cathedral". See also Dean.
Vestments: clothing worn by people who lead the services of a church; clothing worn by clergy. 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.
Vestry: governing board of a local Episcopal 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.
Vicar: an older English term referring to a priest in charge of a vicarage--a small parish; usually such priests were substituting for the "official" or assigned priest; sometimes but not often used by American Episcopal clergy.
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.
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.