An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

A - Z Glossary

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(d. Jan. 20, 250). Early Pope and martyr. According to the early church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, the Roman-born Fabian was chosen to succeed Pope Anterus when a dove descended from heaven and lighted on his head. He was Pope from Jan. 10, 236, until his death. Fabian was an opponent of the... Read More »

1) Authority or license from an ecclesiastical superior to perform an action. 2) A branch of instruction at a college, school, or university. The traditional university faculties were theology, canon and civil law, medicine, and arts. The term may also refer to the instructors in a branch of... Read More »

A long white cloth that covers the top of the altar. It typically hangs down some distance over the ends of the altar. The BCP directs that at the eucharist the altar "is spread with a clean white cloth during the celebration" (p. 406). Historically, in the early church, a small table was brought... Read More »

This school was opened in 1803 by the Rev. Caleb Alexander, a Presbyterian minister. In 1813 an Episcopalian, the Rev. Bethel Judd, became the Principal. Trinity Church, New York City, gave it a grant of $750 provided it should give free tuition to four divinity students of the Episcopal Church. As... Read More »

The Faith and Order Movement was an early attempt to reunite the divided Christian churches by means of dialogue and analysis of divisive issues of doctrine (faith) and polity (order). The 1910 General Convention passed a resolution to appoint a joint commission to bring about a conference to... Read More »

Backless chair with arms or stool that can be used for sitting or as a prayer desk. The term is from the Latin, "folding stool." It is portable, and it may or may not fold. It was historically used by a bishop or prelate who does not occupy the episcopal throne in the sanctuary. The term may... Read More »

A brief composition, usually for brass instruments or organ trumpet stops. A fanfare is often in a martial style used to proclaim important events, such as the moment a new bishop is presented to a congregation following ordination and consecration.

Fasting is abstaining wholly or partially from all or certain foods, for physical or spiritual health. The extent and rigor of abstinence depends largely on custom and circumstance. Ancient Jews used fasting extensively. Christ taught it and practiced it. Early Christians fasted on specific days of... Read More »

" Honorific title used by some male priests. Anglican usage of the title dates from the ritual revival of the Anglo-catholic movement of the nineteenth century. It was borrowed from Roman Catholic practice, and it spread to widespread acceptance among Anglo-catholics. By the late twentieth century... Read More »

From the French, meaning "false bass," this fifteenth-century term is used to describe a style of composition in which the melody, usually a plainsong tune, is moved to a lower voice, often the tenor. Since much early chant-based music found the melody in the lower or bass voice, music in this... Read More »

One of three great festivals of Israel requiring attendance of all males. Also called Ingathering (in Hebrew, Sukkoth), Tabernacles was an autumn feast observed at the time of the full moon of the seventh month. It continued for eight days (Ex 23:16; 34:22; Lv 23:33-36; Dt. 16:13-17). The Feast of... Read More »

The calendar of the church year includes two cycles of feasts and holy days. One cycle is based on the movable date of Easter Day, and the other is based on the fixed date of Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that falls on or after Mar. 21. The four Sundays... Read More »

(193-211). They were put in prison. A number of Carthaginians were martyred in 202, including Felicitas. A contemporary account of the martyrdoms is in The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity. Felicitas is commemorated on Mar. 7, the feast of Perpetua and her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage. See... Read More »

An ordinary weekday in the liturgical calendar, a day that is neither a feast nor a fast. A ferial day is understood as an extension of the preceding Sunday. The collect and proper readings for the Sunday eucharist are used in weekday celebrations of the eucharist unless otherwise provided. Ferial... Read More »

Small pieces of the consecrated bread from the episcopal Mass, called fermentum (leaven), were sent to parish churches and placed in the consecrated wine at the eucharist to signify the unity of the Christian assembly with their bishop. This practice dates from the fifth century in Rome. It... Read More »

(Feb. 22, 1592-Dec. 4, 1637). Priest and founder of Little Gidding. He was born in London. Ferrar received his B.A. in 1610 and his M.A. in 1613, both from Clare College, Cambridge. In 1626 Ferrar, his widowed mother, and the families of his brother and brother-in-law established a religious... Read More »

(Dec. 23, 1908-Nov. 26, 1972). Seminary professor and ecumenist. He was born in Port Chester, New York. Ferris received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1929 and his B.D. from General Theological Seminary in 1933. He was ordained deacon on June 11, 1933, and priest on May 27, 1934. From 1933... Read More »

Concerning a feast day or festivity. Something that is joyous and festive.

