Words used in Church 

The aim of this page is to give a simple and information explanation of words used in church and on this website. if a term that puzzles you is not here, please let us know.

The Church Building

Nave altar

Western churches were traditionally built in the shape of a cross with an altar at the "top" of the cross shape facing east. A lot of these churches, St. Barts included, have now added a new movable alter further forward to aid in accessibility.


The water container for baptisms. Ours is a stone font with a wooden cover, at the west end of the church.

Memorial chapel

In the south aisle of the church we have a second altar, which is used for smaller services such as the 8am Sunday Eucharist and most midweek services.


The stand from which the bible is read. Ours is a cared wooden eagle.

Words used for Services


This word is derived from the Greek for "giving thanks". This service is the central service of Anglican churches, and commemorates the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples the night before he was crucified. For Christians, Jesus is present with us in this rite in a special way, and it is one of the sacraments. A very similar service may be called Communion, Mass or the Lord's Supper in different churches. Did you know that St. Barts has Eucharists during the week as well as on Sundays? See our Services page for times of services at St. Barts.

Daily Offices, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer

A pattern of daily prayer set up in England after the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. Anglican priests are required to say this cycle of prayers and at St. Barts the congregation is welcome to join them. See our Services page for details.


The word Sacrament is defined in the Book of Common Prayer as "outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace". Baptism and the Eucharist are examples.

The People

Vicars, Rectors, Priests in Charge

Various titles for the main priest in a parish or group of parishes. The different titles are a historical remnant of a time when they meant subtle differences in degree of autonomy or the way in which the priest was paid, was no longer apply.

Priests, Deacons, Curates and Ordination

Ordination is the word used when the Church admits a person to one of the "Holy Orders" of deacon, priest or bishop. In the Anglican Church, after their course of training for ordination, a person is ordained deacon. They are then styled "The Reverand A B" and can assist in most parish duties. In their first year with St. Barts a curate would be able to baptise and take funerals, preach, lead school collective worship, visit the sick and nursing homes, officiate at non-sacramental services and fulfil the deacon's role at a Sung Eucharist. Traditionally the deacon's role at the Eucharist is to carry the Gospel book and proclaim the Gospel, prepare the altar at the offertory, assist the president during the Eucharistic prayer, assist in the distribution of holy communion, clear the altar and dismiss the congregation. After their first year (subject to the bishop's approval) the deacon goes forward for another ordination, this time as a priest. From then on, they may preside at the Eucharist, declare the absolution and pronounce the blessing. Often, marrying people is restricted to priests, though it is legal for deacons to officiate. Typically, a newly-ordained person will remain in their first parish for three to four years. This is regarded as a period of training on the job, following the training on the ordination course. The curate has to attend training arranged by the diocese in addition to learning skills in the parish; attendance at this is regarded as a three-line whip!


We have two churchwardens, Nick Lloyd and Paddy Moon. They represent the lay people in co-operation with the clergy and are legally responsible for the church property. At services they keep order and co-ordinate many practical details of running the church. Churchwardens are elected by the church body as a whole.


Stewards, once called sidespeople, ensure that worshippers have everything they need for services, and keep order during the service. The team of stewards is led by the churchwardens. Stewards are elected by the annual church meeting.


A reader is the word for a lay person trained and authorised by the diocese to conduct some aspects of services, or to preach sermons (not to be confused with the people who read the Bible at services). We do not currently have any readers at St. Barts.

Pastoral Auxiliaries

Southwark Pastoral Auxiliaries or SPAs, are trained volunteer laypeople who help develop caring and pastoral work on behalf of the church locally. We have once licensed SPA, Jean Clark. 

The Lectionary

The church year is divided into seasons as detailed on The Church Year page on this website. In Anglican churches the bible readings to be used at each service are laid out in a document called a Lectionary. The current Lectionary runs on a three-year cycle, with years classified as A, B or C.

For a description of the PCC and other organisations within St. Barts, see Getting Involved.

For more information, visit the Church of England website or click on one of the Useful Links to the right.

Return from Church Words to St. Barts Home Page

Call the Reverend Jim Perry on 020 3422 5343,

or email revjimperry@mailfence.com 


Please DONATE HERE and help to keep St. Bart's running during these difficult times.

Shop with AMAZON SMILE and 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases will be donated to St. Bart's at no cost to the buyer.


Back to Services


Contact Us 



The Eucharist - A Guide

Useful Church Words


Getting Involved


Useful Links

(all open in new window)

Church of England

What It Means


Bible Gateway

Wikipedia Christianity Portal


Contact Us