Glossary L - Z 

Below is a fairly comprehensive list of terms used in church collected over years for confirmation and other courses. If you cant find something e-mail us!

LAMB OF GOD A title given to Jesus because he gave his life in sacrifice at Passover time, when lambs were sacrificed to commemorate the escape of the Jews from Egypt.

LECTERN A reading desk from which the Bible may be read. Often, as at St John’s, in the shape of an Eagle.

LECTIONARY The passages of scripture set for each day of the church's year.

LENT is a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for HOLY WEEK and EASTER. LENT starts on ASH WEDNESDAY and lasts until EASTER EVE. The forty weekdays of LENT are fast days, but the Sundays, although solemn, are not fasts. The colour used in church (see below) for Lent is PURPLE.

The last week in Lent is HOLY WEEK, the first day of which is PALM SUNDAY (colour: RED) commemorating our Lord's entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey. The last three days of Holy Week (the TRIDUUM) are MAUNDY THURSDAY (colour: WHITE) recalling the day on which Jesus washed his disciples' feet; gave them a new commandment to love one another (the 'Mandatum' from which comes the word 'Maundy') and instituted the Last Supper. GOOD FRIDAY (no colour, or sometimes RED) recalling the trial, crucifixion and burial of Jesus. HOLY SATURDAY, which ends at sunset and is also known as EASTER EVE.(note that the week before Easter is HOLY WEEK. not Easter week)

LESSON READERS are authorised by the Parish Priest to read the set passages from the Bible at acts of worship.

LITURGY The set forms of worship used in church.

MAGNIFICAT. The Magnificat, taken from Luke’s Gospel (1:46-55), is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s hymn of praise to the Lord. It is also known as the Canticle of Mary usually sung at Evensong Its name comes from the first line of its text in Latin (“Magnificat anima mea Dominum”) translated in the first line. Mary proclaims the Lord’s greatness with characteristic humility and grace here. 

NUNC DIMITTIS The Nunc dimittis is a hymn from the Bible. It was sung by Simeon when he saw the baby Jesus. It is a canticle from the opening words from the Vulgate translation of the New Testament in the second chapter of Luke named after its incipit in Latin, meaning "Now you dismiss". (Luke 2:29–32).

OFFERTORY (from Medieval Latin offertorium and Late Latin offerre) is the part of a Eucharistic service when the bread and wine for use in the service are ceremonially placed on the altar. A monetary offering is also made for the work of the church

ORGANIST AND CHOIRMASTER The organist and choirmaster are responsible for the church music to the Parish Priest, who appoints them.

PALL A square of linen stretched over a card, and used to cover the chalice.

PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL MEMBERS The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is responsible with the Parish Priest for the ordering of worship, the repair and upkeep of the church and other matters relating to the life of the Parish church. Members must be on the church electoral roll and are elected annually (although some, like churchwardens, are ex-officio). All members of the PCC are jointly responsible in law for matters relating to the church.

PASCHAL CANDLE A very large candle first lit on Easter Eve to signify the risen Christ as Light of the World. It is lit at every service in Eastertide and at baptisms and funerals throughout the year.

PASSOVER A Jewish festival celebrating and remembering the time when the Jews were led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses.

PATEN The plate of silver or pottery on which the Altar breads are consecrated.

PCC SECRETARY. The Secretary is appointed by the PCC to prepare the agenda and to keep the minutes for meetings and to receive and deal with correspondence.

PCC TREASURER. The treasurer is appointed by the PCC to be responsible for recording all financial transactions and for informing and advising the PCC on its monetary commitments. In addition each church in our team has its own treasurer appointed by its council (The DCC)

PENTECOST. (colour: RED) Commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples during the Jewish harvest thanksgiving festival, also called 'Pentecost'.

PREFACE The first part of the Eucharistic prayer. On festivals special PROPER PREFACES are used.

PROPERS Readings and other sentences provided for each day. In the Revised Common Lectionary (see below) the readings for the 'ordinary' Sundays (Sundays between Epiphany 4 and 2 before Lent and after Trinity to All Saints Sunday) are designated Propers 1- 25.

PULPIT The raised structure from which the sermons may be delivered.

PURIFICATOR A white linen cloth used for wiping the Communion vessels.

READERS (already mentioned) are licensed by the Bishop, after a period of training, to preach, teach and to lead worship; to do pastoral visiting; to assist in administering the Holy Communion in church and in house communions. With the Bishop's permission they may take funerals and they may lead services in which, in the absence of a priest, Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament is offered (Extended communion). Readers are licensed to a specific parish or benefice, but may exercise their ministry in other parishes in the diocese when asked to do so.

REQUIEM A Holy Communion to give thanks for, and pray for, the dead.

REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY (RCL) The three year cycle of readings used by many Christian denominations. Adopted for use, (with some variations) by the Church of England in 1997.

SACRAMENT An outward and visible sign, which indicates to, and reassures those involved that they are receiving an inward and spiritual grace. The two main sacraments are baptism and Holy Communion.

