Baptism by fire hose?

Now this sounds like an interesting tradition:

Accompanied by brass bands and thundering preachers, several hundred people squeezed onto a narrow street in the District’s Shaw neighborhood yesterday to be baptized in the drenching shower of a fire hose.

Weeping and singing, they raised their hands as the water shot up and then poured down on them in a glistening cascade. Ministers from the United House of Prayer for All People, which held the service, exhorted them to repent their sins and embrace the Holy Spirit.

“Oh my God, it feels good, it feels good, it feels good,” said Geraldine Howard, a 76-year-old bus driver, her white skirt and blouse drenched, a visor and shower cap protecting her head. “I feel truly blessed. God is good.”

The service, in its 81st year, is an annual tradition for the church, which has its national headquarters in the District. Yesterday’s mass baptism took place in front of the House of Prayer’s flagship church, the gold-domed “God’s White House” at Sixth and M streets NW. The baptism service symbolizes healing from sins and physical ailments and the believer’s union with Jesus Christ.

With 1.5 million members and 140 branches across the country, the House of Prayer is a church in the Pentecostal tradition, with its emotive style of worship. Each House of Prayer church has a brass-and-drum band, which performs an exuberant beat during its services.

. . .

The tradition of the baptism by fire hose started in the late 1920s, said Apostle H. Whitner, pastor of God’s White House. “We used to use the Potomac River,” he said, but the church’s founder, Charles “Sweet Daddy” Grace, decided to use a fire hose instead, “because a baptism involves sprinkling,” Whitner noted.

Read it all here.

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