Reverend Ambrose is his community’s primary spiritual leader, and throughout the novel, he and Grant are often at odds about how best to support Jefferson as his death sentence approaches. Deeply committed to his faith, Ambrose emphasizes the importance of belief and the crucial role that God plays in relieving the weight of Black suffering. Without the sense of hope that spiritual devotion provides, Ambrose argues, life in their community would be impossible to bear. Alternatively, Grant struggles to maintain any kind of faith in the world around him as cynicism begins to dominate his perspective. This tension leads to an unspoken power struggle between the two men, one which plays out for a majority of the novel. Reverend Ambrose stands by Miss Emma, Tante Lou, and Jefferson right from the beginning of the trial and serves as a steady presence for them, never fearing to get involved in the community’s struggles. He aims to build Jefferson up spiritually as he believes that connecting with God is the only way he can endure his suffering and face death honorably. As much as he distrusts Grant for his abandonment of the church and self-centered attitude, however, Ambrose quickly realizes that Jefferson only seems to open up to his former schoolteacher. 

The climax of this interpersonal tension emerges as the Reverend begrudgingly finds himself asking for Grant’s assistance in helping Jefferson rediscover his faith. The heated exchange between them, which occurs in Chapter 27, gives the reader insight into how Ambrose understands his role as a leader in his community and reinforces the courage it takes to occupy such a role. As much as he resents having to work with Grant to support Jefferson, he does so because he realizes that it will provide Jefferson with his best chance at redemption. He puts the needs of his community ahead of his own, and, as he argues to Grant, this ability comes from his deep knowledge of the town’s social dynamics. This kind of education has taught Ambrose how to view life with sensitivity and internal strength, qualities that a strictly academic education cannot provide. Knowing when to lie for the benefit of others is yet another lesson that the Reverend attributes to his social education. Along with his unwavering faith in God, these leadership skills are ultimately what give Reverend Ambrose the courage to attend Jefferson’s execution. No matter how distraught the event may make him personally, he shows up to fulfill his moral obligation to his community.