SACRISTAN The person, appointed by the Parish Priest to care for the Holy Communion vessels, the vestments, the altar linen and furnishings and to see that the correct vestments, linen and vessels are laid out for each celebration of the Holy Communion or other service. He/ she is often helped by ASSISTANT SACRISTANS.

SANCTUARY from the rest of the church is usually at the EAST end of the church, the direction of the rising sun, in recognition of Jesus as the light of the world.

SANCTUS The hymn of praise, "Holy, Holy, Holy etc" included in the Eucharistic prayer (From the Latin word for holy).

SERVERS are authorised by the Parish Priest to assist at the celebrations of the Holy Communion. Servers arrange the credence table (see below), light the candles, hand the bread, wine and water to the President, receive the collection and lead the congregational responses. Servers who carry candles may also be called ACOLYTES.

SIDESMEN AND WOMEN are elected at the annual parochial church meeting to assist the churchwardens in welcoming the congregation, handing out service books, showing visitors to seats and taking the collection.

STAINED GLASS windows were originally teaching aids of biblical events, for a laity that could not read. Murals and statues had the same function. Most of the decorations were painted out or smashed during the Puritan era, although stained glass survived in many cathedrals. St John’s has some fine examples of stained glass.

STEWARDSHIP The response of a Christian to God's love by giving Time, Talents and Treasure (money) towards the maintenance of the church's activities in the parish and diocese.

STOLE A long band of silk or other fabric worn round the neck. by priests or bishops. A stole should be worn when any Sacrament is administered. A stole is always worn underneath a chasuble (see above). Deacons wear stoles over the left shoulder and tied under the right arm.

SURPLICE A full, short, white garment reaching to about the knees with a round neck and full wide sleeves. Worn over a cassock by clergy, readers and choristers.

SCARF Clergy wear a black scarf, and Readers a blue scarf around the neck. This vestment is unique to the Anglican church.

SUNDAYS BEFORE ADVENT. In November the church recalls the proclamation of the Old Testament about the coming of a messiah and the coming of the Kingdom of Christ in the New Testament. (colour: GREEN or sometimes red). The church year ends on a triumphant and joyful note with the feast of CHRIST THE KING (colour: RED). Thus the wheel comes full circle, back to ADVENT again.

SUNDAYS BEFORE LENT. The number varies according to the date of Easter. The SECOND SUNDAY BEFORE LENT is Creation Sunday. On the SUNDAY BEFORE LENT the readings recall the Transfiguration of our Lord. The colour used in church is GREEN.

TE DEUM An ancient hymn of praise, beginning "We praise you (thee) O God" (from the Latin first line 'Te Deum laudamus')

THE THREEFOLD MINISTRY. The Church of England maintains the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons. Its ministers are ordained by bishops according to authorized forms of service, with prayer and the laying on of hands.

  • Bishops are ordained or consecrated by at least three other bishops, joining together in the act of ordination, of whom one is the archbishop of the province or his deputy. In addition to their ministry as priests of the church, bishops ordain priests and deacons, licence readers, and confirm. Bishops pronounce the absolution and the blessing when they are present at an act of worship. Bishops are addressed as "The Right Reverend". The word 'bishop' comes from the Greek word in the New Testament, 'episcope' (overseer).


  • Priests are ordained, after training, by the Bishop of the diocese or by his Suffragan. Priests may share with the bishop in laying hands on the heads of those ordained to the order of priesthood. Priests lead worship and preach the gospel, preside at the Holy Communion, baptise, absolve and declare the forgiveness of sins, bless the people, conduct marriages, take funerals and teach and care for the people committed to their charge. The word 'priest' is related to the old English 'prester', which comes from 'presbyter', a derivation of the Greek word from the New Testament 'presbuteros', which means 'elder'. The word 'presbyter' is sometimes used instead of 'priest'.


  • Deacons are ordained by Bishops, and then act as assistants to the priests in whose parish they work. They lead worship, preach and teach. They may baptise, take funerals and conduct marriages. They assist in administering (but not leading) the Holy Communion in church and in house communions. Many deacons are trainee priests, and are deacons for a year, before becoming priests. The word 'deacon' comes from the Greek word in the New Testament 'diaconos' which means 'servant'.

THURIFER The server who is in charge of the THURIBLE, the vessel used for swinging burning incense (used at High Days and Holidays)

TRINITY SUNDAY (celebrating that we know God three ways, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) starts the long summer season of up to 22 Sundays after Trinity (colour: GREEN) and ends with a white festival on the first Sunday in November, celebrating ALL SAINTS DAY.

VEIL A piece of coloured cloth, usually of the same fabric as the chasuble and hangings, which covers the sacred vessels until they are required for the offertory.

VERGER An official who acts as a caretaker and attendant, particularly at weddings and funerals.

VESTMENTS are special garments worn by the ordained and lay ministers in church. While every person in the church is called to exercise a ministry within the church, there are some specific types of ministry which are explicitly recognised and authorised.

XP Two Greek letters, Kai and Rho, equivalent to CH and R, the first three letters of "Christ".