The sixth General Assembly of the National Council of Churches met December 1–7 in Philadelphia, but its eye was on Washington, D. C. A long shadow cast over the Quaker City’s Convention Hall by the memory of a vacated White House chair seemed to impel the delegates toward the seats of power on Capitol Hill in a search for solution of the nation’s racial crisis, easily the dominant issue of the convention.
The high point of the assembly was to have been a televised address by John F. Kennedy, scheduled to be the first President and first Roman Catholic national leader to speak to an NCC general meeting. Instead of his projected address on “Our Liberties, One and Indivisible,” a memorial service was held for him, in which United Presbyterian Stated Clerk Eugene Carson Blake said: “John Kennedy by his actions as President demonstrated that he was indeed a good Catholic, but more—that his kind of Christianity was a strength rather than a handicap to his serving the whole people of the whole nation under the Constitution and under God.” Bishop George W. Baber of the African Methodist Episcopal Church prayed: “In this hour of our national and world sorrow, we pause to thank Thee for John Fitzgerald Kennedy who now moves with Thee in glorious realms of eternal light; and for the impact of his dedicated personality upon the lives of so many, great and small, known and unknown, of all creeds and colors.” Pennsylvania’s Governor William W. Scranton paralleled the assassination with that of Lincoln, and asserted: “America will survive so long as we have leaders of the people who use as their guidelines the people’s common sense. While politicians and lawyers ...1
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