Other Terms

Altar Linens

Altar linens are most often made of linen, because Jesus' grave clothes were linen. Most altar linens are square. The proper way to fold altar linens after they've been ironed is in thirds lengthwise, then in thirds crosswise, so that you end up with a square.


An anthem is a hymn whose lyrics come from Scripture. Historically, anthems were sung responsively.


A chalice is a drinking cup with a bowl, a single stem, and a foot. The stem usually has a knob to make it easier to grab. Chalices are generally made of silver, gold, or ceramic. The chalice can be used two ways in the Eucharist. Either everyone drinks from it (common cup), or worshipers dip the bread into the wine in the cup (intinction). If the common cup is used, the server wipes the edge of the cup with a napkin and rotates it for each communicant. Although it may seem unsanitary, we are not aware of any documented cases of disease being spread by the common cup.


A ciborium is a container with a lid. it is used to store the bread for Communion.


To some people, the word "chant" refers to mindless repetitions of the same words and phrases. But chant is actually a technical term for a specific musical form -- a simple melody in which you sing a number of words or syllables on the same note. You might say that a song is words set to music, but a chant is music set to words. Chants were invented to encourage congregational singing, since they require less musical skill than songs.


A collect (pronounced CALL-ect) is a short prayer, usually one sentence long, and it consists of three parts: an invocation (calling upon the name of God), a petition (a request of God), and a doxology (praising God's name). The following is an example of a simple collect:

O God, who gave your only Son to die for our sins, give us grateful hearts to live worthily before you; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.


Since fabrics, such as banners and vestments, have to be in some color, the historic Church has used color to expand the them of worship.


Green is the color of vegetation, therefore it is the color of life. Green is the color for the Season of Epiphany and the Season after Pentecost. These two seasons are also called "Ordinary Time" because the Sundays have no names, just ordinal numbers.


In antiquity, purple dye was very expensive, so purple came to signify wealth, power, and royalty. Therefore, purple is the color for the seasons of Advent and Lent, which celebrate the coming of the King. Since we prepare for our King through reflection and repentance, purple has also become a penitential color.


Angels announced Jesus' birth (Luke 2:8-15) and His Resurrection (Luke 24:1-8) The New Testament consistently uses white to describe angels and the risen Lord. Therefore, white is the color for the seasons of Easter and Christmas. White is the color for funerals, since it is the color of the Resurrection.


Red is the color of blood, and therefore, also of martyrdom. Red is the color for any service that commemorates the death of a martyr. It is also an alternative color for the last week of Lent, which is called Holy Week. Red is the color for Pentecost Sunday and for ordinations, because it is the color of fire and therefore also of the Holy Spirit.


Before the advent of modern dyes, all dress clothes were black -- just look at any photograph taken in the 19th century. The main historical connotation of black is formality. Black is sometimes the color for funeral services and Good Friday.


Rose is sometimes used on the third Sunday in Advent, to signify joy.


Gold is an alternative to white.


Blue is an alternative to purple during Advent. Some churches use blue during Advent to avoid the penitential connotation of purple.


A hymn is a song in which the singers praise, worship, or thank God.


Originally, members of the congregation produced the bread and wine for Communion and presented it to the celebrant in the middle of the worship service. This presentation of the bread and wine was called the offering because it paralleled Jesus' offering of His flesh and blood for our sin. In the United States, where churches are financed through donations rather than tax money, the term offering has come to refer to a monetary offering.


Paraments are decorative cloths that cover various items in the chancel of the church, hanging down in front of them. A full set of paraments includes one for the altar, one for the pulpit, one for the lectern, and a bookmark for the Bible. They are usually the color of the season and often have an appropriate embroidered or appliqued symbol.


A paten is the small circular plate that holds the communion bread. It is used with a chalice and is made of the same material as the chalice.


Until quite recently, there were no accurate timepieces, so worship services did not have a precise starting time. After the people gathered, the clergy and other ministers would enter the church in procession to begin the service. This custom is still continued inmany churches today. The first person in the procession is usually the crucifer (carrying a processional cross), followed by acolytes who light the candles and carry service books, then the choir, then lay ministers, and then the clergy, with the highest ranking clergy last.

The Old Testament

The old Testament reading is taken from any part of the Old Testament except the Psalms.

The Psalm

The Psalm is either an excert from a psalm or an entire psalm. Normally, the congregation participates in the psalm reading, either by reading it responsively or in unison, or by chanting it.

The Epistle

The epistle reading is taken from any book in the New Testament other than a gospel.

The Holy Gospel

The gospel reading is taken from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Pews were invented by Roman Catholics during the late middle ages for comfort of the worshipers. Therefore, many congregations today continue to stand during the gospel reading to show respect.


Simply meaning "evening," this worship service is usually contemplative in nature, with scriptue and prayer.