An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Virgin Birth

This term describes the birth of Jesus. Jesus' mother was Mary, and he was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, without a human father. Mary's virginity at the time of Jesus' birth is mentioned specifically in the gospels of Matthew (Ch. 1) and Luke (Ch. 1). Although Matthew and Luke have two very […]

Virgin Islands, Diocese of

The Virgin Islands became a part of the Missionary District of Puerto Rico in 1919. The House of Bishops established the Missionary District of the Virgin Islands in 1947, but it was still under the care of the Missionary Bishop of Puerto Rico. The first Missionary Bishop of the Virgin Islands, Cedric Earl Mills, was […]

Virgin Mary

See Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint.

Virginia Company of London

On Apr. 10, 1606, King James I of England chartered two companies to settle, respectively, the southern and northern portions of the land claimed by England in America. The Virginia Company was to settle the south and the Plymouth Company was to settle the north. In 1607 the Virginia Company founded and settled at Jamestown, […]

Virginia Theological Seminary

See Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia, The, Alexandria, Virginia (VTS).

Virginia, Diocese of

Organized in Richmond on May 18, 1785. The 1892 General Convention divided the diocese and today it includes the following counties: Albemarle, Arlington, Caroline, Charles City, Clark, Culpeper, Essex, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Gloucester, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Henrico, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Loudoun, Louisa, Madison, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northumberland, Orange, […]

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1, records that at the time of the Annunciation, Mary learned her relative Elizabeth was miraculously pregnant. Mary went to visit Elizabeth and greeted her. At this greeting the child leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. Her child was John the Baptist. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She greeted Mary […]

Visitation of the Sick

Traditional term for the pastoral office of Ministration to the Sick (BCP, p. 453). It may include one or more of the following: ministry of the word, laying on of hands and anointing, and Holy Communion. These parts are used in the order indicated if two or more are used together. The Lord's Prayer is […]

Visitation, Episcopal

See Episcopal Visitation.


Vocare is a form of the Latin word meaning “to call.” The Vocare weekend is a renewal weekend for young adults, ages nineteen to thirty. At this time they face many serious decisions which set the direction for much of their adult life. The focus of the weekend is “Let yourself hear Christ's call.” Its […]


From the Latin vocare, “to call,” vocation is the “calling” one infers from the external and internal signs which evolve over time. Vocation may involve a task or job, but it also concerns a way of life. All Christian vocations-lay or ordained, single or married or religious-are specific expressions of Christian identity rooted in the […]

von Wied, Hermann

(See Hermann von Wied of Cologne.)

Voorhees College, Denmark, South Carolina

A historically African American, coeducational, liberal arts college affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Voorhees was founded by Elizabeth Evelyn Wright (1872-1906) as the Denmark Industrial School. It opened on Apr. 14, 1897. In 1902 the name was changed to Voorhees Industrial School in honor of Ralph Voorhees, a generous benefactor. The name was changed in […]


Eucharistic celebration in which the proper collect, psalms, and readings concern a particular devotion. A votive may be chosen for pastoral reasons when no other celebration is required by the calendar of the church year. The BCP provides twenty-five propers for Various Occasions, including “Of the Holy Trinity,” “Of the Incarnation,” “For the Departed,” “For […]

Votive Lights

These are short thick candles inserted into small glass cups which worshipers may light as an act of devotion. They may be placed on shelves or stands in front of the Blessed Sacrament, or in front of pictures or statues of Our Lord or saints. Votive lights may also be used in the home, especially […]


Formal pledges or promises. All Christian vows are ultimately based in the promises made in the baptismal covenant (BCP, pp. 304-305). Vows may give form and particularity to the baptismal covenant in the person's life. In the Christian tradition, vows often reflect a life commitment to a specific Christian vocation or manner of life. Such […]

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 […]

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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.