28788 North Main Street
Daphne, Alabama  36526

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Going to any church for the first time can be a challenge. Churches, like any group, have their own vocabulary that they all know and understand but which can be daunting for a visitor. We hope this page answers some of your initial questions about terminology. Please understand this list is fairly brief and for a more detailed description of terms, you will have to attend an “Inquirer’s Class” for those interested in joining the Episcopal Church. We offer an Inquirer’s Class once a year at St. Paul’s.

Narthex: The entrance room of a church, just before you enter the nave.

Nave: The main body of the church building where the people sit.

Pastor: The title used in many denominations for a person exercising a ministry of pastoral care in a local congregation.

Priest: An ordained member of the clergy set apart by the Church for particular (not better) ministries and authorized to celebrate Holy Communion and pronounce God's forgiveness (absolution) in worship. After three years of seminary, a person is ordained a transitional deacon (who is not authorized to celebrate Communion or pronounce absolution) and, about a year later, is ordained a priest.

Rector: The title of the senior priest in an independent (not financially subsidized) Episcopal congregation, also known as a “Parish.

Reverend, Father, Mother, Mr., Mrs., etc.: There are various terms of address for the clergy. Reverend is for clergy what Honorable is for a judge; use it on an envelope (The Rev. J. Q. Smith) but not in person (do not say “Hi, Reverend” just as you would not say “Hi, Honorable” to a judge). Just remember that Reverend is an adjective, not a noun. It describes but does not name. When addressing a Bishop, you may simply call him or her “Bishop” or, for example, “Bishop Duncan.” Either way is acceptable. However, it is never polite to address the bishop as “Hey Bish . . . ,” or refer to him or her as the “person with the funny stick and hat".

Vestry: The lay leadership board of an Episcopal congregation, named from the “vesting” room of the church in which the group met in colonial days. At St. Paul’s, persons are elected annually at the congregational meeting in November to three-year terms on the Vestry. The Vestry shares with the priest the leadership responsibilities of the church. It also approves the budget and oversees the leadership of the parish. With the guidance of the Bishop, the Vestry has the responsibility for calling a rector for the congregation.

Vicar: The title of the senior priest in a mission congregation (financially subsidized or without enough membership to provide the resources needed to function independently).

Warden: The term for the senior lay leaders of the Vestry. The senior warden and junior warden are elected annually by the vestry. In many congregations the senior warden is chosen by the rector and junior warden is chosen by the vestry.

Contact Information


St. Paul's Episcopal Church

28788 North Main Street

Daphne, Alabama  36526




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