"Sweet Daddy" Grace And the United House

of Prayer for All People

| Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


    I. Group Profile

    1. Name: United House of Prayer for All People

    2. Founder: Charles Manuel Grace

    3. Date of Birth: January 25, 1881

    4. Birth Place: Brava, Cape Verde Islands

    5. Year Founded: 1919

    6. Sacred or Revered Texts: The sacred text is the Bible.

    7. Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.

    8. Size of Group: There are over 3,500,000 members with a heaquarters in Washington D.C.

    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


    II. History of the Group

      The United House of Prayer for All People was a Pentecostal Church that began in Wareham, Massachussetts in 1919 by Charles Manuel "Sweet Daddy" Grace. Like many Negro cult leaders, Bishop Charles Grace, which was an assumed name, preferred to keep his past a secret. 1 His real name was Mercelino Graca and he was born in Brava Verde, the Cape Verde Islands. His family moved to New Bedford, Massachussetts shortly after the 1900s. While in Massachussetts Grace worked on a railroad line as a short - order cook, salesman and grocer. He married Jennie J. Combard on February 2, 1909 and divorced her in 1920. In 1921, he opened the United House of Prayer for All People. 2

      By 1923 he made a trip to Egypt and established a House of Prayer there. In 1926, Grace founded the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte North Carolina. In 1927 Grace incorporated the United House of Prayer for All People Church on the rock of the Apostolic Faith at Washington, D.C. 3

      The United House of Prayer for All People has been seen as one of the most extreme charismatic sects in the country and exhibits features peculiar to it. For decades the United House of Prayer for All People was a one-man dominated organization. 4 Bishop Grace was the undisputed head and direct source of all major decisions. 5 Bishop Grace had several churches in both the South and the North. "House of Prayer" churches scattered along the East Coast from New York to Florida, all regard Daddy Grace as their founder. Local houses share a common name but because of different worship customs they have resisted attemps to organize a single body. 6 His movement seemed to be initiated by himself and his sect is not a schism from another church in the traditional sense. Its devotees are drawn from all other sects and from the general population. The majority of his followers came from economically depressed black ghettos. 7

      Organizations like the "United House of Prayer for All People" , by its very title indicated that everyone was welcome and important. To the poor his sermons held out the possibility of self improvement, upward social mobility, and respectability. The sect's organizational structure created offices for about 25 percent of its followers, thus giving them a feeling of importance and identity. In Daddy Grace members perceived a charismatic figure who offered security -- " Sweet Daddy" Grace, healer and miracle worker, and to many even God Incarnate, the second Christ. The dollars which Grace received from the poor who flocked to his services, and which made him a wealthy man, were for the people themselves a small price to pay for the void he filled in their lives. 8

      "People say Grace got money," but he denied the accusation , meticulously turning each pocket of his pants inside out in a show of personal poverty. " I have nothing, but the House of Prayer has. Where I came from and where I am going, I don't need money. I came from the land beyond the sea. People call me 'Bishop.' I'm no Bishop. There isn't but one Bishop, God. Any man who walks around calling himself God is a liar.". 9

    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


    III. Beliefs of the Group

      Theoretically membership is limited to those who have had a special experience. As the name implies the House of Prayer for All People is open to anyone who desires to join. It is necessary to be converted to become a member of the church. Then that individual must be sanctified and purified by living a holy and evangelical life. Finally, one must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Conversion is seen as being synonymous to conception and being born again. Sanctification is seen as being the period of gestation and the Blood of the Lamb must sanctify the individual in order to be born into the church. The proof that a person has been born again is that they no longer commit sins. 10

      CREED
      ---
      WE BELIEVE in the Almighty God, maker of Heaven and Earth
      ---
      WE BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and crucified for the redemption of the sins of the people so that all men would have a right to the tree of life.
      ---
      WE BELIEVE in water baptism for the repentence of sins.
      ---
      WE BELIEVE you must be born again of the Holy Ghost
      ---
      WE BELIEVE in One Leader as the Ruler of the Kingdom of God.

