An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms


A long, loose-fitting garment that is distinctive for students, graduates, or officers of a university or college. It is an academic insignia. The wearer's academic degree may be indicated by the trim material or the cut of the gown. Gowns are typically black, but some schools use a distinctive color. Use of the gown in […]


God’s love freely given to humanity for salvation. The term is from the Latin gratia, a “gift or favor freely given,” translating the Greek NT charis. Various themes concerning grace have been emphasized since the NT. The Pauline epistles present grace as unmerited and effective as God’s forgiving love for humanity. The Johannine scriptures present […]

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

The seat of the Bishop of California. It was organized on Apr. 28, 1850, by the Rev. Jean Leonard ver Mehr (1809-1886), the first priest appointed to San Francisco. It was the second Episcopal parish in San Francisco. The first church building opened for services on July 20, 1850. On Jan. 24, 1910, the cornerstone […]

Grace, The

” Prayer based on 2 Cor 13:13, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (RSV). It is named for the opening words of the prayer. The words of St. Paul's trinitarian benediction are modified in the Prayer Book version, […]


A raised shelf or ledge behind the altar. The altar cross, altar lights, and vases of flowers may be placed on it. The tabernacle may also be placed on it. See Retable.


A psalm, hymn, or anthem that is sung or read between the OT reading and the epistle at the eucharist. The term comes from the Latin gradus, “step,” on which cantors stood. The gradual serves as a meditation or response to the reading, and the gradual psalm has sometimes been called the “responsorial psalm.” Although […]

Grafton, Charles Chapman

(Apr. 12, 1830-Aug. 30. 1912). Co-founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist and Anglo-catholic bishop. He was born in Boston. Grafton came under the influence of William Croswell, the founder of the Church of the Advent, Boston, which was a leading Anglo-catholic parish. He was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1851. In […]

Grant, Frederick Clifton

(Feb. 2, 1891-July 11, 1974). Scholar and theologian. He was born in Beloit, Wisconsin. Grant was ordained deacon on June 6, 1912, and received his B.D. from the General Theological Seminary in 1913. He was ordained priest on June 22, 1913, and served parishes in Michigan and Illinois before becoming professor of systematic theology at […]

Gray, Walter Henry

(Aug. 20, 1898-Dec. 4, 1973). Ecumenical leader and eighth Bishop of Connecticut. Gray was born in Richmond, Virginia. He studied at the College of William and Mary and the Law School of the University of Richmond before receiving his B.D. from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1928. Gray was ordained deacon on June 8, 1928, […]

Great Amen

The response of assent by the congregation at the conclusion of the eucharistic prayer. As the eucharistic celebration is shared by the congregation and the presider, the Great Amen emphasizes the assent of the people to the words spoken on their behalf by the presider. The Great Amen is the “people's prayer” that concludes the […]

Great Awakening

A religious revival in the American colonies in the eighteenth century. It occurred episodically from about 1720 until about 1770. It was part of the religious fervor which swept western Europe during the latter part of the seventeenth century and most of the eighteenth century. This movement was called pietism in Germany and evangelicalism in […]

Great Bible, The

English Bible prepared by Miles Coverdale. The term is based on the size of the Bible. It was printed by Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch. It has been called “Whitchurch's Bible.” The printing was begun in Paris but later continued in London owing to the hostility of the Sorbonne. In Sept. 1538, Thomas Cromwell had […]

Great Fifty Days

The feast of Easter is a season of fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost. From early times the Greek word pentecost (fiftieth day) was used also for the whole Paschal season. During this season there is no fasting. The Council of Nicaea (325) directed that Christians are to pray standing. The […]

Great Litany, The

An intercessory prayer including various petitions that are said or sung by the leader, with fixed responses by the congregation. It was used as early as the fifth century in Rome. It was led by a deacon, with the collects led by a bishop or priest. The Litany was the first English language rite prepared […]

Great O Antiphons of Advent

Antiphons sung before and after the Magnificat at vespers on the seven days before Christmas. The texts are of unknown origin and date at least from the ninth century. Each antiphon begins with the letter “O” and a name or attribute of God from the Hebrew Scriptures: O Sapientia, “O Wisdom”; O Adonai, “O Sacred […]

Great Silence

In religious communities, the time between the last common prayer at night (compline or evensong) and the first common prayer in the morning (laud, prime, or morning prayer). Typically a period of solemn silence and quiet before and after sleep, it may be used for private reading and meditation. During this time one should avoid […]

Great Thanksgiving

Title used by the BCP for the eucharistic prayer, the central prayer of the Eucharist. It is also known as the prayer of consecration. It begins with the dialogue called Sursum corda and continues through the Great Amen at the end of its doxology. It gives thanks for creation, redemption, and sanctification. The bread and […]

Great Vigil of Easter

See Easter Vigil.

Greek Mission

This was the name of the Episcopal mission to Constantinople. It was also called the Constantinople Mission. After Greece's war of independence from Turkey in 1829, the Episcopal Church sent five missionaries to Greece in 1830. They were to help rebuild the Christian church in Greece after centuries of Muslim occupation. The Greek Mission focused […]

Green Book

” See Proposed Book of Common Prayer.

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Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.