In 2009, Whitney Houston revealed on The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986) that by the time The Preacher's Wife (1996) started shooting, her cocaine and marijuana habits had gotten so bad that there was never a day while filming the movie on which she had not done some drugs.
Denzel Washington originally wanted Julia Roberts for the part of Julia Biggs. After he realized that Whitney Houston would be better for the role, he offered it to her but she turned it down. Washington continued to ask her for a year until she finally agreed.
Whitney Houston originally turned down her role because she felt that she could not relate to her character. She admitted that in real life she was not attracted to nice men like Reverend Biggs. She also felt that she would be uncomfortable dressed as a middle-class housewife. She eventually was able to relate to Julia's love for her family and church.
Most of the church scenes were filmed at Trinity United Methodist Church in Newark, New Jersey. The production renovated the church to look more like a Baptist church. After filming ended, more renovations were added to return the church to a Methodist style. In the film, the church needs a new boiler. In real life, the real church did need a new boiler. The money from the fees for renting the space helped the church buy a new boiler and ventilation system.
When Dudley visits Joe Hamilton's home and plays his piano, he plays "I Believe in you & me" in the key of E flat. When Dudley walks away from the piano, the song keeps going and the camera pans to the piano to show the keys. The chords that the keys are forming are wrong for the key of E flat; The piano keys that move do not match the music that's heard.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The ice skating scene was filmed in Portland, Maine at Deering Oaks Park. Prior to filming, the location had been selected because of the snow and ice pond in the park. However, the week that filming began, Portland had an unusual winter heat wave and the ice and much of the snow melted. Artificial snow and ice had to be used in the end and the actors had to skate on ice that kept turning to slush from the melting...This managed to be the best part of the movie.