See Feasts of the Church Year.

Latin for "and the Son." The words were added to the Nicene Creed at the Council of Toledo in 589 and gradually grew in acceptance in the west. The filioque states that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but from the Father and the Son. The Eastern Orthodox churches condemn the... Read More »

This periodical was published by the Department of Religious Education of the National Council of the Episcopal Church from Mar. 1927 until Oct. 1932. It was for leaders in Christian education.

See Sunday.


A large vessel with handle and spout, shaped like a pitcher. It is used as a container for wine or water at the eucharist. It may be made of metal, pottery, or glass. The Prayer Book directs that only one chalice is to be on the altar during the Great Thanksgiving. This emphasizes the symbolism of... Read More »

(Apr. 10, 1905-Oct. 28, 1991). Leading proponent of situation ethics. He was born in Newark, New Jersey. He received his B.A. from the University of West Virginia in 1929 and his B.D. from the Berkeley Divinity School in the same year. He was ordained deacon on June 23, 1929, and priest on Sept. 7... Read More »

The primary convention of this diocese met at St. John's Church, Tallahassee, on Jan. 17, 1838. However, the diocese did not consecrate a bishop until Oct. 15, 1851. On May 2, 1861, the diocese voted to send delegates to the first preliminary meeting of the dioceses of the Confederate States... Read More »

A school for boys founded by William Augustus Muhlenberg. Muhlenberg resigned as rector of St. James' Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1826, and moved to Flushing, Long Island. He became supply priest at St. George's Church in Flushing, and later became the rector. Several men in... Read More »

" Pejorative name given to the ceremony in which Reginald Heber Weller was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Fond du Lac on Nov. 8, 1900. Charles C. Grafton was the Bishop of Fond du Lac at the time and a leading proponent of Anglo-catholicism. Grafton's bishop coadjutor was... Read More »

The General Convention of 1874 voted to divide the Diocese of Wisconsin. The primary convention of the Diocese of Fond du Lac met at St. Paul's Church, Fond du Lac, on Jan. 7, 1875. On Jan. 11, 1877, St. Paul's Church, Fond du Lac, was set apart as St. Paul's Cathedral. The General... Read More »

The term comes from the Latin fons, "spring of water," and designates a receptacle for baptismal water. Fonts in the early church were pools or sunken basins, often in the shape of a cross, in which candidates were immersed in running water. Many fonts remained large even after infant baptism... Read More »

The washing of feet was a menial act of hospitality in the OT (see Gn 18:4, 19:2). It was often performed for guests by a servant or the wife of the host. The Gospel of John (13:1-17) records that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus urged the disciples to follow his... Read More »

See Predella.

(May 5, 1807-Oct. 11, 1885). Controversial priest and seminary dean. He was born in New York City. Forbes graduated from Columbia College in 1827 and from the General Theological Seminary in 1830. He was ordained deacon on Aug. 1, 1830, and priest on May 24, 1831. Forbes began his ordained ministry... Read More »

To forgive is to give up or absolve legitimate claims upon another, as when a debt is forgiven. In forgiveness, a relationship is restored or renewed. Central to Christian faith is the forgiveness of sins, understood as an action of God. God is understood to be forgiving, a God of love, mercy, and... Read More »

In sacramental theology, the words of prayer that express the meaning of the sacrament and the matter used in the sacrament. The words and the matter of the sacrament constitute a valid sacrament when used with appropriate intent by an appropriate minister. At the eucharist the form is the Great... Read More »

A scholarly method used for the interpretation of biblical texts. A form is a passage or unit of biblical material. It has a structure that is considered self-consistent. Units include miracle story, pronouncement story, legend, and saying. Herman Gunkel is an important OT form critic; Martin... Read More »


Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.