      11

      The United House of Prayer opened in the general Holiness Pentecostal tradition, worship services included Bible readings, exhortations, brass bands, ecstatic dancing and shouting. 12 Sometimes Daddy Grace would appear at these meetings and followers would shower him with dollar bills or rose petals. 13 Instead of a pool for baptisms, Daddy Grace was known to use a fire hose . Physical healings were a means to get people to come to church, and hundreds leave testified to Daddy Grace's miraculous powers. His figure was very prominent in the church, but he never ascribed deity to himself, but he had so much power that God tended to fade into the background. 14 Grace styled himself a divine messiah, who according to Fauset, pointed out to his followers " that when he took on earthly form he chose to lead Negroes, lowly in a state though they are, rather than the members of some priveledged group." Like many black messiahs he refused to speak of himself as a Negro. According to Joseph Washington, Grace sought to deify himself, rather than to stir up political passions of black people. 15

      In the Houses of Prayer there is great emotion involved. Services begin with congregational singing, accompanied by piano intertwined with shrieks, stomping and handclapping. As the tempo and volume rise, members come to the front of the auditorium to dance, while others flit about the isles and passageways. Some fall to the floor, while others speak in tongues. Many congregation members raise their arms and begin to cry. During his sermons Daddy Grace would often shift the attention of the congregation towards himself. “[Daddy] Grace was more important to salvation than God was"(Moses).According to John Nichol, the appeal of Daddy Grace was that his rights brightened dull lives, became a focal point of hope for the frustrated and emotionally starved and offered excitement and thrills for everyone. To the poor the sermons held out the possibility of self-improvement, upward social mobility, and respectability. 16

      The church was a large, barn like structure of the 'tabernacle' type, a flimsy wooden farm covered with tarred building paper. There was no floor, sawdust being liberally sprinkled on the ground. On the occasion mentioned it was packed with Negroes of the lower level. The preacher would use this situation to create a 'martyr psychology,' quoting Scripture pertaining to persecution and suffering of the saints and drawing an exact parallel between the despised early Christians. On either side of the preacher there were several female saints, robed in white as a sign that they had 'got the blessing' or 'come through,' stood rigidly at attention, these guardians being changed from time to time as those on duty became weary. Many saints, similarly attired, occupied the front benches. 17

      On the first appearance of the seizured body of the victim swayed rhythmically, his eyes were closed or uplifted, and inarticulate mutterings akin to an unknown tongue were heard. In the next stage the subject fell prone on the ground, where he lay in a state of trance or a coma for a considerable period. The worshippers paid no attention whatsoever to persons in this condition and even pushed them aside with the foot. The third stage was characterized by the jerks. Twitching appeared in the prone body of the stricken individual, and increased in intensity until the jerking body bounced about on the ground like a ball. Consciousness or a semi- consciousness, returned , and the victim struggled to his feet. The jerk continued to increase in severity; the head whipped forward or backward or from side to side, and at times the body was bent double by a sudden paroxysm. The final stage was a wild dance, which gradually emerged and eliminated the jerks. Then for the first time the attention of the leader was attracted. A song was 'lifted' and a circle of hand-clapping, laughing, ejaculating saints surrounded the dancer. At last the dance ended in a state of near collapse; the individual had received the 'power,' and if the covert was a woman she was robed in white and she took her place among the blessed. 18

    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


    IV. Controversies of " Sweet Daddy" Grace

      The adoration of Daddy Grace was "not turned into assests for the good of individuals or the good of the black community." Daddy Grace did not conform to the ideal picture of messianism, because he had no social program. His own financial success appears to have been the sole purpose of this cult. He lacked the qualities of a messiah because he had no intention of improving the worldly status of his followers. 19

      During each service there were numerous collections. Ushers who take up these collections in small aluminium pans vie with each other in their efforts to raise the largest amounts. They rush about the House of Prayer calling out, "Please put something in my pan!" " Please swell my total!" Some special honor or favor such as sitting at the right side of Daddy Grace when he comes to the local House of Prayer usually accrues to the person who collects the largest sum over a given period. These are a few extracts taken from the "General Council Laws of the United House of Prayer for all People" that illustrate the emphasis on money: 20

      " There shall be no offering taken on the night that is set apart for Daddy Grace before his arrival to the mountain."

      "Pastors must be in knowledge of everything: every penny raised and spent."

      " All pastors must see to it that each member pays his convocation fee and substantial rallies put on for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of Heaven and this is to be put in the hands of our General Builder to build as he see fit without bounds."

      "All houses of prayer must raise money in a united drive to buy a car for our Daddy Grace. Each state must do its part."

