With a brilliant summer sun gleaming from the gold-domed United House of Prayer yesterday, Bishop Walter (Sweet Daddy) McCullough stood on a reviewing stand admiring his flock as they stood waving dollar bills towards the sky.
"You're looking good," said the bishop, himself impeccably dressed in a cream-colored, three-piece suit, trimmed in black and accented with diamonds, a pink carnation and a tilted Panama hat.
"Keep it coming," said a church elder standing next to the bishop. "God knows he knows what to do with it."
For 53 years now, members of the United House of Prayer for All People have done just that -- kept the money coming, making the bishop one of the city's wealthiest and most politically influential residents.
And every year, they are rewarded with a peace convocation -- lots of food, gospel singing, baptism and preaching -- on the last Sunday in August. The inner city neighborhood of Shaw, where the main United House of Prayer is located at Sixth and M streets NW, turns out en masse for the celebration.
"Give thanks to the Lord," said Bishop McCullough, "for making it through another year of trials and tribulations."
In the Shaw area, where many poor and working-class people have been displaced -- and where many of those remaining live hand to mouth -- the sight of McCollough's annual parade -- a convocation highlight -- is a welcomed event.
"We seen him pass for 37 years," said Mildred McCown as she sat on a lawnchair on the sidewalk in front of the Christ Healing Temple, 1553 Ninth Street NW. "He must be all right we been watching him this long."
The parade stretched for nearly 10 blocks along Ninth Street from M Street and featured some 2,000 participants. It was led by the bishop himself, who rode in a shiny black, chauffeured Cadillac limosine.
The bishop's son, Walter Jr., rode in a green Mercedes Benz 300 SD turob-diesel with a sign on the side that read "Top Paying Pastor," which meant that the Washington congregation of the United House of Prayer had contributed the most money to the denomination's building fund.
The bishop presides over some 240 churches in 22 states with a membership claimed variously at from 1 to 3 million people.
When the Mercedes turned the corner at Ninth and M streets, headed for the church driveway, a haggard-looking street dude, eyes bloodshot and half-closed, stooped over to get a better look.
"Hey, man, I know you make a good buck," he told the bishop's son. The younger McCullough just smiled and rode on.
The car was followed by columns of marching bands, drum and bugle corps and choirs that strutted to a disco-gospel version of the theme from the film "2001." The main theme for the parade, however, was New Orleans-style river baptism music, heavy on tubas and trombones.
Women in white chiffon dressed accented with purple sashes marched as "McCullough's Echo's," the bishop's personal, 80-member choir from Philadelphia.
After them came "McCullough's Diplomats," the bishop's trusted menfolk who help him spread the word.
"This is something to watch," said Pamela Burton, 16, who attends Cardozo High, as she sat on the steps of a neighborhood beauty shop.
From a loudspeaker attached to one of the limousines in the parade, a voice screamed out, "Wooee.Good times are here today!"
The United House of Prayer celebration began Aug. 19 with a special healing ceremony and continued each day and night with singing and prayer meetings.
The spiritual extravaganza ended last night in the church basement over tables piled high with fried chicken, half smokes, cornbread, string beans, mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie.
"God bless you all," the bishop told his festive flock. "It's good to see you again."