At church Jean Louise feels comfortable, like she’s really back home. Hank passes around the collection plate and winks at her, which makes Aunt Alexandra angry. After the collection they all sing the Doxology, a short traditional hymn in the Methodist church, but this time the organist plays it much faster than normal. The congregation sings along, but Jean Louise is shocked. She wonders who is responsible for changing the hymn: the music director, Herbert Jemson, or the minister, Mr. Stone, who is young but very dull and has been “suspected of liberal tendencies.”
This rather disjointed tangent at the church does still loosely connect with the politics of the novel, as Jean Louise and Uncle Jack—the two who haven’t attended this church in a while—are both scandalized to hear a traditional hymn changed. Their conservatism affects even unrelated aspects of life like this, and shows how they dislike change for change’s sake alone.
Mr. Stone starts the sermon with a Bible verse from the book of Isaiah: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, / Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” Jean Louise can’t pay attention to the sermon because she’s still distracted by the change in the Doxology. After the sermon Uncle Jack confronts Herbert Jemson, the music director. Herbert says that he went to a music camp where the Yankee instructor told them to play the Doxology that way. Uncle Jack is indignant, and says that the North is now trying to change Southern hymns as well as enforcing their Supreme Court decisions on them. Uncle Jack convinces Herbert to go back to the old way of playing.
The verse read during the sermon introduces the novel’s title. It isn’t explained what Mr. Stone makes of the “watchman,” but later it will become clear that for Lee and Jean Louise the watchman is representative of one’s conscience and set of personal principles. Uncle Jack’s anger at a Northern musician changing Southern hymns foreshadows his (and Jean Louise’s and Atticus’s) resentment of the federal government changing Southern laws, and perhaps the idea that “Northern” ideas of how things should be are necessarily superior and better than Southern ones.