An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

A - Z Glossary

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Prayer of blessing drawn from Nm 6:24-26. An optional blessing at the close of An Order of Worship for the Evening (BCP, p. 114). The form of committal in the Burial of the Dead is an adaptation of the Aaronic Blessing (BCP, pp. 485, 501). It is provided as a Seasonal Blessing by the BOS for... Read More »

Female leader or superior of a religious community, usually a community following the Benedictine Rule. In community matters, the abbess has the same authority as an abbot, but without the abbot's sacramental function. The abbess is the spiritual, administrative, and jurisdictional superior of the... Read More »

A monastic community of religious persons along with the buildings of the community. The abbey consists of monks ruled by an abbot, or of nuns under an abbess. Abbeys are independent of the jurisdiction of the local bishop. The traditional plan of the buildings included an oratory (chapel), a... Read More »

Male leader or superior of a religious community. The title is derived from the Latin abbas or the Aramaic abba, "Father." The abbot functions as the "father" of the community. He is elected for life and receives authority from a bishop. The role of the abbot is to regulate the life of the... Read More »

A solemn renunciation of any belief, thing, or person to which one was previously loyal. This formal retraction of errors, made before witnesses, often concerned matters of apostasy, heresy, or schism. Prior to 1972, this solemn disavowal was required of baptized Christians being received into the... Read More »

See Abjuration.

Liturgical and ceremonial cleaning of the paten and chalice with water, or with water and wine, following the communion of the people at the Holy Eucharist. If the consecrated bread and wine are not reserved for later use, they are consumed by the ordained and lay ministers of the eucharist either... Read More »

A unit of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, from 1972 to 1978. Named for the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church, it was to be a resource institution for Episcopal seminarians who wanted to serve African American communities. Its only dean was Quinland Reeves... Read More »

The formal act by a bishop or priest of pronouncing God's forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. The absolution of sins reflects the ministry of reconciliation committed by Christ to the church. Absolution may be pronounced following private confession of sins, as provided for by the two... Read More »

See Days of Abstinence.

A salutation or greeting in the opening dialogue of the eucharistic liturgy arranged by versicle and response and varied according to the liturgical season. The memorial acclamation is a congregational response that may follow the institution narrative in the eucharistic prayers.

In contemporary Anglicanism, a general term which covers not only servers, torchbearers, and lighters of candles but also crucifers, thurifers, and banner-bearers. Acolytes are mentioned as a minor order (along with porters, lectors, and exorcists) as early as a letter of Pope Cornelius to Fabius... Read More »

(July 3, 1813-Jan. 2, 1897). One of the founders of Nashotah House, he was born in Monaghan, Ireland, and received his B.A. in 1836 from Trinity College, Dublin. In 1838 he came to the United States and entered the General Theological Seminary, New York, graduating in 1841. He was ordained deacon... Read More »

(Mar. 21, 1887-Feb. 13, 1953). A leader and authority in overseas missionary work, Addison was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and received his B.A. from Harvard in 1909. He received his B.D. from the Episcopal Theological School in 1913. Addison was ordained deacon on June 7, 1913, and priest on... Read More »

From the Greek, "things indifferent," matters which can be accepted or rejected without prejudice to belief. Such practices or beliefs may be tolerated or permitted, but may not be required of faithful members of the church. A sixteenth-century dispute among German Protestants over Roman Catholic... Read More »

A Hebrew word literally meaning "my lord," or simply "lord." It is frequently used in the OT to refer to human lords. However, in the period following the Exile when the proper name for God, Yahweh, was understood to be too holy to pronounce, Adonai was substituted. In most English translations,... Read More »

The teaching that Jesus was born an "ordinary man" who lived an exemplary life pleasing to God and was consequently "adopted" by God as the divine Son. The moment of adoption was usually considered to be his baptism. Jesus' resurrection was also considered by some the moment of his adoption.... Read More »

An expression of supreme love and worship for God alone. Adoration, one of the six principal kinds of prayer, "is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God's presence." (BCP, p. 857). Read More »

The first season of the church year, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continuing through the day before Christmas. The name is derived from a Latin word for "coming." The season is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming celebration of our Lord's nativity, and... Read More »

