Anglican Dictionary: C

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The term comes from the Greek word kannon, that means “measuring rod or ruler.” In the Church we speak of canon law, the canon of Scripture, and people called canons. The canon of Scripture refers to the books of the Bible that are accepted as genuine and inspired by God. When used in reference to people, a canon is the title of a priest (or deacon) who either serves on the staff of a cathedral, or who has exhibited exemplary service to a diocese.

Canon Law

The collection of laws that serve as the rules of Anglican Churches. The canons may be (and always are) modified by the ruling provincial bodies. Each diocese also has canon law, but a diocese may not pass a canon that conflicts with national canons.


An ancient see city in the county of Kent, England. The top diocese in the Church of England, and by tradition, the entire Anglican Church. Although all the branches of the Anglican Church are autonomous, each maintains a traditional connection with England, and therefore looks to the Archbishop of Canterbury as the spiritual leader of the Church. It was at Canterbury cathedral (officially titled, the Cathedral Church of Christ) that St. Thomas Becket was assassinated by King Henry’s friends in 1170. Soon after Thomas’ death, pilgrimages to his Canterbury shrine began. (The shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538) It was one of these pilgrimages that served as the setting for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.


A festival hymn, simple in tune, sung during the Christmas Season. Traditional Episcopalians do not sing carols before sundown on December 24th, and will sing carols right up until Epiphany, at least two weeks after the rest of America has abandoned them.


A black robe worn by priests or deacons, and are usually worn with a white over-garment called a surplice. A Canon may wear a black cassock with red piping, or (with permission) may wear a purple cassock. Deans and archdeacons may wear black cassocks with red or purple piping. Lay readers, choir members and acolytes can also (and often do) wear cassocks.



An elementary instruction in the principles of Christianity, in the form of questions and answers. In past generations, one had to memorize the entire catechism before he or she could be confirmed.


The Greek word meaning “seat.” A cathedra is special sanctuary chair only used by a bishop. The chair remains empty except during bishop’s visitations and serves as a visible reminder that the parish priest represents the bishop, and that the bishop is the spiritual head of the diocese.


The church in which the diocesan bishop’s throne or cathedra is kept, and often the gathering place for many of the diocese’s official functions and major worship celebrations. If the cathedral is a parish church (i.e. has a congregation of worshipers) their rector is given the title of Dean of the Cathedral.


A word usually thought of as a reference to the Roman Catholic Church, however “catholic” literally means “universal” or “found everywhere.” (from the Greek word katholikos, meaning “general” or “universal”) In the Nicene Creed, we say we believe in the holy catholic [universal] church. Many times used in tandem with “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic”.


The Celebrant is the priest or bishop who leads a celebration of Holy Communion. The principal celebrant is always the diocesan bishop, if present. In a service of Morning Prayer, the leader is known as the Officiant, and may be either lay or ordained. In some parts of the Anglican Communion, lay presidency is practiced, whereby an authorized lay person may preside at a celebration of Holy Communion.



(Also called a thurible) – a vessel in which incense is burned on charcoal. A censer is usually carried in processions and recessionals by a special acolyte called a thurifer.



From Latin, calix, meaning “cup.” A chalice is the cup used to contain the wine used at Communion.


Chalice Bearer

The person (ordained or lay) who administers the chalice during Communion.



From the Latin cancelli, meaning “a grating” or “lattice.” Chancel is the name for the section of a church building between the nave and the sanctuary; usually the place the choir sits; sometimes also called the “choir”. It is also usually a few steps higher than the nave.


Not exactly singing, nor reading, chanting is a recitation midway between singing and reading. Chanting originated in the monastic orders in the early centuries of the Church.


From Latin, cappella, meaning “a cape.” When the kings of France went on military campaigns, they would carry the cape of St. Martin with them. The tent or other temporary structure that housed the cappella was called a chapel. A chapel now refers to a small building or room set apart for worship and meditation.


The clergy person in charge of a chapel or one who ministers to a small group of people.


