In 1991, when Reverend Remus E. Wright was appointed the pastor of Southwest Houston’s Fountain of Praise Church on the corner of South Post Oak and West Orem Drive, the congregation had a grand total of around 100 members. A quarter century later, Fountain of Praise is now one of Houston’s largest churches, with almost 25,000 members on its rolls and an average weekly attendance around 8,000. Each of the church’s two Sunday-morning services led by Pastor Wright regularly fill the 3,000-seat sanctuary to capacity and beyond with worshippers who drive from as far as Beaumont to hear Wright preach.
Fountain of Praise, which was recently named one of the 100 fastest-growing churches in America, was founded in 1959 as the South Post Oak Baptist Church, a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly white neighborhood. Over the years, as the neighborhood’s demographics changed, so did the congregation’s, although it didn’t have its first black pastor until the 1980s. When Wright took over, he found a church small in numbers but powerful in spirit. “It was small, but it was always a family-oriented place,” said the pastor, a trim man with close-cropped, slightly graying hair and a salt-and-pepper mustache.
When asked about the church’s phenomenal growth under his leadership, Wright cited the congregation’s strong sense of community. “If you’re a member of this church, and someone in your family is sick, or has passed away, someone from this church is going to be there—in town or out of town. If you live in Louisiana, you’re going to look up and someone from the church is going to be there.” Fountain of Praise even has a ministry exclusively devoted to making sure that its sick, disabled, and bereaved members receive such visits.
It didn’t take long for the word to get out about what was happening at Fountain of Praise. Soon, the church’s original 500-seat sanctuary was packed for each of the Sunday services, with lines to get in often snaking out the door and into the parking lot. Realizing that they needed a larger church, Wright and other leaders began looking around, eventually purchasing a 21-acre parcel of land on Hillcroft Avenue, near the intersection of South Main and the Sam Houston Parkway. There, in 2002, the church opened a gorgeous new sanctuary with state-of-the-art audio and video equipment. Shortly afterwards, the church changed its name to The Fountain of Praise. (“This is a place of refreshment,” Wright explained.)
But the church’s expansion went beyond a new sanctuary. In 2007 it purchased the dilapidated old Mainhill Center, down the street from its sanctuary at the corner of South Main and Hillcroft. After completely renovating the 150,000-square-foot office building, the newly renamed Fountain of Life Center now houses the church offices, a community health clinic, free space for community events, and will soon add a free legal clinic.
Although only about a third of Fountain of Praise’s congregation lives in Five Corners, Wright and his wife, Co-Pastor Mia K. Wright, want the church to take an ever-larger role in the surrounding community. “You don’t just stay inside the church, you reach outside,” he said. “We feel it’s our job to see that economic advancement happens here. It’s our job to see that communities are safe, it’s our job to see businesses grow. To me, that’s what a complete church looks like.”
The Fountain of Praise, 13950 Hillcroft Ave. 713-433-1824. tfop.org