United House of Prayer for All People

A charismatic Pentecostal-Holiness denomination with a unique history of leadership and community impact.

The United House of Prayer for All People is a Pentecostal-Holiness church founded in the early 20th century by Charles Manuel “Sweet Daddy” Grace, born Marcelino Manuel da Graca. This religious organization is notable for its distinctive practices and the charismatic leadership of its founder.

Founding and Growth

Born in Cape Verde, Grace immigrated to the United States, working initially as a cook before beginning his ministry. He established the first House of Prayer in 1919 in West Wareham, Massachusetts, before moving to Newark, New Jersey. The church experienced rapid growth under his guidance, drawing primarily poor blacks in urban areas to its fold. The ministry expanded to include numerous House of Prayer congregations across the United States and overseas. Grace’s leadership style and the church’s practices, which included musical brass shout bands, physical healings, and mass baptisms, played a significant role in attracting followers.

Leadership and Controversy

Grace, known to his followers as “Sweet Daddy Grace,” was a central figure in the church, often deemed controversial for his flamboyant lifestyle and the direct control he exerted over church finances and operations. His teachings emphasized the concept of one-man leadership, likening his role to biblical figures like Moses and Jesus. This approach, along with his claim of being an emissary of God with the authority to grant or withhold salvation, sparked debate and criticism. Despite the controversies, Grace remained a revered figure within the church until his death in 1960.

Succession and Expansion

Following Grace’s death, leadership succession sparked crises within the church. Walter McCollough succeeded Grace, followed by Samuel Christian Madison and then C.M. “Sweet Daddy” Bailey. Under these leaders, the church continued to grow, focusing on community development, including building low-income housing, day care centers, and senior citizens’ homes. The church also established scholarship funds to support the education of its youth.

Organizational Structure

The United House of Prayer for All People has a well-defined organizational structure. It is led by a bishop, supported by elders, ministers, deacons, and congregational members. The church operates under a constitution and by-laws, with a General Assembly responsible for major decisions, including the election of the bishop. The bishop holds significant authority within the church, overseeing ministers and managing church properties.

Modern Challenges

Like many organizations, the United House of Prayer has faced modern challenges, including a significant COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 linked to one of its events. The outbreak resulted in numerous infections and fatalities, highlighting the difficulties religious organizations face in balancing community gatherings with public health concerns.