Here is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, ‘which one is the good way?’ Take it and you will find rest for your souls.
– Jeremiah 6:16
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church was founded with six members in the year 1925. However, by the year 1943, the membership roll included over 2,700 names and this great body of believers constructed the largest church facility for Negroes in the South. Who were those pioneers who made such an impact that hundreds of others were compelled to join them?
This story must begin with the presentation of the Reverend Lee Hayward Simpson, DD, who was called to be Pastor in 1925 by the founding members. Reverend Simpson had been called to preach only two years prior and was ordained only one year before he started to Pastor the six founding members of this great congregation. He was the “Clever Leader” and visionary for the amazing growth, development, evangelism, education, cultural and social influence that Pleasant Hill had on the City of Houston and the Fifth Ward Community, in particular, from 1925 until the latter part of the 1960's.
Reverend Simpson challenged the people of Pleasant Hill to trust in God and walk by faith to achievements unheard of by a traditional Negro church. Achievements such as selling bonds to members during a national economic depression and paying for building materials to build a new Sanctuary on a 30-day cash basis. His vision included ministries such as academic education supported by a church congregation, a business league, and a senior housing facility. He was more than just a Preacher/Pastor; he was a builder, a champion for social justice, and a businessman. He organized a team of architects which included a sanctuary, educational building, gymnasium, cafeteria, and auditorium. Many members of the church became homeowners as a result of Simpson’s vision to purchase land around the church and sell it to the membership.
In 1968, after the death of Reverend L. H. Simpson, the torch of leadership was passed to Reverend L. C. Crawford. Blessed with business acumen, Reverend Crawford utilized his organizational skills and management ability to benefit the Pleasant Hill Church. Under his administration, all debts were retired and the multiplicity of the music department was restructured and organized into one musical unit. After centralization of the music department, “When You Have Faith in God,” the first and only album by the Pleasant Hill Choir was produced. The salute on the album cover appropriately eulogizes Pastor Crawford as one who “actively supported all facets of the church family and was big enough to recognize the foundational stones laid by his predecessor, Reverend L. H. Simpson.”
The leadership of Pleasant Hill changed in 1976. The membership chose Reverend Dr. J. M. Allen to serve as its third Pastor. Reverend Allen expanded on the ministries by adding a Transportation Ministry and Multimedia Ministry. A component of this was a venture into the television broadcasting of morning worship services. These new ministries allowed the church the opportunity to witness to souls throughout the City of Houston. Respectively, 1968 - 1983, the tenures of Reverend Crawford and Reverend Allen included much preaching, praying, teaching and the execution of their other pastoral duties in order to contribute to the advancement of the church.
The Lord called and appointed Reverend Harvey Clemons, Jr. to carry the mantle of leadership for Pleasant Hill in 1984. He became the fourth Pastor. He immediately began to explore ways for Pleasant Hill to become a beacon light and an oasis in the midst of a desert of economic and spiritual poverty. By 1994, Pleasant Hill had experienced 10 years of successful growth and leadership under Reverend Clemons. The phrase, “A Decade of Miracles” was coined to communicate the explanation for 10 years of revival in the church and the 5th Ward.
In 1995, Pastor Clemons recognized the need for the church to become more active and aggressive in rebuilding the physical components of the immediate surrounding area of the church and for providing social services to those in need. As a result, the Pleasant Hill Community Development Corporation (PHCDC) was formed to “rebuild the walls” – to restore the beauty and dignity of the Pleasant Hill campus and areas across the City of Houston. Since that time, PHCDC has developed and managed (1) Pleasant Hill Village Retirement Community - 167 units of senior independent living, (2) The Victual Restaurant - a full-service dining restaurant, and (3) Brittons Place Apartments - 48- multi-family housing units and Park Village Apartments - 314 multi-family housing units in Alief.
In 1998, the Church embarked upon a huge structure restoration of its sanctuary in order to empower the church to continue the proclaimation of the Gospel. The renovation brought many new features such as paved parking lots, refurbished stained glass windows, audio/video equipment and improved sound booth, touch-up of original murals, and new restroom facilities. During the implementation and the accomplishment of all our endeavors, the continuing work of worship, care for widows and orphans, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and most importantly spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ was never hindered.
After all these years, Pleasant Hill’s life and ministry’s are founded on the certainty of God’s Word, the ability to visualize and realize a better life, and ways to minister to God’s people. Determined to keep the same message, but employing new methods, we continue to fulfill our vision of “Being a Full Service Church for Persons at Every Station in Life” working through four focus areas of ministry. They are: Spiritual Health and Development, Physical Health and Development, Financial Management and Development and Social Awareness and Development.
The words of Pastor Clemons attempt to align our future with our rich history: "Most importantly is our striving for the more excellent way – the gift of love. For the sign of God’s power in Pleasant Hill Ministries will be found in the love we have for each other and others as we utilize our talents and abilities to serve mankind. The word of God teaches us that we must have the heart of a servant. God has uniquely positioned Pleasant Hill to meet the needs of suffering humanity in ways that are uniquely Pleasant Hill. Somebody today needs to be touched by Pleasant Hill. Somebody is in great need of something only the people of Pleasant Hill can give."