Episcopal Glossary

Acolytes
People (grade 4 and above) who assist in a variety of ways in worship processions and at the altar along with clergy eucharistic ministers

Advent
The four Sundays in December that celebrate the coming of Christ into the world.

Altar Guild
A group of people  who are charged with the care and cleaning of all that goes on the altar (bread, wine, cloths, chalices, etc.) and with the decoration of the church (flowers, candles, vestments, etc.).

Apostles Creed
The ancient baptismal confession of the Church.

Ascension Day
The day marking the ascension of Christ into heaven.

Ash Wednesday
The beginning of Lent.

Bishop
A successor of the apostles; the chief pastor of a diocese.

Book of Common Prayer (BCP)
Originally published by the Church of England in 1549 under the direction of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, it is the collection of liturgies authorized for use in the Anglican/Episcopal Church. In the Episcopal tradition, we employ “liturgical prayer” in addition to extemporaneous prayers, as a sign of the truth that worship is common to the people and belongs not to an individual, but to the entire faith community.

Burse
One of the items that may be used during the celebration of the Eucharist; it is a seasonally colored square that is placed over the veil on the altar; when used, it contains the corporal.

Catechumen
One receiving instruction in the basic beliefs and doctrines of Christianity before admission to membership in the church. The process of teaching and learning is called catechesis.

Celebrant
The bishop or priest who officiates at the altar during the celebration of the Eucharist.

Chalice
The large, often silver cup from which the wine is served during the Eucharist.

Collect
A brief prayer that “collects” or sums up the petitions of the people.

Communion (or Holy Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper)
The Christian sacramental meal, the Eucharist.

The Confession
A confession and repentance to God for wrongdoing and a request for forgiveness.

Confirmation
A ceremony in which someone who has been baptized is confirmed as a member by the bishop. We recognize all baptism as valid and legitimate, whether it happened in an Episcopal church, another church or at your grandmother’s kitchen sink.

Corporal
A square piece of linen kept in the burse that is placed under the chalice for the celebration of the Eucharist.

Creed
A statement of the basic tenets of Christian faith that is said in unison by the congregation and clergy.

Deacon
One of the three orders of ordained ministry. A deacon’s primary calling is to serve those in need and to assist in the liturgies.

Diocese
A geographical designation of a collection of Episcopal parishes under the direction and guidance of a bishop.

Easter Vigil
An evening service that begins with a period of darkness, marking Christ’s time in the tomb. An important occasion for baptism and renewal of vows, the vigil is the first proclamation of Easter, ending symbolically in light.

Easter Day
A celebration of the resurrection of Christ that continues for the seven following Sundays.

Epiphany
The season following Christmas, beginning January 6, that marks the Three Wise Men’s visit to the infant Jesus. Epiphany is Greek for “Shining Lord.”

Episcopal
Of or pertaining to a bishop; we are called Episcopal because we have bishops.

Epistle
Generally, a letter, and for Christians those books of the New Testament such as Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians, etc., that were written as letters to congregations to encourage and shape them in their faith.

Eucharist
Also known as Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion; the sacrament of the blessing and partaking of the bread and wine in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection and his ongoing presence at work among us. “Eucharist” literally means thanksgiving.

Godly Play
The experiential Sunday School curriculum that is used at many Episcopal churches. At. St. Andrew’s we use Godly Play primarily with young children but occasionally in other ways.

Good Friday
 The day of Christ’s crucifixion and death, commemorated by afternoon and evening services.

Gospels
The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that are the main narratives of the life of Jesus. The word “gospel” literally means “good news.”

Holy Saturday
The day after Good Friday.

Holy Week
The week between Palm Sunday and Easter, comprised of Tenebrae (Wednesday), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Day.

Homily
A short sermon.

Hymn
A religious poem set to music.

Intercessor
The person who leads the prayers of the people in Sunday services.

Intercessory prayer
Prayer in favor of or on behalf of another, i.e., the church, the country, the world, individuals.

Kyrie
Short for “Kyrie Eleison,” a Greek phrase meaning “Lord, have mercy.”

Eucharistic Ministers and Visitors (EMs)
Members of the congregation who are trained to assist at the altar as Chalice Bearers, and to carry consecrated sacraments from the Eucharist to homebound parishioners.

Lector / Reader
A person who reads one of the lessons (selected readings from the Old and New Testament) during Sunday services.

Lent
The 40 days before Easter, marking Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness after his baptism.

Lesson
A reading from the scriptures, usually done by a layperson. Episcopal liturgy customarily includes readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospels.

