Absolution: [ab-suh-loo-shuhn] This is the act of absolving; a freeing from blame or guilt; release from consequences, obligations, or penalties. It is also a declaration or assurance of divine forgiveness to penitent believers, made after confession of sins.

Anglican Communion: This is the gathering of Anglican and Episcopal churches from around the world. Today, the Anglican Communion comprises more than 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches in more than 160 countries.  The Episcopal church is part of the Anglican Communion, and is comprised of 110 dioceses in 16 nations. At the head of the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The Episcopal church, established shortly after the American Revolution, has its roots in the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church, known as the Church of England, had a strong following in colonial America. But when the colonies won their independence, the majority of America’s Anglican clergy refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch as was required. As a result, the Episcopal Church was formed. The vibrancy of the Anglican Communion reflects the lives of its congregants and their commitment to God’s mission in the world.

Anointing: The act of applying consecrated oil, used in Baptism, Confirmation, and Ministration to the Sick. Traditionally, this is an action signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit in such rites; the use of oil is in some places associated with other rites in which the individual so anointed is set apart for special reasons, such as Ordination.

Apostles' Creed: Ancient summary statement of faith used in the Prayer Book in the Daily Offices and in the rite for Baptism. It is one of the historic statements fundamental to the nature of the church:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Baptism: [bap-tiz-uhm] The ceremonial immersion in water, or application of water, as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church.

Bishop: Bishops are the chief pastors for their diocese; they are responsible for ensuring that the faith proclaimed in parishes is the faith of the church. Bishops have the special office to ordain priests and deacons, and together with other bishops to ordain or consecrate other bishops. They are also the chief ministers in the rite of Confirmation, although the Prayer Book encourages bishops to act out their overall pastoral role by performing Baptisms and celebrating the Eucharist when they do Confirmations. Bishops are required to visit all the parishes and missions in their diocese at regular intervals. They also preside at diocesan conventions and have administrative responsibility for diocesan activities. Each diocese has a diocesan bishop, elected by that diocese meeting in convention to be the chief liturgical and administrative officer of the diocese. See image to left.


Book of Common Prayer (BCP): Also referred to as the Prayer Book, this is the book that makes if possible for the Episcopal Church to be a pragmatic church wich understands its identity through participation in corporate worship. The first Book of Common Prayer was produced by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549; he also produced a revision in 1552. With these books worship could be conducted in English rather than in Latin; they also brought the diverse rites and services of the medieval church together into one book for use by both clergy and layfolk. The Prayer Book  for Episcopalians has gone through a number of revisions. The first Prayer Book for the American Church was approved in 1789; the lastest, the Prayer Book of 1979, is now in use. The Prayer Book is essential to the character of the Episcopal Church because its use holds together congregations with very different styles of worship and emphasis within the broader traditions of Christian belief and practice.

Confirmation: The rite administered to baptized persons, as a sacrament for confirming and strengthening the recipient in the Christian faith and as a rite by which the recipient is admitted to full communion with the church.

Consecrate: [kon-si-kreyt] To make or declare sacred, set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity.

Daily Offices: These form the basis of Anglican spirituality, as well as its life of prayer and reading of the Bible. Archbishop Cranmer set the pattern when he reduced the eight monastic services of payaer, reading, psalmody, and praise to two and put them in a book to be used by all clergy and layfolk. The Daily Office lectionary is arranged in a two-year cycle of readings which takes the user through most of the Bible. The Psalms are repeated every seven weeks. The Offices also provide opportunity for Confession and Absolution and intercessory prayer.

Deacon: Along with priests and bishops, this is one of the three offices to which people can be ordained in the Episcopal Church. The first deacons were ordained to help bishops with service to the poor and the distribution of alms. As a result, the diaconate's special emphasis is in serving, especially to the wear, the poor, the sick, and the lonely beyond the church doors. The vestment worn by deacons when assisting at the altar is a tunic worn over an alb and stole. During worship, deacons may read the Gospel, lead the Prayers of the People, issue the invitation to confession, prepare the altar, help with the distribution of the bread and wine, and proclaim the dismissal. They often take bread and wine to those who cannot attend regular church services. Deacons undergo a rigorous process, similar to that followed by those asiring to the priesthood. See image to left.


Holy Eucharist: [yoo-kuh-rist] Also known as Holy Communion, the Eucharist (which literally means "thanksgiving"), mass. This is the family meal for Christians and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. As such, all persons who have been baptized, and are therefore part of the extended family that is the Church, are welcome to receive the bread and wine, and be in communion with God and each other.

Laying on of Hands: This action especially associated with the conveyance of the Holy Spirt, is used by priests in Baptism and Ministration to the Sick, and by bishops in Confirmation and Ordination rites. See image to left.

Liturgy: [lit-er-jee] The from of public worship or ritual.

Ordain: to officially appoint (by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority

Prayer Book: See Book of Common Prayer.

Rector: The chief sacramental officer and professional ordained person in a parish, who is called by the vestry. Other clergy who work for a parish are on the staff of the rector.

Rite: The formal or ceremonial act in religious services.

Suffrages: suf·frage[suhf-rij] This a prayer, especially a short intercessory prayer or petition.

Vestry: The group consisting of the rector of a parish and layfolk elected by the congregation at the annual parish meeting to be the legal governing and decision-making group in the parish. This group is called the vestry because at one time it customarily met in the vestry of the church (vestry room). It is the vestry's responsibility to be the final decision-making body which hires the rector, approves the parish budget, makes parish policy decisions, and spends the parish money. Vestry membership usually rotates among members of the congregation. Each vestry has a senior warden, often nominated by the rector, and a junior warden, both elected from among members of the vestry either by the congregation or by the vestry itself. The senior warden is to be the spokesperson of the vestry, while the junior warden is to be responsible for building and grounds.