Some of the following terms are common to other Christian denominations. Some terms are specific to the Episcopal Church with its rich history and roots in the Church of England.
Acolytes – Laypersons (often young people aged 11-18) who assist in a variety of ways in worship processions and at the altar along with clergy and lay Eucharistic Ministers.
Altar Guild – A group of laypersons 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.).
Anglican – simply means English; a term indicating the English origins of the Episcopal Church.
Apostles Creed – The ancient baptismal confession of the Church.
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.
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; it is the collection of liturgies authorized for use in the Anglican/Episcopal Church. In the Episcopal tradition, we employ “liturgical prayer” instead of making up our own, 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. Nearly all services in any Episcopal Church will be printed in this book.
Click | To view or download The Book of Common Prayer
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.
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.). It is a 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.
Creed – A statement of the basic tenets of Christian faith that is said in unison by the congregation and clergy.
Crucifer – a person in a religious procession who bears the cross and who leads the procession into the church.
Deacon – An ordained minister whose voluntary ministry focuses on the bridge between the church and the wider world. In the liturgy, the deacon’s main functions at the Eucharist are to read the Gospel, prepare the gifts at the Offertory, assist with the administration of Communion, help with the ablutions, dismiss the people, and in some churches to lead the Prayers of the People.
Diocese – A geographical designation of a collection of Episcopal parishes under the direction and guidance of a bishop.
Episcopal – Of or pertaining to a bishop; we are called Episcopal because we have bishops.
Epistle – Generally, a letter. 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 Sunday School curriculum that is used at many Episcopal churches.
Homily – A short sermon.
Lay Eucharistic Ministers – Members of the congregation who are trained to assist at the altar as Chalice Bearers and carry consecrated sacraments to homebound parishioners.
Lector / Reader – A person who reads one of the selected readings from the Old and New Testament during Sunday services.
Liturgical Year – The cycle of seasons of the church year, including in order; Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
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.
Morning Prayer – Is a “prayer” Service (with monastic roots) used for daily prayer in the Episcopal Church .
Narthex – The entrance hall of the building; also known as the foyer.
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.
Open Communion – Anyone of any age who seeks God may take communion.
Prayers of the People – A series of intercessory prayers on behalf of the church, the world, family, friends, and those who have died. An intercessor leads the prayers and members of the congregation offer their own as well.
Presiding Bishop – The elected Episcopal leader of the Episcopal Church in America; the chief administrator and spiritual head.
Priest – A person (man or woman; single or married) who is ordained by the Episcopal Church and authorized to perform sacred rites and rituals, such as the Eucharist.
Rector – The priest in charge of a self-supporting parish.
Rite I and Rite II – Rite I and Rite II are two forms of liturgy for celebrating Holy Communion. Rite I follows more faithfully the language 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.
Sacrament – A sacred rite such as Eucharist, marriage, or baptism.
Sexton – It is the Anglican term for the staff member in charge of church maintenance.
Shrove Tuesday – The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. To be “shriven” of your sins is to confess and be absolved. A pancake and porkie dinner has been a tradition at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and other Episcopal parishes. It is said to derive from the habit of using up fat and fattening foods before the Lenten season.
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 also common in Advent and unbleached linen is acceptable for Lent.
Vestry – Along with the rector or vicar, the governing board of the parish.
Vicar – The priest in charge of a parish or mission that is supported financially from the outside.
Wafer – The bread part of the Lord’s Supper. It is often an unleavened, thin, cracker-like substance of varying sizes that may be imprinted with a cross.
Warden, Junior – A person elected at the Annual Meeting to be one of two wardens who together are the representative lay leaders of the parish. Together with the treasurer the Wardens are ex officio members of the Vestry. The tasks for a Junior Warden vary from parish to parish, but often involve buildings and grounds.
Warden, Senior – The person appointed by the Rector, or elected by the congregation who with the Junior Warden represent lay leaders of the parish.