Glossary of Church Words


Bishop: a member of the highest order of the ministry; supervises a group of churches in a diocese
Curate: A clergy person who is an assistant or deputy of a rector
Eucharistic Minister: a lay reader who, after instruction by the diocese, also passes the chalice at communion; after further training by the diocese, may be invested to take communion to parishioners not able to come to church
Lector: a reader of a scripture lesson in a church service
Rector: a clergy person in charge of a parish
Vestry: a committee serving with the rector and the wardens to manage the church’s temporal affairs
Warden: a lay officer who, with the vestry, manages the church’s temporal affairs


Altar: the table where the Holy Eucharist is administered, located in the sanctuary
Cathedral: the principal church of a diocese, containing the bishop’s throne
Chancel: the part of the church elevated above the nave; it includes the sanctuary and the choir
Church: (a) the Body of Christ; (b) the House of God – that building dedicated to the worship of God
Narthex: the vestibule containing the main entrance [Late Greek: giant fennel]
Nave: the main part of the church, extending from entrance to chancel [Latin: ship]
Parish House: where the church offices and meeting rooms are
Rectory: where the rector and his/her family live
Sacristy: a room adjoining the sanctuary where sacred vessels and robes are kept
Sanctuary: the part of the church where the altar is located

On Our Altar

IC XC/NIKA: Jesus Christ Conquers or Jesus Christ the Conqueror – Greek initials/word; set into quadrants formed by a cross on the right-front of our altar
Portio Mea Domine: “You only are my portion, O Lord,” Psalm 119:57; the words on the top-front of our altar (these words are usually covered by the superfrontal)
Quam Dilecta Tabernacula Tua Domine: “How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!” Psalm 84:1; the words on the top-rear of our altar, used in part as our opening acclamation on St. John’s Day – Quam Dilecta!
XP: the Christian monogram made from the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ; superimposed on the left-front of our altar


Alms Basin Table: a small side table or shelf for holding the alms basin and offering plates
Anglican Communion: the Church of England and those churches that are in communion with it and each other and that share essentially its doctrines and order
Chalice: the cup containing the Eucharistic wine
Credence Table: a small side table or shelf for holding the Eucharistic articles
Diocese: a group of local churches under the jurisdiction of a bishop
Episcopal: based on a governing order of bishops as the chief pastors of the flock
Et qui audierint vivent: “and those who hear shall live,” John 5:25; the words on our church seal
Frontal: a cloth hanging over the front of an altar
Paschal Candle: a tall candle, signifying Christ, that is lit on Holy Saturday (Easter Eve) and then at all liturgical functions in Eastertide (until Ascension Day)
Paten: the plate holding the Eucharistic wafers
Superfrontal: a cloth which is placed over the top of an altar and hangs down a few inches over the frontal
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: our more formal name
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: our complete and most formal name