Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sweet Daddy Grace



Being born into an Italian family, and having been sent to Catholic grammar school and high school, elevated guilt levels to an all time high. I was sandwiched in between a religion that allowed no flexibility and a nationality that basically endorsed this principle.

In my case, both were recipes for disaster.

The Catholic Church was supposed to provide safety, sanctuary and guidance. So was my family. Both failed miserably.

Catholic school was strict and unkind, especially grammar school. Harsh discipline was handed out regardless of whether or not anyone deserved it. Slapping, spanking with yard sticks and verbal insults were part of the curriculum. Today, these nuns would be arrested for abuse.
Humiliation was the name of the game. The nuns were masters at attacking any dignity a student possessed. Denigration of the student just seemed to make the nuns stronger. It seemed to spark a tirade of “creative” insults that they themselves enjoyed.

Self esteem plummeted from the constant barrage of insults. Students were called “stupid”, and “dim-witted”.
In the 1950’s parents gladly welcomed any discipline the nuns dispensed, be it verbal or physical punishment.
The wedding ring on the nun’s fourth finger made its imprint on my face more than once. This is the same wedding band that the nuns received when they “took” Jesus Christ as their groom on the day of their vows. How happy would He have been to have an abusive “wife”?

Through all this confusion of my religion and nationality, the one religion I envied was in my neighborhood. I dare not mention this religion to anyone at school, or even my family, but I was envious of the compassion, feeling and pageantry that this “church” held.
The church was called The United House of Prayer for All People. It was situated in the black section of Dixwell Avenue, in New Haven around the corner from Henry Street. The building was a huge white stucco fortress with a huge red, white and blue oval banner on top that stated “Welcome All People”. Simple, true, accurate. No exclusions here.

Sweet Daddy Grace was the leader of this church. He was the Bishop, who founded this church. He was born in the Cape Verde Islands and came to the United States.
Daddy Grace was a flamboyant minister. He was said to have owned one of the largest fleets of Cadillac’s, had his own line of soaps and healing medicines, performed miracles, baptisms and referred to himself as “The Boyfriend of the World”.

Once a year Daddy Grace came to town and would parade for his followers.

I would squirm my way into the crowd and sit on the curb waiting for this Man of God to parade down the street.

Black children and adults would march down the street all dressed up, with batons, trumpets, banners and drums proclaiming the wonders and words of Daddy Grace.
Kids on bikes had banners of red, white and blue, flapping in the spokes of their wheels, with the words, “Welcome All People”.

Just before the float that held Daddy Grace appeared, there would be a small group of men, talking in gibberish. I soon learned that not only the Catholic Church staked the claim “talking in tongues to the Holy Spirit”, but Daddy Grace also held the Power of the Holy Ghost.

As Daddy Grace’s float came closer, there was a collected silence among the immediate crowd, and then it hit -boisterous cheering, weeping, clapping, singing and praising.
People were throwing money on the float. I wished I’d had some. I would have tossed it too.

As this old man came closer, I saw what I expected God to look like, except for his long red, white and blue fingernails. He looked resplendent with his pure white suit, long white flowing hair, and gold chains around his neck, as he blessed everyone in the crowd.

The white people in the neighborhood didn’t put much stock in Daddy Grace.
But I know what I saw, and I know what I felt.
Catholicism couldn’t hold a candle to Daddy Grace.

To me, this was what religion was all about, or should have been

11 Comments:

Blogger Seawave said...

Suzy:
Coming across this post is so timely for me. I just spent the better part of two hours just regurgitating 10 pages of memories of my experience of Catholicism, and I'm still not finished. My journey to my own spirit has taken many turns along the way, and what has always amazed me is the consistency with which the face of Christianity presents itself as cruelty, fear, punishment, and downright abuse. Your post is beautifully written, and has blessed me today especially. I am so thrilled to have discovered your space here.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...

See Suzy? See? It has already been "worth it", you've made a difference!to "Seawave". Your writing is superlative! You are gifted! AND, thank God we're meeting someone in your life that was positive! I love this piece, and I love you!

9:47 AM  
Blogger jennifer said...

Love this, great writing Suzy! So many gorgeous stories and images are lifting from your being. Thank you for your grace!

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

guys, i've been there , catholic school for eight years. yes indeedy some hair raising experiences i could tell. i went to our lady of mount carmel in the bronx starting 1946. they were MEAN! and if i went home and told my mother she would get on my case too.
Worse than that , the nun swore us to secrecy of the four walls of the classroom. i remember distinctly in fourth grade , dear sister martina said that if any one of us told what went on we would get it worse when she found out.

Where was DCYF?????

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Mecca B. said...

Hello Miss Suzy,
I am a member of The United House of Prayer For All People. Your story was very-well written for someone who is not a member. The only thing that you saw was the outside of the House of Prayer. I would love for you to see the inside. If you already have; thats just wonderful! The House of Prayer is just amazing. Now, I've been to other churchs such as; Baptist, Catholic, COGIC, Jewish, etc... But in all, I still find myself at the "sweet" House of Prayer. There is nothing else like it. I know that I could never leave the House of Prayer. I have recieved so many blessings through out my short-lived life. By, praying, seeking & fasting i have gotten deeper in the House of Prayer faith. I recently, recieved the "Holyghost" and with that power God has shown me so many things. Things that I never even thought I would see. I hope that you and others find encouragement in my words. I also would like to invite you to attend services at the House of Prayer. Convocation is still an annual event for House of Prayer members and we look forward to it every year. Also, to find out more information about the House of Prayer please visit the offical website at www.tuhopfap.org. I pray that you continue to be encouraged and blessed.