      These extracts indicate that the members of the cult are divided into different clubs whose chief function is to raise money that will be turned over to Bishop Grace. Usually in most of the houses of prayer there is a large poster that lists these clubs and the amount of money that they have raised. The purpose of this social rivalry is to increase the totals taken up in collection. In addition to this rivalry, there are King and Queen contests where men and women compete to win the honor of representing thier local house of prayer at a special event. The winners of this contest wear crepe paper and tinsel garb and play imperial roles associated with characters in fairy tales. 21

      In addition to the collections at his Houses of Prayer, Daddy Grace also had a substantial income through the products that he created. He created the Daddy Grace soap that cleansed the body, reduced fat, or healed according to the person's needs. It was also said that if the Grace Magazine which was created by Grace, were placed on the chest of a cold or tuberculosis patient they would be cured. There was also Daddy Grace toothpaste, transcontinental tea and coffee, men and women's hair pomade, face powder, cold cream, pine soap, vanishing cream, castille and palmolive soap and Daddy Grace cookies. There was also a home-buying association, an insurance and burying society. There was also a steady flow of income from the sale of emblems, badges, buttons, banners and elaborate uniforms with swords, batons and walking sticks for the faithful. 23

      Daddy Grace, the "boyfriend of the world," and his church grew. Along with the growth of his church were the growth of legends about "Sweet Daddy" Grace. It was said he had a green mustache, that he owned a fleet of Cadillacs, gold-fitted, painted red, white and blue. He claimed five million followers and five hundred Houses of Prayer, and records showe that he owned a soap factory, a coffee plantation, the tallest apartment building in the world, hotels , fabulous mansions and castles. It was said that he also owned John D. Rockefeller's old home in Montclaire, New Jersey. In 1938 he aquired Father Divine's main "heaven" in New York City. In 1957 he bought an eighty-five room mansion in Los Angeles for $450,000. 24

      In 1970, the "boyfriend of the world's" empire finally came to an end. After Daddy Grace's death the IRS moved in and claimed that his estate owed them $5,966,000 in back taxes for the year 1945 through 1956. 25

    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


    V. Links to "Sweet Daddy" Grace Web Sites

      Bishop Charles M. "Sweet Daddy" Grace
      This website provides information on "Daddy Grace" and the history behind the United House of Prayer for All People.It also discusses other black religions and black messiahs.
      http://www.newbedford.com/nbhistory/daddygrace.html

      "Sweet Daddy" Grace, Worship as ecstacy
      This is a brief article on Bishop Grace's bio. It includes a more recent picture of him before he died.
      http://www.news-observer.com/daily/1999/08/22/century104.html

      Bishop Charles Manuel "Sweet Daddy" Grace(?-1960)
      This web page provides a brief summary of Daddy Grace and about his church.
      http://www.cmstory.org/people/grace.htm

      Bishop Daddy Grace ( September 13, 1959 )
      This site gives a very brief description of Grace's worshippers.
      http://www.cmstory.org/history/timeline/bishop.htm

      United House of Prayer for All People of Savannah
      This site gives a description of the United House of Prayer for All People in Savannah, GA.
      http://www.uhopofsavannah.org/

      Saint's Paradise
      This site is advertising f CD of hymns and prayer songs to the members of the United House of Prayer for All People.
      http://www.si.edu/folkways/40117.htm

      Bishop Daddy Grace ( September 13, 1959 )
      This site has a paper on daddy grace that was written by a student at the University of Maryland College Park.
      http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Lab/8208/daddy.html

      "Sweet Daddy" Grace Inquirer
      This site gives people asking questions as well as answering some of the unknown facts of Daddy Grace.
      http://www.msstate.edu/listarchives/afrigeneas/199705/msg00270.html

      Bishop Daddy Grace ( September 13, 1959 )
      This site gives a brief summary of the historical happenings of New Bedford Massachussetts, Daddy Grace's hometown.
      http://bostonsouth.about.com/citiestowns/newenglandus/bostonsouth/library/weekly/aa0207 00.htm?rnk=r&terms=Daddy+Grace

      'Sweet Daddy' Grace Revisited
      This site gives a history of the Daddy Grace era from a Massachussetts newspaper.
      http://www.s-t.com/daily/10-96/10-21-96/b01li035.htm

      It's Baptism by Fire Hose for Charlotte Church
      This site gives a short article on a baptism by water hose in a Charlotte, North Carolina church.
      http://www.wcinet.com/th/News/100898/front/126230.htm

      Baptism by fire hose
      This was an article of a baptism with a fire hose performed by members of the United House of Prayer for All People.
      http://www.ifas.org/fw/9811/baptism.html

      United House of Prayer of All People in Seattle
      This site gives site gives contact information for those who are interested in the House of Prayer for All People in Seattle, Washington.
      http://www.engtex.com/pages/news/bild5.html

      House of Prayer for All People
      This site gives site gives contact information for those who are interested in the House of Prayer for All People in Vacaville, California.
      http://users.churchserve.com/ca/house_prayer/

      Food Pantry| Richmond, United House of Prayer for All People
      This site gives site gives contact information for those who are interested in the House of Prayer for All People in Richmond, Virginia.
      http://yourunitedway.org/key/0j0kz7mi.htm

      The United House of God
      This site gives site gives contact information for those who are interested in the United House of God which is in conjunction with the House of Prayer for All People in Dayton, Ohio.
      http://www.concentric.net/~Whouston/

    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


    VI. Bibliography

    Blythe, LeGette. 1961.
    Hornets’ nest; the story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Charlotte,NC: Heritage Printers, Inc.

