Terms beginning with S


1)     Sacraments are what the Book of Common Prayer describes as ‘outward and visible signs of inward spiritual grace’. The main two are Baptism and the Eucharist. The outward form of these sacraments are ‘water’ for baptism which represents new life and the ‘bread and wine’ of the Eucharist which represents the body and blood of Christ. Other sacramental signs include marriage, ordination, confirmation, confession and healing.


1)     The idea of the ‘sacred’ is common to all religions. It is associated with what is regarded as specially set aside as ‘holy’. The sacred is invested with respect and reverence. It can refer to a church as a ‘sacred space’ or to scripture or to the ministry of the church. Anything set aside for God is considered to be ‘sacred’ as opposed to ‘secular’.

Sacrist/ Sacristy

1)     A sacrist usually has charge of the sacred vessels used in worship. Often the job is expanded to ordering much of the furnishings in a cathedral. A sacristy is a room annexed to a cathedral where the sacred vessels are stored.


1)     Saints in the Bible are followers of Christ. The term began to be restricted to those who were either canonised by the Pope or acclaimed by a local church as worthy of devotion. The ‘Communion of Saints’ are those who have died and are in fellowship with Christ and his people.


1)     Sanctity is another expression of ‘holiness’. Those who are thought to be close to God or who have a developed spiritual life are thought to display a quality of sanctity. When you are in their presence of such people you are less aware of them as individuals and more aware of the Spirit of God in them. The same can be said of a holy place.


1)     Scripture or sacred writings are those collections of stories, poems, laws, annals, letters, love poems, prophecies and wise sayings which are regarded as sacred and necessary for salvation. A faith community regards its scriptures as essential to the teaching of its faith and the telling of its story. Scripture is used in public worship, as the basis of prayer, and for private edification and devotion. It is best engaged with enthusiastically and creatively as a basis for discussion and debate. The imaginative interpretation of scripture is what enables it to engage with succeeding generations of believers.


1)     This term often refers to the things of this world as opposed to the things of God. Clergy living in the world and serving parishes have been known as ‘secular’ since the 12th century. In Biblical times there was less of a division between the sacred and the secular. Today many Christians are arguing that the Incarnation (the belief that God became human in Jesus Christ) is a reason to challenge the separation of sacred and secular.


1)     A sermon is preached at a church service during the ‘ministry of the word’ and usually follows the Bible readings. A sermon is meant to proclaim the good news of God’s love as revealed in the scriptures and explained in the doctrine of the church. The preacher is usually licensed by the bishop and should be theologically trained to interpret scripture and relate it to the issues of the day.


1)     Strictly speaking ‘Divine Services’ refer to the choir offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. However, in recent times ‘services’ refer to public acts of worship which usually take place in a church on a regular basis especially on a Sunday. They are open to all people whether they be believers or not and usually take the form of an ordered liturgy. If you do not regularly attend church then there should be a member of the congregation delegated to help you follow the service. Special services such as weddings, funerals, memorial services, thanksgivings etc. will often have a printed order, which is easy to follow.


1)     A shrine was originally a receptacle for a holy relic. It has now become associated with pilgrimage and can be simply a holy place to which people resort for a spiritual experience.


1)     IHS or INRI, A etc. A symbol is a shorthand way of representing something beyond itself. Symbols require certain knowledge before they can be interpreted. They are like road signs pointing beyond to some other entity

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The original core of this glossary was commissioned from Canon Phillip McFadyen of St George's Colegate, in Norwich.