From Latin, casula, meaning “little house”. A chasuble is a type of vestment worn by the celebrant during Communion. It is usually oval in shape, with a hole for the head to pass through. The chasuble may have been derived from an ancient Roman cloak only worn outdoors and shaped like a tent (hence the name, “little house”). Many Low Church clergy will tell you the that chasuble’s liturgical origins were from an identically shaped garment that Hebrew priests would wear to keep blood off them as they were sacrificing animals. Chasubles came back into major use beginning with the Oxford Movement in England, having been largely in disuse since the Reformation.



A long, sleeveless coat-like vestment worn by a bishop.


From Latin, chorus, meaning a group of singers. A choir is group of lay people (voluntary or paid) that help lead the singing during a worship service and sometimes offer special anthems to enhance worship. The word “choir” can also used to define the chancel, the part of the church building where the choir sits.


A mixture of olive oil and balsam, and sometimes used at baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and some blessings of altars and other church fixtures. Chrism is not the same as other holy oils such as those used for the unction of the sick. No balsam is added to oil used for unction.


(liturgical color generally white and/or gold or silver) Besides being December 25th and the day Christians mark as the celebration of the birth of Jesus (Christ’s Mass), Christmas is also a Church season, running from December 25th to Epiphany (January 6th). It is this twelve-day period that is sometimes referred to as the Twelve Days of Christmas.


The English word comes from the Greek word kurios, meaning, “master” or “lord.” A form of this word, kuriakon, had the meaning of “pertaining to, or belonging to the lord.” Originally, the word referred to the building used by the Lord’s people. However, the French and other Romance languages get their word for church from the another Greek word – ekklesia (lit. “called out”) – in French, eglise, which means an assembly of people. We use both terms when speaking of the church; we speak of the building and of the people inside the building. It is interesting to note that when the Bible speaks of the church, the word used is ekklesia. The Bible’s authors never thought of the church as a building. When the word is capitalized, it usually refers to the universal, or catholic church.


Church of England

The official name of the original Church in England, the Anglican Church, or “Ecclesia Anglicana”. The British Church, with Celtic foundations, always had a uniqueness in Christendom ALL THE WAY up to the Reformation. During the reign of King Henry VIII, the Church, in England, broke formal ties with Rome and became the Church OF England. Sometimes referred to as the “C of E.”


A cup that resembles a chalice, except that it has a removable lid.

A ciborium is used to hold communion wafers during the Eucharist.



An article of liturgical attire and one of the six Eucharistic vestments. It is a thick cord with knotted ends that comes in varying lengths and is worn as a belt over a cassock or alb, often tied with a simple slip knot. It can be worn by lay ministers or clergy. When worn by clergy, a stole is often slipped under it or put through a loop in the cincture to hold the stole in place during worship. It is believed to typify chastity and in reference to Luke 12:35-38, to represent spiritual watchfulness.

It is also referred to as a girdle.



The group of ordained people, consecrated for unique ministry for a particular church or denomination.


An adjective referring to ordained people and their work.


From the Latin word collecta, meaning “assembly.” The word is normally used to refer to the prayer near the beginning of the Eucharist that precedes the lessons. The collect was supposedly designed to “collect” the thoughts of the lessons and bind the thoughts together, back in the days when only one lesson and a Gospel were read. A collect is actually any short prayer that contains an invocation, a petition, and a pleading in Christ’s Name (in that order).


Color plays an import part in the designation of seasons and feasts in the Anglican Churches. Each church season has a color associated with it. Advent is purple (the color of preparation and penitence) or Incarnation/Marian Blue (in honor of The Incarnation and/or Mary), Christmas is white (the color celebration), Epiphany is green (the color of growth; growth of the gospel message from Jew to Gentile – re: the three Wise Men), Lent is purple, Easter is white, and the season after Pentecost is green (for the growth of the church). Weddings and funerals are usually occasions for white (the color of celebration) while Pentecost Sunday and ordinations are red, to signify the presence of the Holy Spirit. Black is occasionally used one day a year — Good Friday. Rose is used on Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent.


