CHARLES MANUEL “SWEET DADDY” GRACE RESIDENCE
11 Logan Circle, NW
Washington, DC, 20005
Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace (ca. 1882-1960) incorporated the United House of Prayer for All People, Church on the Rock of the Apostolic Faith, in 1927 with national headquarters in Washington at 1117 Seventh Street, NW. Grace, originally from the Cape Verde Islands, was one of several Washington religious leaders, including Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, offering worshipers an alternative to traditional Christianity. He built his first chapel in 1926 in West Wareham, Massachusetts, and came to Washington in 1929.
Grace was a charismatic leader who amassed a great fortune. He was known for his flamboyant personal style, evidenced by his green and purple coats and long fingernails painted red, white, and blue, which also matched the trim on his house. (To the faithful, the fingernails were proof of his prophetic nature as the Bible speaks of a prophet with horns growing out of his hands.) He became famous for staging huge revivals, faith healings, and mass baptisms. With his large constituency, he and his successors became important players on the city's political stage.
Grace created a legacy that has greatly assisted the church's poor and working-class members, including day care centers, food banks, senior citizen centers, and well-maintained, inexpensive housing.
The United House of Prayer for All People, which takes its name from Isaiah 56, is a church theologically situated within the Holiness-Pentecostal tradition but which has maintained its denominational independence and has often been stigmatized as a “cult.” Its founder, Charles M. “Daddy” Grace (1881-1960), immigrated to the United States from Cape Verde, an Afro-Lusophone archipelago, where he had been reared in the Catholic Church. Grace started his first church in Massachusetts in 1919; two years later he opened a second church and began referring to himself as a bishop. In the mid-1920s Grace began a cycle of evangelizing tours in the southeastern United States, holding tent meetings filled with lively music, testimonials, preaching, and faith healing. He brought assistants with him from town to town to advertise, play music, fill seats, and otherwise facilitate the services.
Grace wanted people to come together out of devotion to God and commitment to a fellowship rather than because of the charm of a leader, therefore he left it to those who were interested to sustain things when the tent meetings ended and he and his assistants left town. Under a fledgling ministry appointed by Grace, the brand new members were responsible for creating and maintaining a worship space and a spiritual community, and this gave them power, a degree of autonomy, and a deep investment in their new religious home. This was the blueprint for the early House of Prayer as it grew through the 1920s and 1930s:
Grace remained a self-financed itinerant preacher, and new Houses of Prayer steadily arose up and down the East coast as people responded to his religious message. He was revered as the spiritual head of the church and was lovingly called “Daddy.”
By the time of Grace’s death in 1960 there were several hundred Houses of Prayer across the United States, with most located on the East coast. The church had property holdings in the multiple millions of dollars, yet Grace’s inconsistent record-keeping created a legal mess for those charged with seeing the church through the transition to new leadership. Many lawsuits were filed regarding assets, taxes, property, and inheritance rights, and these took years to be resolved in the court systems. Nonetheless, under new bishop Walter “Daddy” McCollough, the House of Prayer maintained its focus. The new directions McCollough took in his leadership, especially regarding social gospel work, pushed the church toward greater acceptance by the public at large. Though it is a smaller organization today, with a little over one hundred churches nationwide, the United House of Prayer has remained an independent religious organization with a definitive identity and multiple generations of members.