Liturgical Year
The cycle of seasons of the church year, including, in order, Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost (see specific definitions of each one).

Liturgy
The set words of the service. From the Greek, meaning “the work of the people.”

Maundy Thursday
An evening service before Easter that commemorates the last supper of Christ and his disciples.

Narthex
The entrance hall of the building, also known as the foyer.

Nave
The main body of the church between the entrance and the sanctuary.

Nicene Creed
A doctrinal confession of the basic tenets of the Christian faith formulated by a council of bishops in response to doctrinal controversies in the 4th century.

Oblators
The people who bring the wine and bread forward to be blessed for the Eucharist at each Sunday service.

Offertory / Oblations
The offering of the bread and wine, the money offering, and other gifts.

Open communion
Anyone of any age who seeks God may take communion, compared to some other traditions that mandate that one be of a certain age or meet some prerequisite or have a certain status in order to receive communion.

Palm Sunday
The Sunday before Easter, marking Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week.

Parish Council (in some Episcopal parishes)
A group composed of chairs of all the church committees that are charged with conducting the work and life of the parish. It serves as the primary communications channel among the various committees.

Parish Hall
The large space , sometimes like a gym or auditorium that contains a kitchen and a hall where many parish events and dinners are held.

Pall
On the altar, a stiffened square of linen that is placed over the paten.

Paten
A small silver plate that is placed over the chalice on which Eucharistic bread is placed.

The Peace
The point in the liturgy when the members of the congregation and clergy and all who serve greet each other in the name of Christ.

Pentecost
The seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.

The Prayers of the People
A series of intercessory prayers on behalf of the church, the world, family and friends, those who have died. An intercessor leads the prayers and members of the congregation offer their own as well.

Preface
In the liturgy, the first part of the Great Thanksgiving up to the Sanctus.

Presiding Bishop
The elected episcopal head of the Episcopal Church in America; the chief administrator and spiritual head.

Priest
A person called to serve and minister to a congregation as its practical and spiritual leader, who is ordained by the Episcopal church and authorized to perform sacred rites and rituals.

Procession, To Process
That point in the liturgy when the choir, acolytes, clergy, and EMs enter the church and proceed to the altar.

Psalm
A sacred poem of worship from the Old Testament.

Reception
A ceremony, usually celebrated by the bishop, in which someone who has been baptized in another Christian tradition which has bishops is received as a member of the Episcopal church.

Rector
The priest in charge of a parish.

Rite I and Rite II
Rite I and Rite II are two forms of liturgy for celebrating Holy Communion. Rite I is a more pentential liturgy similar to that found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (the latest version before the 1979 revisions). Rite II is a more contemporary form created for the 1979 revision.

Sacrament
A sacred rite such as Eucharist, marriage, or baptism.

Sanctuary
The area of the church around an altar.

Sanctus
The hymn that is sung or said at the conclusion of the Preface and begins “Holy, holy, holy….”

Sequence Hymn
The hymn that is sung while the clergy and acolytes process into the midst of the congregation in preparation for reading of the Gospel lesson.

Tenebrae
A service on Wednesday of Holy Week that begins the last three days before Easter, marked by the progressive extinguishing of candles in the church.

Trinity Sunday
The first Sunday after Pentecost, acknowledging the mystery and unity of the Holy Trinity (God the father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit)

Undercroft
The lower level of the St. Andrew’s building – directly below the church.  It currently is used for Outreach Ministries like the Food Pantry and hosting homeless families for a week.  

Ushers
Our greeting tandem who gather offerings and help make sure services run smoothly.

Veil
On the altar, a seasonally colored cloth that is placed over the pall in some Episcopal churches.

Vestments
The outer robes and capes that clergy wear and whose colors follow the seasons of the church year. White is the color for major festivals such as Christmas, Easter and All Saints Day; red is the color of Palm Sunday, Pentecost, and the Feasts of Martyrs; green is the color for “Ordinary Time,” such as Epiphany; and purple is the color of Advent and Lent, although blue is common in Advent as well and unbleached linen is acceptable for Lent.

Vestry
Nine members of the congregation who have been elected to serve with the rector as the governing board of the parish.

Warden, Junior
One of two vestry members chosen to serve the parish in a special capacity. The Jr. Warden is elected and serves one year in that capacity. In the following . The tasks for a junior warden vary from parish to parish, and in may parishes the Junior Wardens find themselves placed in charge of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Warden, Senior
The other of two vestry members chosen to serve the parish in a special capacity. Although the duties vary widely due to local canons, in most cases the Senior Warden is viewed as the “top” lay person in a parish.
(adapted from Glossary provided by St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Stockton, IL)