Glossary of Terms

The Episcopal Church uses some terminology that may be unfamiliar. Some of these terms are defined below (as they apply at St. John’s). If you find a term that you think should be included, please let us know.

  • Anthem – A piece of sacred music sung by the choir only
  • Chalice – Goblet (usually silver) used for wine at Holy Communion
  • Chancel – The raised space at the front of the church where the choir, pulpit, lectern and altar are located.  Includes the sanctuary
  • Cloister – The hallway connecting the nave (church building) to the parish hall
  • Communion or Holy Communion or Holy Eucharist or Lord’s Supper or Mass – Ritual meal celebrating God’s love for us as shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • Curate – The assistant priest. A curate is often a recently ordained priest in her or his first position after seminary.
  • Junior Warden – An officer of the vestry
  • Lector – Member of the congregation who reads the scripture lessons during the liturgy
  • Liturgy – The worship service. From the Greek, “work of the people.”
  • Morning Prayer – A traditional service of prayer and music with a sermon. At St. John’s a Sunday service of Morning Prayer also includes Holy Communion.
  • Narthex – Vestibule inside the front door of the church, leading to the nave
  • Nave – Central part of the church, where the pews are located
  • Oblation Bearers – Members of the congregation who bring the bread and wine for Communion to the altar during the liturgy
  • Parish Hall – A large room where the church often gathers for social occasions, including coffee hour
  • Rector – The head priest. In addition to being a spiritual leader, acts as a CEO for the church.
  • Sacristy – Room adjoining the chancel in which vestments and other items used in the liturgy are stored and in which the altar guild carries out some of its duties and the clergy, lay readers and acolytes dress
  • Sanctuary – Section of the church within the altar rails
  • Senior Warden – Leader of the vestry. Functions similarly to a board chairman.
  • Undercroft – The basement area of the church (below the parish hall) with classrooms, meeting area, and kitchen
  • Vestments – Robes worn by clergy, choir, and Eucharistic ministers during the liturgy
  • Vestry – Functions like the board of a non-profit. Responsible for the budget and general oversight of the church