~Peace & Blessings~

Sis. Mecca B.
Bronx, NY

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Paul B. said...

Suzy my name is Paul B. 62 years old, born in Charlotte NC and had the privilege of receiving a dollar bill out of Daddy Grace's hand after performing a solo during Holy Convocation. The Mother Church was on S. McDowell St. I and my parents attended Gethsemane Baptist Church, which was a "spiritually dead church" and my mother would just beat me crazy when she found out I was attending the "HOP" as we called it but I was determine to seek that which was different and it felt good as a young teenager. I can remember when Daddy Grace died, I felt extremely depressed, that's the impact this man had on me and it was an everlasting impression. I, a young lad, during one of the nightly services of The Holy Convocation, the baby band began to play, the next moment, I was taken down to the dancing area, in front of the "Mountain". I would always stand in the pew close to the center isle so I could give Daddy Grace a dollar when he entered the service. It was a "strange feeling" to feel those long painted fingernails.
I will never ever forget Daddy Grace. I am now a member of yet another pentecostal church which would never compare to The "HOP". Churches of today would label Daddy Grace as a cult. I know better, this man's ministry changed me as a young lad in a way I will never ever forget. My involvement with the music department during that era brought me to today's era in co-producing an album with Rev. John P. Kee and the Shiloh First Missionary Baptist church. Oh I also own a recording of Daddy Grace's "Last Sermon On The Mount". A treasure. I really stumbled upon you Suzy and wow thanks for allowing me to express what I experienced with Sweet Daddy Grace. Shortly afterward, Daddy McCullough became our next bishop. I can remember one morning after a service, Daddy McCullough came down for breakfast, many of us sat on the floor listening to him discussing different appointments that were requested by those in attendants. The home was owned by Elder & Sister Harvell and that's also where Daddy Grace would stay when he was in town. I now live in Atlanta Ga, married for 31 years 3 daughters and four granddaughters. It was such a privilege to have been in the company of GREAT MEN when I was a young lad...Love You Much Suzy...

12:48 AM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Paul,

Thank you so much for your thoughts and words. So many people felt the impact of Daddy Grace, whatever their religion. God is God.
For me there seemed to be a holiness about him, a spirituality that a few are gifted with.

I agree, today he would be considered a cult figure with so many. Maybe that is why he lived in the time that he did. His message certainly went out to the people and today, still remains.

All the very best to you my friend.

Love,

Suzy

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peace!
Suzy, I have read your entry and my soul has been moved. I am honored to know that someone of your likes has been blessed in that way by The House of Prayer. I am not a member of The House of Prayer, but one thing I love about The House of Prayer, as Daddy Grace meant for it to be, it opens its doors to ALL People (as the name says). Members of the church treat me as though I have been a member for decades. I have become knowledgeable of the bi-laws, history, auxiliaries and other important things. I am also fairly active in The House of Prayer, singing on the choir and attending district events as well as tours. I received the Holy Ghost for the first time when I was 5, at my home church, a dead Baptist Church in Georgia. Though I felt the spirit, just as soon as I caught the Holy Ghost it left me. There was no sensation to be received on my part. However, in 2007, during Daddy Madison's last convocation in Augusta, GA, I was blessed by God to receive the Holy Ghost from The House of Prayer. The Holy Ghost of felt from The House of Prayer put the reception of The Holy Ghost any where else to shame. It was like Heaven on Earth. I became CONSUMED of the spirit of God. Beyond being healed and delivered of many things by Daddy Madison and (present) Daddy Bailey, I have been filled with the peace that surpasses all understanding. I understand that though I am not a member of The House of Prayer, I am "Blessed by Association."

Finally Suzy, do you know that there are many famous people that grew up going to The House of Prayer? Try John P. Kee, James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, BISHOP T. D. JAKES, and even (as a little girl) Fantasia Barrino was in The House of Prayer. Research it, I garauntee you that you will find more than just yourself as a support of UHOP, just like me!

Grace and Peace!

7:23 PM  
Blogger Fun With Ms. Trenkle said...

i attend the house of prayer and I'm Doing a project on Daddy Grace. I really say that people shouldn't write blogs about him or the house of prayer. If you really know if fantasia use to attend the house of prayer then comment back and i'll give you my E-Mail

2:58 PM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Hi there,

I have no idea if Fantasia ever attended the House of Prayer.

I am sure if you google you can find is she did or not.
I know there is a Utube video out there. Just google - Fantasia and House of Prayer.

I wrote this piece because I was a small child who lived in the neighborhood where Daddy Grace's House of Worship was and I was always remember when he came to town.

Suzy

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Sis D said...

Peace suzy I'm from Augusta ,Georgia. I'm so glad I'm a member of the house of prayer there is nothing like the house of prayer a places I can go. And leave all my trouble there for god is so real I can feel in my soul! Thank you lord but please suzy come and see for yourself and I promise u the next time some one say something ugly about the house of prayer you can say for yourself. Something about that man is real ! Thank you be bless.

12:44 AM  

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