    Boulware, Marcus H. 1969.
    The Oratory of Negro Leaders, 1900 - 1968. Connecticut: Negro Universities Press.

    Bowden, Henry W. 1993.
    Dictionary of American Religious Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwwod Press.

    Clark, Elmer T. 1949.
    The Small Sects in America. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.

    Davis, Lenwood G. 1992.
    Daddy Grace An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press.

    Fauset, Arthur. 1970.
    Black Gods of the Metropolis. New York: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Frazier, Edward. 1974.
    The Negro Church in America. New York: Schocken Books Inc.

    Georgia Writer’s Project. 1972.
    Drums and Shadows. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

    Jones, Charles Edwin. 1987.
    Black Holiness. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

    Jones, Raymond Julius. 1939.
    A Comparitive Study of Religious Cult Behavior Among Negroes:With Special Reference to Emotional Group Conditioning Factors. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press.

    Mathison, Richard R. 1960.
    Faiths, Cults, and Sects in America: From Atheism to Zen. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

    Meier, August. 1970.
    From Plantation to Ghetto. New York: Hill and Wang.

    Melton, Larry et al. 1993.
    Encyclopedia of African American Relgions. New York:Garland Pub.

    Moses, Wilson J. 1993.
    Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth. University Park, PA :Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Nichol, John Thomas. 1966.
    Pentecostalism . New York : Harper & Row.

    Peeks, Edward. 1971.
    The Long Struggle for Black Power. New York: Scribner.

    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    VII. Reference Notes

    1. Mathison, Richard R. 1960. Faiths, Cults, and Sects in America: From Atheism to Zen. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 240
    2. Melton, Larry et al. 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Relgion. New York:Garland Pub. p. 308
    3. Jones, Charles Edwin. 1987. Black Holiness. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. p. 207
    4. Clark, Elmer T. 1949. The Small Sects in America. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. p. 122
    5. Nichol, John Thomas. 1966. Pentecostalism . New York : Harper & Row. p. 147
    6. Jones, Charles Edwin. 1987. Black Holiness. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. p. 206
    7. Clark, Elmer T. 1949. The Small Sects in America. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. p. 122
    8. Meier, August. 1970. From Plantation to Ghetto. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 230
    9. Peeks, Edward. 1971. The Long Struggle for Black Power. New York: Scribner. p. 253
    10. Fauset, Arthur. 1970. Black Gods of the Metropolis. New York: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 24
    11. http://www.uhopofsavannah.org/
    12. Melton, Larry et al. 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Relgion. New York:Garland Pub. p. 308
    13. Bowden, Henry W. 1993. Dictionary of American Religious Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwwod Press p. 179
    14. Melton, Larry et al. 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Relgion. New York:Garland Pub. p. 308
    15. Moses, Wilson J. 1993. Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth. University Park, PA :Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 11
    16. Clark, Elmer T. 1949. The Small Sects in America. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. p. 123
    17. Clark, Elmer T. 1949. The Small Sects in America. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. p. 123
    18. Clark, Elmer T. 1949. The Small Sects in America. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. p. 123
    19. Moses, Wilson J. 1993. Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious MythUniversity Park, PA :Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 11
    20. Fauset, Arthur. 1970. Black Gods of the Metropolis. New York: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 24
    21. Fauset, Arthur. 1970. Black Gods of the Metropolis. New York: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 25
    22. Fauset, Arthur. 1970. Black Gods of the Metropolis. New York: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 30
    23. Mathison, Richard R. 1960. Faiths, Cults, and Sects in America: From Atheism to Zen. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 241
    24. Mathison, Richard R. 1960. Faiths, Cults, and Sects in America: From Atheism to Zen. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 241
    25. Mathison, Richard R. 1960. Faiths, Cults, and Sects in America: From Atheism to Zen. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p.243

      Created by Kathleen Duré
      For Soc 257: New Religious Movements
      Spring Term, 2000
      University of Virginia
      Last modified: 04/19/01