An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Procession (Liturgical)

A movement of participants in a liturgy from one place to another. The use of processions at the eucharist followed the legalization od Christianity by Constantine in the fourth century. Church services became more formalized with increased participation in Christian liturgies and larger buildings for Christian worship. Services included entrance rites with a procession of clergy and readers in which the gospel book was carried inprocession

Processions typically lead to the altar at the beginning of the service. A festal procession on a major feast may use the side aisles and main aisle of the church. This extended procession may pause for a station or special prayers to commemorate the occasion. Torches, banners, and incense may be carried in procession to add to the solemnity and excitement of the celebration. The entrance procession at the eucharist typically involves the ministers who will serve at the altar, including acolytes or servers, deacons or priests who will serve as assisting clergy, and the celebrant. The entrance procession may also include the choir. The gospel procession may lead to the midst of the congregation for the singing or reading of the gospel. Representatives of the congregation may bring the people’s offerings of bread and wine and money or other gifts to the deacon or celebrant at the offertory procession.

Many liturgies of the Episcopal Church may include processions. For example, there may be a procession to the font at a baptism, the bride and groom and wedding party may process to the sanctuary at the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, and the body may be borne from the church in procession at the Burial of the Dead. At the liturgy of the palms on Palm Sunday, and at the Dedication and Consecration of a Church, the clergy and people may gather at a place apart from the church to enter the church in procession. At the Easter Vigil, the deacon or celebrant bears the lighted Paschal candle and leads the congregation in procession to the chancel. The Great Litany may be said or sung in procession. The BOS provides forms for a Candlemas Procession for use immediately before the eucharist on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and for a Rogation Procession.

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.