Translating Church Lingo
In English, it was noted in a 1660 court case at New Haven colony: "To which the plaintiff answered, that he was not acquainted with Dutch lingo." William Congreve's play The Way of the World (1700) also uses the word: "Well, well, I shall understand your lingo one of these days, cousin; in the meanwhile I must answer in plain English."
The Christian Church is a 2000 year old institution. A lot of the words used today are so old fashioned that visitors have a hard time understanding what is meant. If there are words missing on this list, let us know so that they can be added; we aim to please!
Sanctuary: holy place, the large assembly hall for worshipping God.
Narthex: entrance hall leading into the Sanctuary.
Chancel: the area above the steps, in front of the church, where the pulpit and lectern are.
Pulpit: stand used by the minister for preaching.
Lectern: stand for readings and announcements other then the sermon.
Chapel: Small sanctuary. At First Church we have James Chapel (named after a previous pastor), often used for smaller weddings and funerals.
Fellowship hall: All purpose room, for meetings, coffee hour, class room etc. The fellowship hall at First Church is called Zimmerman Hall. It is located downstairs.
Pastor: A Christian minister in charge of a congregation.
Congregation: All the members of a particular church.
Elders: Elected members of the church who support the pastor and church members in spiritual matters.
Deacons: Elected members of the congregation, who are in charge of helping people in need (not only church members)
Consistory: Board of senior pastor, elders and deacons.
Trustees: FCA is rather unique (though not alone) in church structure that is has a special group of members elected to take care of financial matters as it pertains to church administration and building upkeep.
Joint board: Consistory and trustees together.
Congregational Meeting: a business meeting open to all church members. It meets at least twice a year to approve new policy and the budget and to elect new elders, deacons and trustees.
Denomination: A religious grouping within a faith that has its own system of organization. First Church belongs to the Reformed Church in America (RCA). This means that we worship according to standards set by the RCA.
Others examples of denominations are: Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ, Baptist Church, Assemblies of God, etc.
Classis: A group of local churches of the same denomination working together and holding each other accountable.
Synod (Regional): a group of local classis working together.
Synod (National): all the regional synods working together. Meets once a year and sets the denominational standards.
Sexton: Church custodian.
Sacraments: Protestant churches have two sacraments: Baptism and Communion.
Baptism: A sacrament where an infant or adult is sprinkled with water, symbolizing purification of the person and acceptance into the Christian faith.
Communion: A sacrament that reminds us of the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion. The bread that we eat and the wine (grape juice) that we drink are the symbols of Jesus life that He offered for us.
Creed (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian): Formal summaries of the principles of the Christian faith.
Credo: A personal statement of principles or beliefs, especially one that is professed formally.
Confession: (Heidelberg, Belhar,) similar to a creed but more specific to particular denominations.
Doxology: Song of Praise to God.
Epiphany: 1. The appearance or manifestation of God.
2. A moment of sudden intuitive understanding.
Saints: all church members, even though we also realize that we are all sinners!