19 years ago on November 26, 1996, Whitney Houston released her first Gospel album, the soundtrack to the inspirational movie "The Preacher's Wife." The album debuted straight at number one on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart and spent 26 consecutive weeks at the top from December 14, 1996 to June 7, 1997. It remained on the chart for 117 weeks. Eventually the album became number one gospel album on the 1997 Billboard Top Gospel Albums year-end chart and also "Best-selling gospel recording" by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) in 1996-1997.
The soundtrack was certified 3× Platinum for shipping 3 million copies in the United States alone by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on June 30, 1998. According to the Nielsen SoundScan, as of 2012, the gospel album has sold 2,627,000 copies in the United States alone. It has sold over 8 million copies World Wide.
Critics were raving about the album, many claiming that Houston has never been more engaging and heartfelt. People magazine, for instance, raves: "For the first time in her 12-year recording career, Houston sounds genuinely moved by her material. Early on she stumbles through the Annie Lennox-penned "Step By Step," but the presence of the Georgia Mass Choir on six subsequent tracks melts her frosty reserve,"
The lead single, "I Believe in You and Me" (a cover of The Four Tops classic), became a top five hit in the U.S. and was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards, as well as for Best R&B Album.
"Step by Step" was another hit single, peaking at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
"My Heart Is Calling" became the soundtrack's final release.
One of the soundtrack's songs, "I Love the Lord" became one of Whitney Houston's most performed song across her many tours where she would often feature a Gospel medley.