A service held during the pre-Christmas Advent season in which the reading of the scriptural history of salvation from the creation to the coming of Christ is interspersed with the singing of the great music of the season, including but not limited to carols. A traditional form of service is... Read More »

A circle of greenery, marked by four candles that represent the four Sundays of the season of Advent. An additional candle is lit as each new Sunday is celebrated in Advent. Advent wreaths are used both in churches and in homes for devotional purposes. The candles may be blue, purple, or lavender,... Read More »

The right to appoint a member of the clergy to a parish or other ecclesiastical benefice. The term also means the patronage of a church living. The right of advowson is a property right under English law. Advowson reflects the control that was exercised by feudal lords over churches on their... Read More »

(1109-Jan. 12, 1167). The son of a Saxon priest in Hexham, Northumberland, England, Aelred was a Cistercian monk at the abbey of Rievaulx who became the abbot there in 1147. His two major writings are Mirror of Charity and Spiritual Friendship. A biography of Aelred was written by his pupil, Walter... Read More »

A statement adopted by the St. Louis Congress, called by the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, Sept. 14-16, 1977. The Affirmation stated the basis for the structure of continuing Anglicanism in the United States and Canada. It argued that the Episcopal Church had "departed from Christ's One, Holy... Read More »

A method of administering baptism by pouring water over the head of the candidate. Baptism may also be administered by immersion of the candidate.

Mission school for training African American Episcopal clergy and laypersons for work in Africa, especially Liberia. It opened on Oct. 6, 1828, in Hartford, Connecticut. It was founded by the African Mission School Society, which was formed on Aug. 10, 1828. The rector of the school was the Rev.... Read More »

This periodical was established by George F. Bragg in 1886 at Petersburg, Virginia. It was published from 1886 until 1888. Beginning in 1889 it became a monthly and was published at Norfolk, Virginia. It ceased publication in 1890.

Selfless Christian love. Agape reflects the love of God, and it is the kind of love that Christians are called to share with one another. The term is also used for a common meal or "Love Feast" of the early church, from which the eucharist developed as a separate rite.

(d. 304). A martyr for the faith, Agnes died at the age of twelve in Rome during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. She is said to have been tortured and executed after refusing to worship the heathen gods. Her name means "pure" in Greek and "lamb" in Latin. Her principal iconograph is a... Read More »

Latin for "Lamb of God." The fraction anthem "Lamb of God" is based on Jn 1:29, and may be used in the celebration of the eucharist at the breaking of the bread (BCP, pp. 337, 407). The invocation is repeated three times, with the first two invocations followed by the phrase "Have mercy upon us."... Read More »

(d. Aug. 31, 651). A native of Ireland and a monk at Columba's monastery of Iona, Aidan is credited with restoring Christianity throughout northern England. Oswald, nephew of King Edwin, had been in exile at Iona, where he was converted and baptized. Edwin had been converted by a mission from... Read More »

Derived from the French for "wing," an aisle, historically, was an extension of a side or "wing" of the nave. It was built to enlarge the seating capacity of the church. This extension typically had a separate and lower roof. The aisle was separated from the central nave of the church by a... Read More »

A diocesan stewardship education project, it was born through a conversation between the Rev. William A. Yon, program director for Alabama and the Rt. Rev. Furman C. Stough, then Bishop of Alabama, in the spring of 1969. Their task was to come up with a grass roots plan for increasing pledges in a... Read More »

A diocese of the Episcopal Church which consists of all of Alabama except those counties in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. The primary convention was at Christ Church, Mobile, on Jan. 25, 1830. From then until 1844, when its first bishop was consecrated, the diocese had four provisional... Read More »

The General Convention of 1892 formed the Missionary District of Alaska. Alaska was a missionary district until 1972. The primary Convention of the Diocese was held Apr. 21-25, 1972, at All Saints' Church, Anchorage. The diocese does not have a cathedral. Read More »


A long white garment with narrow sleeves, which is the basic garment worn by ordained and lay ministers at the eucharist and at other church services. The alb (from Latin alba, meaning white) is derived from the undertunic of the Greeks and Romans of the fourth century. It may be girded at the... 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.