An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

A - Z Glossary

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A Jewish festival of eight days that celebrates the events leading to the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. According to the accounts of the Book of Exodus, a lamb was sacrificed by each household. Its blood was sprinkled on the lintel and door posts so that the Lord would pass over houses which bore these... Read More »

The word "pastor" derives from the work of tending sheep: a pastor is one who cares for sheep. The term came into the Christian understanding of the ordained ministry because of the frequent references in Holy Scripture to God as a shepherd of the people of Israel and Jesus as the Good Shepherd. A... Read More »

The ministry of caring at the heart of the church's life. It may include hospital visitation, counseling, and ministries of shared presence, listening, and support. Pastoral care can refer to the ministries of hospital chaplains, pastoral counselors and therapists, social workers, and other... Read More »

A lay person licensed under special circumstances to exercise pastoral or administrative responsibility in a congregation. A pastoral leader may be licensed to lead regularly the offices authorized by the Prayer Book. This ministry is licensed under the provisions of the canon for licensed lay... Read More »

From the Latin littera pastoral, the original definition was an official letter addressed by a bishop to all members of the diocese. Pastoral letters may be issued in the Episcopal Church by the Presiding Bishop, the House of Bishops, or any diocesan bishop. The canons require that pastoral letters... Read More »

Prayer Book services that are done on an occasional basis according to pastoral need at significant moments in the lives of church members. The pastoral offices are also known as occasional offices. These services include the sacramental rites of Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a... Read More »

See Crozier, or Crosier.

A shallow dish or small plate for the bread at the eucharist. The bread is placed on the paten for consecration and distribution. It typically matches the chalice. The paten should be large enough to hold all the wafers or pieces of bread that will be distributed at communion.

See Lord's Prayer, The. Read More »

(c. 390-c. 460). Bishop and missionary of Ireland. He was born into a Christian family somewhere on the northwest coast of Britain. Patrick was the son of a local town councilman and deacon of the church. When Patrick was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates and forced to serve as a... Read More »

From the Latin pater, "father," and passio, "suffering," it is a form of modalism chiefly associated with a third-century Roman Christian teacher, Praxeas, whose work is known to us chiefly through Tertullian's treatise, Against Praxeas. Praxeas regarded Word and Spirit as mere names or modes... Read More »

The term is from the Latin and Greek for "father." It is the study of the lives and writings of the "Fathers" of the first centuries of the church. It now usually includes the study of the contributions of the "Mothers" of this period as well, when their history and works can be discovered. The... Read More »

The feast of the patron saint or title of a church, school, religious order, or other organization. The custom of having a patron saint can be traced to the practice of building churches over the tombs of martyrs. Patron saints may be chosen for a variety of reasons. For example, a church that was... Read More »

(Apr. 1, 1827-Sept. 21, 1871). Bishop and martyr. Born in London, Patteson graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1849, and in 1852 became a fellow at Merton College. He was ordained deacon on Sept. 14, 1853, and priest on Sept. 24, 1854. After a brief ministry at Alfington, Devonshire, he was... Read More »

(d. c. 64). Apostle to the Gentiles, author of several NT epistles, preeminent Christian missionary. He was originally named Saul. He was a Jew of the Diaspora, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, and a native of Tarsus in Cilicia. He spoke and wrote in Greek. Saul held Roman citizenship from birth... Read More »

Candles in long holders or poles in stands that rest on the floor (or pavement) of the church. Pavement lights are free-standing. They may be placed near an ambo or the altar and lighted during church services.

See Peace, The.

See Peace, The.

See Peace, The.

(Jan. 9, 1815-Oct. 23, 1874). First Missionary Bishop sent to Africa by the Episcopal Church. He was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Payne graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1833 and from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1836. He was ordained deacon on July 17, 1836. Payne... Read More »

A liturgical exchange of greeting through word and gesture. It is a sign of reconciliation, love, and renewed relationships in the Christian community. It is initiated by the celebrant, who says, "The peace of the Lord be always with you." The people respond, "And also with you." The ministers and... Read More »

A cross, typically of silver or gold, suspended by a chain around the neck. The cross hangs at about the breastbone or pectoral muscles of the wearer. It may be adorned with jewels. It was used by the Pope in the thirteenth century and came into general use by bishops and certain other prelates in... Read More »

See Foot Washing.

A heresy taking its name from Pelagius, a lay monk from either Britain or Ireland, who came to Rome in the early fifth century. Pelagius denied that infants were born in a state of original sin and taught that Christ came merely to give humankind a good example to counteract the bad example of Adam... Read More »

In the sacramental rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent, penance is a task assigned by the priest to the person who has confessed his or her sins. It is something to be said or done as a sign of penitence and an act of thanksgiving for God's forgiveness (BCP, p. 446). The penitent may be... Read More »

Prayer in which we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives (BCP, p. 857). The Prayer Book Catechism identifies penitence as one of the seven principal kinds of prayer (p. 856). In the sacramental rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent, those who... Read More »

A person seeking the church's ministry of reconciliation by making a confession to a confessor. The Reconciliation of a Penitent is one of the sacramental rites of the Episcopal Church (BCP, p. 860). Through reconciliation, penitents are restored to full fellowship in the Christian community... Read More »

The eucharist may begin with a penitential order (BCP, pp. 319-321, 351-353). The Penitential Order includes an acclamation and the confession of sin and absolution. It may also include the decalogue, and one or more appropriate sentences of scripture. These sentences of scripture include the... Read More »

In the Christian liturgical tradition seven psalms have been singled out as penitential psalms: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. They express human penitence for sin before God and are particularly appropriate for the penitential season of Lent. For example, Ps 51 begins "Have mercy on me, O God,... Read More »

Manuals or guides for confessors, including prayers, lists of questions to be asked by the confessor, and penances to be assigned for various sins. The practice of private penance, or reconciliation of a penitent, began in the Celtic Church and later spread through Europe with the Celtic and Anglo-... Read More »

(July 14, 1893-Aug. 16, 1963). Priest and educator. He was born in Asheville, North Carolina, and studied at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Harvard University. He received his Master in Engineering from Lehigh University in 1914 and his B.D. from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1924.... Read More »

(Jan. 15, 1891-Dec. 10, 1951). Historian of the Episcopal Church. He was born in Madison, Georgia. Pennington received his B.A. in 1911 and his LL.B. in 1914, both from the University of Georgia. He was an ensign in the U.S. Navy during World War I. He gave up the practice of law for the ordained... Read More »

Organized at Christ Church, Philadelphia, on May 24, 1784, the diocese was divided in 1865 and again in 1871. The Diocese of Pennsylvania includes the following counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia. On Jan. 1, 1992, the Church of the Saviour, Philadelphia, was designated... Read More »

The biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The term is from the Greek for "five" and "book." The Pentateuch is traditionally called the Five Books of Moses. The Hebrew term Torah is also used to indicate the Pentateuch. It recounts the history of ancient Israel from... Read More »

The term means "the fiftieth day." It is used in both the OT and the NT. In the OT it refers to a feast of seven weeks known as the Feast of Weeks. It was apparently an agricultural event that focused on the harvesting of first fruits. Josephus referred to Pentecost as the fiftieth day after the... Read More »

The season after Pentecost, according to the calendar of the church year (BCP, p. 32). It begins on the Monday following Pentecost, and continues through most of the summer and autumn. It may include as many as twenty-eight Sundays, depending on the date of Easter. This includes Trinity Sunday... 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.