Anglican Glossary

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A declaration by a bishop or priest, announcing forgiveness by God to those who have confessed their sins.


A lay volunteer who assists the priest in worship.


A full-length white vestment that was the basic liturgical garment of the early church.

Altar Guild

A group of lay people in a church who prepare the altar and maintain the furnishings in a church building.


A term which comes from the word angle, “Anglican” actually means “English” and refers to the church’s place of origin.

Apostolic Succession

The doctrine which holds that bishops are the direct successors of the original apostles in an unbroken line to the ministry to which Jesus Himself ordained the apostles.


A bishop in charge of a group of dioceses in a geographical area. The form of address is “The Most Reverend” or “Your Grace.”


A priest who is part of a bishop’s staff and usually has administrative supervision over the diocese.


The sacrament of baptism occurs when a candidate is immersed in or has water poured on him or her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism has multiple meanings, including cleansing from sin and being adopted by God into His family.


A bishop is the chief pastor of a local diocese of churches. The bishop stands as the guardian of the faith, fosters unity, executes discipline when needed, and proclaims the Word of God. The title “bishop” comes from the New Testament Greek word epískopos, which means “overseer.” Bishops wear purple shirts and a large gold cross.

Book of Common Prayer

A collection of historic prayers, devotions, and services that was originally compiled by Thomas Cranmer. Commonly called the “Prayer Book” and often abbreviated as the BCP.

Care of souls

“A term used historically in a broad sense, especially in the Protestant traditions, to describe the ministry of pastors, who are entrusted with the spiritual health of their congregations and whose ministries in a variety of ways seek to care for the lives of their people.”Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 42.


A black robe worn by priests or deacons, usually with a white over-garment called a surplice. Lay readers, choir members, and acolytes also wear cassocks.


A historic form of discipleship that is usually based on questions and answers. The Greek word for “instruct” or “teach” is katecheo, from which we get our English word “catechize.”


The church in which the diocesan bishop is seated and is often the gathering place for many of the diocese’s major worship celebrations and events. The rector of a cathedral is given the title of Dean of the Cathedral.


A term that is used in the historic creeds and literally means “universal.”


The person who leads the worship service. In a Eucharist, the celebrant is the bishop, or someone whom the bishop appoints to lead the service for him or her.


A vessel in which incense is burned on charcoal.


The cup that contains the wine used at Communion.


The person who administers the chalice during Communion.


The section of a church building between the nave and the sanctuary; usually the place where the choir sits.


An oval-shaped liturgical vestment worn by the celebrant during Communion.


A cup that resembles a chalice, except that it has a removable lid. A ciborium is used to hold communion wafers during the Eucharist.


A group of ordained people who have been consecrated for ministry in the church.


A prayer that is designed to “collect” the thoughts of the lessons and bind the thoughts of the congregation together.


When a person makes a public confession and affirmation of their faith, fulfilling the vows their godparents made for them at their baptism. The bishop lays his hands on them and prays for the Holy Spirit to strengthen them.


The word literally means “to set aside” (for special divine use). At the Eucharist, the elements of bread and wine are consecrated during the liturgy.


A square piece of linen that is laid on top of the altar cloth at Communion.


The bishop’s staff, which is carried in a procession and held when giving the absolution or blessing.


A glass or metal vessel that is used to hold the water and wine for the Eucharist.

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