Daddy Grace

Daddy Grace: A Celebrity Preacher and His House of Prayer

Marie W. Dallam
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    Daddy Grace
    Book Description:

    Charles Manuel Sweet Daddy Grace founded the United House of Prayer for All People in Wareham, Massachusetts, in 1919. This charismatic church has been regarded as one of the most extreme Pentecostal sects in the country. In addition to attention-getting maneuvers such as wearing purple suits with glitzy jewelry, purchasing high profile real estate, and conducting baptisms in city streets with a fire hose, the flamboyant Grace reputedly accepted massive donations from his poverty-stricken followers and used the money to live lavishly. It was assumed by many that Grace was the charismatic glue that held his church together, and that once he was gone the institution would disintegrate. Instead, following his 1960 death there was a period of confusion, restructuring, and streamlining. Today the House of Prayer remains an active church with a national membership in the tens of thousands.Daddy Grace: A Celebrity Preacher and His House of Prayer seriously examines the religious nature of the House of Prayer, the dimensions of Grace's leadership strategies, and the connections between his often ostentatious acts and the intentional infrastructure of the House of Prayer. Furthermore, woven through the text are analyses of the race, class, and gender issues manifest in the House of Prayer structure under Grace's aegis.Marie W. Dallam here offers both a religious history of the House of Prayer as an institution and an intellectual history of its colorful and enigmatic leader.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8513-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The reporter on assignment for the Associated Negro Press described the scene he witnessed in Philadelphia:

    A week-long shouting meeting was climaxed Sunday by the United House of Prayer as Daddy (“He’s So Sweet”) Grace baptized thirty white-clad converts with a fire hose at 16th and Christian Streets. With three bands on hand to assure jumping dance music, Grace first made a 20-minute speech. He reminded them that he flew to the South Pacific, stopped the Japanese-American war in 1945, and flew right back. This he did overnight. And his followers, who were spotted throughout the huge crowd, said, “Yes...

  5. 1 The Call of God Brought Him
    (pp. 23-45)

    At the turn of the twentieth century, Marcelino Manuel da Graca, the future Bishop Charles M. “Daddy” Grace, came to the United States from a tiny Afro-Lusophone island in the Atlantic Ocean. His complex experience as a colonized Catholic “white Portuguese” man of means in his home country did not prepare Grace for the American life. Like so many other immigrants before him, when he stepped off a packet ship in New England he was relegated to the American class of Negroes, whose rights were always negligible. Yet Grace, a keenly intelligent and creative man with a strong religious drive,...

  6. 2 The Usual Miracles
    (pp. 46-74)

    Daddy Grace’s first major southern evangelizing tour took place in the spring and summer of 1926. Though the House of Prayer eventually grew into a large institution that appealed to many people,

    when it was first beginning Grace himself was the main attraction for those who visited his church. Through the 1920s and into the early 1930s, in order to gain a market share he had to be directly involved in the start-up process in every new town. Grace’s pattern was to make a well-publicized arrival that generated widespread interest in his meetings, welcome all those who attended, dazzle them...

  7. 3 Led by a Convicted Man
    (pp. 75-106)

    The growing strength of Daddy Grace’s membership base sustained him not only during the rocky and unpredictable early years of his ministry, but also in times of crisis. This loyalty was best exemplified by House of Prayer members in Hampton Roads in the early 1930s. Hampton Roads, a region comprised of several towns and cities in Virginia, lies in the southeast part of the state where the James, Elizabeth, and Nansemond Rivers coalesce and the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The region was first settled in the early years of American colonization and came to revolve around facets of...

  8. 4 He Ousted God from Heaven
    (pp. 107-134)

    In the late 1930s, a student of religion at Howard University began a chapter of his master’s thesis by writing, “Though not a deity on an equal level of popularity as Father Divine, some of the saints have crowned [Bishop Grace] with majesty and honor.”¹ With this simple reflection, James Daniel Tyms became the first in a long line of scholars who felt compelled to measure Daddy Grace against Father Divine, the leader of a religious group contemporary with the House of Prayer. But Tyms forged a path that few scholars after him bothered to follow. His thorough and engaging...

  9. 5 My Joy Is Completed in Charlotte
    (pp. 135-160)

    During the 1940s and 1950s, Daddy Grace’s last two decades of leadership, the United House of Prayer was in its heyday. The congregations in Charlotte, North Carolina, had grown to become the numeric stronghold of the church, and the city was subsequently described as the “pulsating heart of Daddy Grace’s religious and financial empire.”¹ Charlotte churches held some of the biggest and most exuberant convocation events, and the members and leaders, in an effort to prove their own worth, always tried to raise the most money for the church. Due to the heightened activity level in Charlotte during these years...

  10. 6 Chaotic Confusion
    (pp. 161-184)

    Daddy Grace tried to prevent the unhinging of the House of Prayer. Five days before his death on January 12, 1960, Grace recorded a live sermon in Los Angeles titled “You Must Be Born Again.” When members listened to this recording during funeral services for the bishop, newspapers erroneously reported that Grace “preached his own funeral.”¹ Most of his sermon’s message focused on the third chapter of the Gospel of John, and Grace reminded listeners that to be a full believer in Christ one had to experience baptism both by immersion in water and suffusion in the Holy Spirit. Grace...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-194)

    The leadership of Daddy Grace deserves more than the cursory scholarly dismissal it has received for so many decades. As a daring institutional leader and a savvy businessman, Grace was the inspiration and motivational figurehead for a church that affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans over several decades. The House of Prayer gave members a place to invest their creative energies, rewarding them with a community of believers and, often, a unique role within that community. Furthermore, Grace’s success would be almost unfathomable were it not for the fact that he achieved the conventional “American dream.” Despite...

  12. An Essay on Sources
    (pp. 195-198)

    Sources for this project have been many and varied, and most of them were buried under piles of dust up and down the East Coast. I trust there are many more to be uncovered by the next researcher, and I wish him or her the best of luck in unearthing things that will help us better understand the rich complexity of Daddy Grace and the United House of Prayer. In an effort to orient those interested both in this specific research and in researching African American religious history more broadly, I offer here an explanation of some of the sources...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 199-244)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-256)
  15. Index
    (pp. 257-262)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 263-263)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)