The Anglican Divide: Richmond Dispatch Editorial on Bishop Lee’s "Center Aisle"

BB NOTE: Interesting editorial from the Richmond Dispatch on the “Center Aisle” and it’s meaning now in the current Anglican Divide. Someone also said that once the worship service is underway, the next time the center aisle is used is for the recessional.

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Sunday, July 30, 2006

During the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, the Diocese of Virginia published an online newsletter. The “Center Aisle” reflected not only Bishop Peter Lee’s personal approach but also via media — the beloved middle way that has played such a positive role in the Anglican tradition.

The metaphor works — to a point. During church services, the clergy and choir stride down the center aisle, accompanied by some of the most beautiful music in hymnody, to their appointed places before the congrega- tion. Parishioners can enter through the center aisle yet may not tarry there. The pews lie to the left and the right. To sit down, believers must turn in one direction or the other. No one decides to sit on the left or the right based on his ideology, of course; the point here is metaphorical. The center aisle is crucial to ritual but it does necessarily lead to the middle.

Now consider other configurations for auditoriums. Many churches and most spaces for the performing arts use the four-aisle system. Two aisles border the walls; two other aisles divide the seating area. The best and highest-priced seats usually lie in the center section. After entering from the left or the right, a person seeking a prime location must turn toward the middle. Even if they don’t occupy the center, individuals using the aisles along the wall still must move toward the middle. Not only that, but the person in the left aisle must turn right; the person in the right aisle must turn left. Epsicopal churches have side aisles as well. Yet while at least some parishioners move toward the middle, the center aisle itself does not serve as a conduit to moderation.

Perhaps the metaphor of a center aisle explains not why Anglicans are coming togther but why they seemingly are pulling apart.