Maudie laments that most church people “are so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one…” she continues, “you can look down the street and see the results.” We find a beautiful answer to her commentary later in the book though. One of my favorite scenes in any story takes place when Scout and Jem visit the First Purchase Church in chapter twelve of Harper Lee’s novel. Not only is it one of the most moving moments in the narrative, I think it has a lot to teach us about the way we should endeavor to care for our neighbors. At the end of the church service, the pastor of the African-American community takes up an offering and does something Scout had never seen before in church:
“To our amazement, Reverend Sykes emptied the can onto the table and raked the coins into his hand. He straightened up and said, ‘This is not enough, we must have ten dollars.’ The congregation stirred. ‘You all know what it’s for — Helen can’t leave those children to work while Tom’s in jail. If everyone gives one more dime, we’ll have it — ‘Reverend Sykes waved his hand and called to someone in the back of the church. ‘Alec, shut the doors. Nobody leaves here till we have ten dollars.'”
Amen. I love those lines… They remind me of C.S. Lewis’s quote, “It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter. It is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.” Reverend Sykes has closed the doors to his church and will not let his congregation leave until the needs of one suffering family are adequately met. Scout recounts how the Reverend even begins to call people down to the front of the church who have not given or could give more “slowly, painfully, the ten dollars was collected. The door was opened and the gust of warm air revived us.”
Can you imagine this taking place in a church service today? I wonder what it would look like if our communities of faith, our neighborhoods,or our co-workers endeavored to care for each other in this way. I think we need more people like Reverend Sykes in the world.