From the Latin word communicare, meaning “to share, or partake.” Communicants are the members of a local church who do or who are eligible to receive communion.


1. The Christian sacramental meal, the Lord’s Supper, commanded by our Lord (“Do this in remembrance of me.”). For centuries the service used to celebrate the meal was called Holy Communion, but is now more commonly called the “Eucharist” in Anglican churches. Also known as Mass in Roman Catholic and many Anglo-Catholic churches, and The Divine Liturgy in Orthodox Churches.

2. The term describing a group of autonomous churches who recognize common ties and share a common faith, for example, the worldwide Anglican Communion.



A monastic evening service used to end the day, and included for the first time in the 1979 prayer book. It is pronounced “comp-lyn,” not “comp-line.”


From two Latin words – firmare, which means “to strengthen,” and com, which adds force to the word. Literally to confirm is to “strengthen greatly.” At Confirmation a person makes a mature, public confession that he or she accepts Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior, thus owning up to the vows his or her godparents made for him or her at his or her baptism. The bishop then lays his or her hands on the confirmand, and prays for the Holy Spirit to “strengthen greatly” the person in the rest of his or her life. Confirmation is considered to be one of the five sacramental acts, or minor sacraments of the Church.


The groups of people who make up the local church, or the members of a local church who are present for worship.


Congregational Meeting

A meeting usually held annually, and usually held to elect new vestry or board members and delegates to the diocesan convention. Unlike some other denominations, some Anglican churches follow a representative form of government, instead of a pure democracy. The work of the church is voted upon by the vestry, and not by the congregation. The congregation votes to select vestry members to represent them, as the vestry does their work.


The word literally means, “to set aside.”

At the Eucharist, the elements are consecrated before we partake in communion. Part of the consecration before communion is shown here in the photograph.

Consecration services include dedications and ordinations. In 1835, the Chapel of the Cross was consecrated for God’s service. In 2006, The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns was consecrated 1st Bishop of CANA.



Usually a diocesan meeting (usually held annually) to elect officials, propose resolutions, and to pass laws to govern the diocesan body.


A vestment of dignity which may be worn by any order of the clergy, but is usually thought of as being worn by a bishop, along with his miter. The cope is a long and heavy semicircular cloak of rich material, generally matching other vestments in the color of the season.



From Latin: corpus, meaning “body.” A square piece of linen laid on top of the altar cloth at Communion.



From Middle English meaning “to cover.” A cotta is a short, white outer garment often worn by choir members and acolytes to cover their cassocks Shorter than a surplice.


Credence Table

A small table or shelf (generally on the epistle side of the altar) that holds the bread, wine and water before consecration.



The bishop’s staff (a shepherd’s crook) carried in a procession and held when giving the absolution or blessing.



In church architecture, the crossing is the main intersection of aisles at the front of the church building. If viewed from above, these aisles form a large cross. In a service, “crossing” refers to a hand gesture of making a cross pattern on one’s body; also a gesture made by a priest or bishop over a congregation or upon a person at death or baptism.


A person in a religious procession who carries a large cross (a processional cross), and leads the procession into the church and the recession out of the church.



From Latin, crux, meaning “cross.” A crucifix is a cross bearing the likeness of the body of Christ on it.


From old French, crue, meaning “a vial or a glass.” A cruet is the vessel (glass or metal) used to hold the water and wine for the Eucharist.


From Latin curatus, meaning “the person in charge.” The term should mean the “head priest” if literally interpreted, but instead has come to refer to a transitional deacon or an assistant to the rector. Usually a curate is one who recently graduated from seminary, and is in the process of “learning the ropes,” or “curing.”


A Spanish word meaning “short course.” Cursillo is contemporary, popular movement of Christian renewal in Anglican Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. The Cursillo experience begins with an intense, profound, and often life-changing weekend retreat, and continues with periodic small group gatherings and special devotions. The word is pronounced “cur-see-yo”.

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