An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Wainwright, Jonathan Mayhew

(Feb. 24, 1792-Sept. 21, 1854). Bishop and music editor. He was born in Liverpool, England, and came to the United States in 1803. He graduated from Harvard in 1812. Wainwright was ordained deacon on Apr. 13, 1817, and priest on May 29, 1818. He was assistant minister, Trinity Church, New York, 1819-1821; rector, Grace Church, […]


A vigil or watch in the presence of the body of a deceased person prior to burial. It may be in the church, a funeral parlor, or a home. The observance of this funeral custom is separate from the funeral or burial liturgy. Prayers may be offered for the deceased and the grieving. The wake […]

Walker, John Thomas

(July 27, 1925-Sept. 30, 1989). Bishop and first African American to graduate from the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was born in Barnesville, Georgia. He received his B.A. from Wayne State University in 1951 and his B.D. from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1954. Walker was ordained deacon on July 18, 1954, and priest on Feb. […]

Wardens of a Parish

Officers of a parish. Two wardens are typically selected to serve with members of the vestry. The wardens are generally ranked “senior” and “junior.” The mode of selection and duties of the wardens are determined by state law, diocesan canon, or parish by-laws. The senior warden is usually the primary elected lay leader of the […]

Washburn, Henry Bradford

(Dec. 2, 1869-Apr. 25, 1962). Priest and seminary professor. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Washburn received his B.A. from Harvard in 1891 and his B.D. from the Episcopal Theological School in 1894. He was ordained deacon on June 20, 1894, and priest on Sept. 29, 1896. Washburn began his ordained ministry as assistant at […]

Washing of Feet

See Foot Washing.

Washing of the Altar

It is customary for the altar to be stripped after the Maundy Thursday liturgy. The BOS appoints Ps 22 and an antiphon for use if the stripping of the altar is observed as a public ceremony. Stripping the altar may be followed by the washing of the altar. Historically, the stripping and washing of altars […]

Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland

College formerly associated with the Episcopal Church. In early 1780 the Rev. William Smith became the principal of Kent County Free School, Chestertown, Maryland, which began instruction around 1729-1730. Kent School became Washington College on May 24, 1782, by virtue of a charter granted by the Maryland General Assembly “in honorable and perpetual memory of […]

Washington College, Hartford, Connecticut

See Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

Washington National Cathedral

See Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, The.

Washington Theological Repertory

This monthly journal first appeared in Aug. 1819 and was founded and edited by William Holland Wilmer. Any profits were to go to the Society for the Education of Pious Young Men for the Ministry, and the American Colonization Society. With the Aug. 1823 issue the title was extended to the Washington Theological Repertory and […]

Washington, Diocese of

The 1895 General Convention voted to divide the Diocese of Maryland and form the Diocese of Washington. The new diocese includes the District of Columbia and four Maryland counties: Charles, Prince George's, Montgomery, and St. Mary's. The primary convention of the Diocese was held at St. Andrew's Church, Washington, on Dec. 4-6, 1895. On Sept. […]

Washington, George

(Feb. 22, 1732-Dec. 14, 1799). First President of the United States and Episcopal vestryman. He was born on the family estate “Wakefield” in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Washington was baptized on Apr. 5, 1732, “according to conformity of the Church of England.” He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1759-1774, and was a delegate to […]


A period of “staying awake” for spiritual reasons. Traditionally, watches have been kept before the Blessed Sacrament on the night of Maundy Thursday at the “Altar of Repose.” Watches may also be kept to provide prayer and comfort for the sick or the dying. The term derives in part from Christ's question to his disciples […]

Watchman, The

This periodical appeared in Mar. 1819 and was published in New Haven, Connecticut. There was probably only one issue since no trace of any other issue has appeared.


Water is a major element in religious rituals. It is a natural symbol of birth, fertility, life, and cleansing. To emerge from the waters is to be clean and fresh and new. To wash the body, or even the hands, is symbolically to become clean in an interior sense. Ritually, water is a symbol of […]

Watts, Isaac

(July 17, 1674-Nov. 25, 1748). Nonconformist clergyman. He was born in Southampton, England. He served from 1699 to 1702 as assistant and from 1702 until 1712 as pastor of an independent church in Mark Lane, London. Watts was never robust, and he went into semi-retirement in 1712 at the home of Sir Thomas Abney, where […]

Wattson, Paul James Francis

(Jan. 16, 1863-Feb. 8, 1940). Founder of the Church Unity Octave, which was a precursor of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He was born in Millington, Maryland, and baptized Lewis Thomas Wattson. He received his B.A. (1882) and his M.A. (1885) from St. Stephen's (Bard) College and his B.D. from the General Theological […]

Way of the Cross (Stations of the Cross)

A devotion to the Passion of Christ which recalls a series of events at the end of Jesus' life from his condemnation to his burial. The Way of the Cross imitates the practice of visiting the places of Jesus' Passion in the Holy Land by early Christian pilgrims. The first stations outside Palestine were built […]

Wayside Cathedral

Founded in 1941 by Bishop Henry Wise Hobson of Southern Ohio, this program provided a “church on wheels” to minister in areas with no Episcopal parish. Its inspiration was a portable office used by Standard Oil. The name “Wayside Cathedral” was suggested by the decision to demolish and not replace the badly dilapidated St. Paul's […]

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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.