Why does Reverend Sykes order the doors of the church shut in Chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

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Following Reverend Sykes's sermon, which "was a forthright denunciation of sin"--not unlike many sermons heard in Jem's and Scout's own church--the pastor "requested the morning offering." Instead of passing the collection plate around, the congregation approached the pulpit one-by-one and placed their coins in the coffee tin that held the offering. Afterward, Reverend Sykes emptied the contents on the table and then ordered the doors to the church closed. "This is not enough... Nobody leaves here until we have ten dollars," he announced. He then singled out one man who had not yet contributed, and the church members "painfully" began digging for more change. The money donated was going to help Tom Robinson's family and his wife, Helen, and the doors were reopened when the ten dollars was finally collected.

readerofbooks's profile pic

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This is a good question. Reverend Sykes is a good man, and he does order the doors of the church to be shut. When this takes place, Calpurnia, Jem and Scout are in the pews. So, they witness what is going on.

In this service, there was a special collection to help Tom Robinson's family in their time of need. You can imagine that they needed the money, because Tom was not working, as he was in the town jail waiting for this trial. 

So, Reverend Sykes, as the minister of the church, wanted to help the Robinson family. He is also a very direct man. He said that the doors of the church would be closed until they had ten dollars. This was acceptable in this community. It took some time, but Reverend Sykes and his congregation came up with the money to help the Robinsons. This shows the love in the church. Here is the text:

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 everybody 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.”


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