Church Language

Terms and definitions you will hear at Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church

God: God is love. In the Episcopal Church we worship the One Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This describes the way the Church has experienced and understood God. God the Father is constantly creating. God the Son as experienced through the person of Jesus Christ redeems us all. God the Holy Spirit sustains us and guides our hearts.

Christian: One who seeks God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Who believes that there is ultimate purpose for each person’s life, and that the love of Jesus Christ on the cross through the resurrection wins out in the end.

Episcopalian: One who finds their Christian identity through the waters of Baptism, through Common Worship in community, and in light of balancing Scripture, Reason and Tradition. It is the Episcopal Church and we are Episcopalians.

Church: The Greek word ecclesia means those who are called to assemble. The word ‘Church’ developed form the word ecclesia. The ‘Church’ is thus those who are called by God to assemble and worship. The ‘Church’ is the people of God. The Church building is where we gather.

Holy Baptism: During baptism one is fully initiated into the church by water and the Holy Spirit. The waters of baptism nourish, cleanse, and most importantly bind us together to our Lord. Baptism is the service we perform when someone realizes that they are a child of God, loved by God.

Holy Eucharist: ‘Eucharist’ means thanksgiving. On most Sundays our worship service is the Holy Eucharist. During that service we worship God by praising God, listening to God’s Word, reflecting on God’s Word, praying for everyone, confessing our sins, exchanging the Peace, and participating in Holy Communion.

Holy Communion: God is mysteriously present to us during Holy Communion where we take bread and wine, bless it, break it open, and share it. The bread and wine of Holy Communion spiritually nourishes us. It is desired that one be baptized before taking Holy Communion. Baptism is open to all!

Grace: The word grace is used frequently in churches. Graces is briefly defined as unexpected, unearned love from God. Grace is the generous overflow of the love of God.

Salvation / Atonement: Atonement is God dealing with humanity’s primary problem of sin. Through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God has mysteriously atoned for our sins. Through the Cross and Resurrection God mysteriously bridged the gap between the Divine and Human experience enabling deeper, eternal relationship. We are saved by God’s grace.

Sin: Sin can be both corporate and individual. Sin describes fallen humanity’s state of separation from God. Sin for individuals is a ‘missing of the mark’ in our spiritual development with God. This will often lead to sinful actions. Sin is broken relationship with God. All sin is forgivable.

Incarnation: Fundamentally the incarnation is the teaching that in Jesus the eternal Word of God became fully human. Our Lord Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. Thus God can bridge the gap between the human and divine experience in Jesus. We celebrate God becoming fully incarnate during Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus. God always reaches out to us in love.

Creeds: The creeds are statements about our basic beliefs. The two major creeds are called the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Apostle’s Creed is the ancient creed of baptism, which we use during the Holy Baptism service and at other times when we want to be reminded of our baptism. The Nicene Creed is the universal statement of belief that was compiled early in Christian history. It is used during Holy Eucharist. If you want to know the basic beliefs we have about God, then reflect on these creeds.

Biblical Authority: Episcopalians believe in the authority of the Bible. Tradition and Reason help us to understand and engage God in the Biblical text. The Bible teaches us how God continually interacts with humanity and the human drama. God’s desire to be in a loving relationship with God’s creation is the heart of the Biblical message.

Sacraments: The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual graces given by God. The sacraments are basically our worship services. The two major ones are Holy Eucharist and Holy Baptism. These are the two that Jesus specifically instituted for us. Other sacraments are Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation, and Healing (aka Unction).

Minister: Everyone is a minister in the church. We all minister to each other through God’s love. Orders of ministry in the church are the laity, deacons, priests, and bishops. The laity is the most important order and is made up of all the baptized members of the church. The ministry of the laity is to represent Christ and his Church in the world according to the gifts given them.

Deacon: The role of deacon is to represent Christ and his Church to the world, especially reaching out to those in need. Deacons also assist priests and bishops in worship services.

Priest: The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.

Rector: A rector is a head priest in a Church. This priest represents the bishop in the local congregation.

Bishop: The ministry of bishops is to represent Christ and his Church, to be the chief priest and pastor, and to guard the faith and unity of the Church. A bishop has certain authorities in the churches under their care. They oversee priests and deacons, ordain priests and deacons, and confirm laypersons.

Diocese: The diocese is a group of Churches in a given area that is overseen by a bishop. Our diocese is the Diocese of Northern Indiana.

General Convention: The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States is the governing and legislative body for the entire Episcopal Church in the United States. It meets every three years and reviews all aspects of Church life including the Canons (or rules) that govern the Church. The General Convention is made up of two houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Deputies is made up of priests, deacons and lay people. Thus, all orders are represented and have vital roles in the governance of the Church.

Presiding Bishop: The Presiding Bishop is the bishop elected to preside over the House of Bishops. This bishop is also our representative in the wider Church called the Anglican Communion. The Presiding Bishop has many roles and responsibilities, but very little direct authority over bishops who have authority in dioceses.

Anglican Communion: The Anglican Communion is made up of thirty-eight provinces around the world representing approximately seventy-seven million Christians. The Anglican Communion is the third largest Church in the world behind the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. The Episcopal Church in the United States is our province. The Archbishop of Canterbury binds the thirty-eight provinces together in unity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: The Archbishop of Canterbury is the glue of the Anglican Communion. Although the Archbishop does not have as much authority as say the Bishop of Rome (The Pope), the Archbishop does have the authority to say who is in the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury resides in England and symbolizes the brotherhood and sisterhood of all the Anglican provinces around the world.

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