United House of Prayer Has Sweet Daddy of a Parade

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

Not to be confused with IHOP, UHOP is a big deal in DC. Bigger than all-day pancake breakfast. Big enough to have its own parade. IHOP doesn’t get its own parade.

With a dozen brass bands, gospel singers and cheerleaders for Jesus, UHOP takes the almighty word of God to the streets each year on Memorial Day weekend with its “Christian Saints” marching parade. The video below shows one of several blocks filled with church members preparing for the parade.

The United House of Prayer for All People (also known as the United House of Prayer for All People of the Church on the Rock of the Apostolic Faith) – let’s call it UHOP – was founded in 1919 by “Sweet Daddy” Grace, a Cape Verdi immigrant also known as Bishop Charles Manuel Grace and born as Marcelino Manuel da Graca. Let’s call him “Sweet Daddy.”

Once a railway cook, Sweet Daddy began using the title bishop and built the first UHOP church in Wareham, Mass., for 39 bucks – ecumenical and economical. The church was incorporated in Washington, DC, in 1937, and its national headquarters is located in the Shaw neighborhood at 601 M Street NW. Members refer to the headquarters as “Sweet God’s White House.” (Its gold dome can be seen in the still for the video above.)

In addition to its renowned cafeteria, which serves inexpensive soul food, UHOP headquarters is also famous for it mass street baptisms, in which hundreds of congregants dressed in white, many wearing shower caps, are baptized by fire hose.

According to UHOP documents, the church now has between 25,000 and 50,000 members, with 145 houses of worship in 29 states.

For its annual parade, UHOP busses in congregants from all over the country. After about an hour of preparation, in which shout-band cacophony fills the streets near the church, the parade kicks off in royal fashion. Led by long columns of male church elders in black robes, UHOP’s current bishop, C.M. “Sweet Daddy” Bailey, rides in a chariot throne with members of his family.

2000-Year-Old 7-Year-Old Saint

Though most of the skeletal remains of St. Innocent are hidden inside the dress, the bones of his hands and feet are visible, and it’s not gross at all. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Though most of the skeletal remains of St. Innocent are hidden inside the dress, the bones of his hands and feet are visible, and it’s not gross at all. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

A frequent refrain of those touring the real Roman Catacombs is “Hey! I wanna see a dead body.” At the replicated Roman Catacombs in DC, you’re in luck. Deep beneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in upper Northeast DC lie the remains of a martyred 7-year-old from the second century, St. Innocent. How does a second-grader become a martyr for his faith? We’ll never know. What we do know is that he was found buried with two adults, ostensibly his parents – some parents enter their kids in pageants, others push for martyrdom – and that his body was found holding a palm frond, which marked him as a martyr.

Clad in an elaborate beaded dress, St. Innocent also wears a wig and a wax mask to hide and protect his skull. Given the dress and the mask’s plucked eyebrows and pink lip gloss, you’ve got to wonder how the little martyr would have felt if his schoolmates ever saw him in this getup (girls = yucky; martyrdom = cool).

St. Benignus, a Roman soldier who was beheaded for his faith, is also entombed here. Well, most of him is – his skull is still in Italy. Both saints were originally buried in the real Roman Catacombs, 900 miles of underground passageways where Christians buried their dead.