"I speak Episcopalian"

If you're new to the Episcopal Church, you may find some of the terminology a bit difficult to understand, much less pronounce.  We've borrowed liberally from many other sources to compile this list of definitions to help you understand what goes on at Trinity.



Sanctuary - Many Protestant denominations use the word to refer to the whole inside of the church building, but this is not the usual Episcopal usage.  From the Latin word sanctus, meaning "holy." The sanctuary is the part of the church building where the altar or holy table is -- the area behind the altar rail. 


Nave - The main part of a church building; the place where the congregation sits. Probably derived from the Latin word navis, meaning "ship." (As in Noah's ark) In medieval England the derogatory term "knave" (commoner) developed from nave, because the nave is the area of the building where the "common" people sit.


Altar - A table, usually in the sanctuary, on which the bread and wine used in the Communion service are consecrated. Also known as and referred to in the prayer book as the Holy Table.


Undercroft - An undercroft was traditionally a cellar or storage room, often brick-lined and vaulted, and used for storage in buildings since medieval times, particularly churches. In modern usage, an undercroft is generally a ground (street-level) area which is relatively open to the sides, but covered by the building above.  At Trinity, our undercroft is the home to the Church Down Under and Children's Chapel services.


Lectern - From the Latin, lectrum, meaning "reading desk" - A raised platform used for reading prayers or scripture; usually located at the front of the nave, opposite the pulpit, on the epistle side.


Transept - The section of a cross-shaped (cruciform) church at right angles to the nave. It is also the name for the aisle in front of the first pew, that separates the nave from the chancel.


Rood Beam - A beam in a medieval church across the entrance to the choir, supporting the rood and usually forming the head of the rood screen.  The rood beam supports the Great Rood, a sculptural depiction of the Crucifixion.


Rood Screen - The rood screen (also choir screen, chancel screen, or jube) is a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron. The rood screen would originally have been surmounted by a rood loft carrying the Great Rood, a sculptural representation of the Crucifixion.  Trinity does not have a rood screen.


Choir - From Latin, chorus, meaning a group of singers. A choir is group of lay people (voluntary or paid) that help lead the singing during a worship service and sometimes offer special anthems to enhance worship. The word "choir" can also used to define the chancel, the part of the church building where the choir sits. Sometimes also spelled "quire."  


Ambulatory - A side aisle in a church building, between the pews and the side walls, most often used for special processions.


Chancel - From the Latin cancelli, meaning "a grating" or "lattice." Chancel is the name for the section of a church building between the nave and the sanctuary; usually the place the choir sits; sometimes also called the "choir". It is also usually a few steps higher than the nave.


Crucifix - From Latin, crux, meaning "cross." A crucifix is a cross bearing the likeness of the body of Christ on it.


Narthex - In Greek, the word literally means "a large fennel" (a tall herb). In church architecture, the narthex is an enclosed space at the entry end of the nave of a building; the area in the church building inside the doors and in front of the nave. The narthex is usually enclosed (primarily to provide a buffer between the outside weather and the heating/cooling inside), and is the area where theprocession gathers prior to the service.


Pulpit - From the Latin, pulpitum, meaning "a platform." A raised platform or podium used for the sermon or homily; generally located in the front of the gospel side of the nave. In some Colonial church buildings and in many non-Episcopal churches, the pulpit is in the center, to signify the importance of the sermon.



Clergy - The group of ordained people, consecrated for unique ministry for a particular church or denomination.


Rector - The head priest of a parish; the word, in Latin means "ruler." If a parish has more than one clergy, the others are called Assistant Rectors or Associate Rectors. A mission cannot have a rector. A mission has a priest-in-charge, who is often called a vicar.


Vicar - From the Latin word vicarius, meaning "a substitute." An English term referring to a priest in charge of a mission. Technically, the diocesan bishop is the rector of all diocesan missions, and vicars are appointed to their mission by the local diocesan bishop to represent him or her. The term "Vicar" is still the terminology used today to describe an English priest in who is charge of acongregation.


Deacon - The subservient rank in the three orders of the Church's ministry (Bishop, Priest, Deacon). There are two types of deacons - transitional deacons, who will soon be ordained to the priesthood, and permanent deacons, who chose the order as a permanent servant ministry. Priests are first ordained to the diaconate to remind them and the Church that they are, and that they always will be servants (see Matthew 20:25-28).


Clerical - An adjective referring to ordained people and their work.


Curate - From Latino curatus, meaning "the person in charge." The term should mean the "head priest" if literally interpreted, but instead has come to refer to a transitional deacon or an assistant to therector. Usually a curate is one who recently graduated from seminary, and is in the process of "learning the ropes," or "curing."


Canon - The term comes from the Greek word kannon, that means "measuring rod or ruler." In the Church we speak of canon law, the canon of Scripture, and people called canons. The canon of Scripture refers to the books of the Bible that are accepted as genuine and inspired by God. When used in reference to people, a canon is the title of a priest who either serves on the staff of a cathedral, or who has exhibited exemplary service to a diocese.



Vestments - Vestments are clothing worn by clergy and lay people when they are conducting public worship. 


Alb - A long, white garment with narrow sleeves.  An alb is the basic garment worn by ordained and lay ministers at the Eucharist and other church services. The word alb is derived from the Latin alba, meaning white.


Surplice - The surplice is a type of tunic of white linen or cotton fabric, typically knee or ankle length, with wide, full sleeves.  The surplice is worn over a cassock.


Cassock - The long plain robe, typically black, worn by priests.  Sometimes worn with a surplice over it.


Chasuable - A sleeveless outer vestment worn by the celebrant during the Eucharist, the chasuble may be oval or oblong with an opening for the head. It typically reflects the liturgical color of the day.  Chasubles vary widely in fabric and style, from plain cloth to elaborate designs. 


Cope - A ceremonial cloak – or cape – that is semicircular, richly ornamented, with a clasp in front and a hood in back. It is worn over the alb and stole. The shape is derived from the outdoor overcoat worn in the Roman empire. The presider usually wears a cope at non-Eucharistic liturgies in place of the chasuble. 


Stole - long, narrow band of fabric draped around the neck with the long ends hanging down the front of the priest; stoles correspond in color to the liturgical season.  Some are ornate and others are very simple.  This is the priest's preference.



Liturgy - The central act of Christian worship and commemoration of the central events of Christian faith - also known as The Lord’s Supper, Communion, The Great Thanksgiving, and the Mass - in which bread and wine are consecrated by the celebrant and distributed to the people as the body and blood of Christ.  


Liturgical - having to do with the liturgy.


Collect -











Sanctus Bells








Chalice Bearer





Wardens (Junior and Senior)

Altar Guild





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