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1928 Prayer Book - A version of the Episcopal book of worship in use from 1928 to 1979; some services from this prayerbook have been retained in the current prayerbook as "Rite I" services. Preference for the use of the 1928 edition is sometimes associated with "conservative" attitudes in the Episcopal Church.

Ablutions - The cleansing of the chalice(s), paten, and other vessels after the administration of Communion. This may be done at the altar or at the credence, or after the dismissal.

Absolution - The pronouncement of God's forgiveness, after the Confession of Sin, by a bishop or priest at the Eucharist, Daily Offices, or in the Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP, 447ff.).

Acolyte - A term specifically applied to one who carries a torch or a candle in processions and at other times during the liturgy. This term is also commonly interchanged with server. Originally a minor clerical order but now usually a lay function in the church.

Acclamation - A versicle and response of praise at the beginning of the Eucharist and other services; also, in Rite II, the (memorial) response of the people during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Advent - The beginning of the Church Year and the four weeks leading up to and concluding with Christmas (the entire Christmas season).

Advent Wreath - A special wreath (circle of greens ) containing five candles used in churches and homes as reminders of the four Sundays before Christmas. Four of the candles are arranged in a circle, the fifth--a white candle--is placed in the center. By tradition one additional candle is lighted each Sunday until on the fourth Sunday all four candles are lighted. On Christmas, the fifth candle is lighted.

Agnus Dei - One of the anthems at the Breaking of the Bread; also found at the conclusion of the Great Litany (BCP, 337, 407,152).

Alb - A long, white, sleeved linen vestment worn over the cassock, covering the body from neck to ankles. It is derived from the under-tunic worn in Roman times.

Alleluia - An exclamation of praise and joy, used in various parts of the liturgy, except during Lent. Derived from the Hebrew, meaning "Praise the Lord."

Alleluia Verse - A passage of scripture with the acclamation "alleluia" sung or said before the proclamation of the Gospel. The Alleluia Verse is not used in Lent (see Tract).

All Saints' Day - November 1; a feast day in the church in commemoration of all the known and unknown saints.

Alms - Money or other offerings of the people for the work of the Church.

Alms Basin - A large metal plate into which the money offerings of the people are placed before they are presented to the officiant.


Altar - A stone or wooden table at which the Holy Eucharist is celebrated.

Altar Book - The large book containing the texts from The Book of Common Prayer and music for the celebrant at the Eucharist and other liturgies.

Altar Cloth - A long piece of white linen that covers the top of the altar and hangs down the sides almost to the floor. When not in use, the altar cloth is usually protected with a dust-cover.

Altar Cross - A crucifix or cross which stands upon the altar or hangs above it.

Altar Guild - A special, usually lay, group in a church charged with the maintenance and preparation of the altar and its furnishings in a church; altar guilds may also supervise church decorations and flowers.

Altar of Repose - See Place of Reservation.

Altar Rail

Altar Rail - The rail or kneelers where the people kneel or stand to receive Communion.

Altar Rail Gates - The gates or hinged top of the center of the altar rail. When opened, these allow access to the altar area, and are closed before the administration of Communion.

Ambo -See Lectern and Pulpit.

Ambry (or Aumbry) - A closed recess in the wall of a church for reservation of the blessed sacrament or holy oil for the sick.

Amen - From the Hebrew for "verily," "it is so," or "I agree." Response said or sung at end of prayers, hymns and anthems, showing agreement with what preceded.

American Episcopal Church - A separated group of American Episcopalians who differ with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America over matters pertaining to liturgy, ordination, and church government; this group has often favored the use of the "1928 Prayerbook," and has generally opposed the ordination of women.

Amice - A large square or rectangular piece of white cloth with strings attached. It is worn under the alb as a hood or over the shoulders. The strings are wound around the neck before being tied around the chest and waist .

Anglican - As a noun, it refers to members of churches descended from the Church of England, such as the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Anglican Church of Canada, and others. As an adjective, it describes traditions or teachings associated with those churches.

Anglican Communion - Those Churches around the world, including the Episcopal Church, that are in communion with the Church of England and that hold the same faith, order and worship.

Anglo-Catholics - Episcopalians who identify with Catholic teaching and liturgical practice and hold a high view of the authority of clergy and tradition. Anglo-Catholics are sometimes called "high church" because of their emphasis on the divine nature of the church as the mystical body of Christ.

Apostolic Succession - The doctrine that the authority and the mission given by Jesus to the Apostles have descended in a direct and unbroken line of bishops to the bishops of today.

Antecommunion - Another name for the Liturgy of the Word, the first half of the Eucharist.

Anthem - Sacred vocal music using scriptural words (a text from Scripture or other sources) that is sung or said during the liturgy; now also any vocal music or hymn sung by a choir but not by the congregation; also called Antiphon.

Anthem at the Fraction - The words that are said or sung at the Breaking of the Bread (BCP, 337 or 364).

Archbishop of Canterbury - The presiding bishop of the Church of England; sometimes acknowledged by American Episcopalians as the honorary spiritual head of the entire Anglican communion.

Archbishop - A bishop over a group of dioceses or national church; for instance, the Archbishop of South Africa or New Zealand.

Archdeacon - A clergy person appointed by the Bishop to provide administrative assistance and other leadership as assigned by the Bishop to congregations and church organizations in the diocese. Archdeacons are referred to as "The Venerable" (The Ven.): The Venerable John Smith. Salutation in letter: "Dear Archdeacon Smith" or "Dear Mr. Smith." The title "Reverend" is not used if Venerable is used. Archdeacons sometimes wear purple instead of black cassocks.

Ascension - The Feast commemorating the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to glory. This Feast is forty days after Easter and always occurs on a Thursday.

Ash Wednesday - The day of special devotion; the day which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a period of spiritual discipline, fasting and moderation in preparation for Holy Week and Easter; one of the most important days of the church year. In the Ash Wednesday service, ashes are lightly smeared onto the forehead of a person by the priest or bishop. On this day, a number of people may be seen who appear to have a black or gray smudge on their forehead. (see BCP, 264ff).

Aspergillum - A branch, brush, or perforated metal globe, with a handle, used for sprinkling holy water.

Assessment, Diocesan - The amount charged to the congregations to fund the annual unified budget of diocesan expenditures.

Assisting Ministers - Persons who assist the celebrant (see BCP,322 & 354).

Aumbry - A receptacle to hold the Reserved Sacrament, that is affixed to a wall, or sits on a shelf apart from an altar (see Tabernacle). An aumbry may also be used as a place where chrism and oil are kept; this aumbry is separate from the one used for the Sacrament, and is not identified by the burning of a Sanctuary Lamp.


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