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Not everyone is familiar with all the special terms sometimes used to refer to items in a church building and during services. Here we explain those terms that are used most frequently.


An altar is a table upon which a sacrifice was offered. When we gather for Eucharist, we gather figuratively around a table representing the dining table where Jesus shared the Last Supper with his companions. But we simultaneously affirm that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice that enables us to be set free from the power of sin.


The chancel is the other main division of a longitudinal church including typically the sanctuary and the choir stalls. The word comes from the Latin cancellus meaning a lattice screen, which was often used to divide these sections of the church. In older churches, such a screen might have included a large crucifix, in which case it was known as a rood screen, as rood was another name for the cross.


This is Latin for “shaped like a cross”: ┼. In the case of St Peter’s, the axis from the font to the Te Deum window forms the upright of the cross. The transverse element is formed by the space in front of the altar rail, and extends to the left in front of the Dean’s Board, and to the right in front of the Children’s Altar.


The font is a container for holy water used for baptism. It looks like a bowl of water on a pedestal, and is used when a person wishing to belong to the church makes a profession of their faith and then is ritually cleansed of sin (all that separates us from God) and renewed by being sprinkled with holy water three times (i.e., in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).

The nave is the central body of the church where the congregation gather. From the mediæval Latin navis, possibly suggested by the keel shape of vaulting in mediæval church ceilings. Also suggestive of the people of God as being on a journey together.


Taizé is an ecumenical monastic community with a motherhouse in Burgundy, France. The community was founded by Brother Roger during World War 2 and has a ministry of reconciliation, primarily with young people. The contemplative worship style and its associated music is popular in many parts of the church worldwide. For more information, you can visit the Taizé webpage.