Gothic churches, unlike many more modern churches, are not arranged to facilitate an audience’s attention to a speaker or performer, like a classroom or theater. The layout of a Gothic church serves a different purpose.
Long, narrow Gothic-style churches are made to house and highlight the symbolic enactment of believers’ spiritual pilgrimage together toward an encounter with the divine. The path of this symbolic pilgrimage is the center aisle.
The center aisle in a Gothic church starts either at the main entrance or (as here at Grace) at the baptismal font, where the life of faith begins, and leads to the altar, where believers encounter the Divine in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The symbolic action is an ancient custom: a procession.
A procession might look like a few people in line at the supermarket, or it might look like a parade with costumes and music—but behind it all lies the symbol of a pilgrimage, a journey of faith in community.