Whitney Houston Funeral: Kevin Costner, Pastor Marvin Winans Steal the Show

  @EllenKilloran on February 20 2012 2:13 PM
Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner supported Barack Obama in 2008. The actor, a registered Democrat, has also opened up his wallet for the party. Reuters

Whitney Houston's star-studded funeral thrust some former A-listers back into the spotlight and provided a rare glimpse inside a traditional Baptist religious service.

Approximately 1,500 mourners attended the three-and-half hour service at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., Houston's hometown. Though the funeral was closed to the public, those organizing the ceremony appeared to be mindful of the camera, which allowed the tributes to be broadcast on multiple television networks and streamed online.

When Houston's cousin Dionne Warwick, who presided over the funeral, mistakenly introduced Aretha Franklin - who had been scheduled to perform but sent her regrets Saturday morning - the broadcast was briefly interrupted on certain stations. And though the congregation came to its feet multiple times during the musical tributes, the view of the performers remained unobstructed.

Though some outlets are reporting that Alicia Keys was a last-minute replacement for Franklin, both names were on the original funeral program. Keys spoke briefly about Houston's influence before performing Send Me an Angel for the congregation.

She reached back to so many people, Keys said. She reached back to me, to Monica and Brandy ... all these beautiful young artists, and just made us feel strong and capable and loved.

So she's an angel to us, and has been an angel to us, she added.

Kevin Costner is enjoying a resurgence of popularity after he delivered a lengthy and heartfelt eulogy, in which he discussed his own Baptist upbringing.

Costner starred alongside Houston in the The Bodyguard in 1992, and Houston's performance of the Dolly Parton-penned I Will Always Love You immortalized the song and secured her status as a legend.

At the height of her fame I asked her to be my co-star in a movie called 'The Bodyguard', I thought she was the perfect choice but the red flags came out immediately, Costner recounted, explaining that many felt a white actress with more experience would be more suitable for the role.

According to the actor, Whitney too had her doubts: On the day of her screen test, Whitney was scared, arguably the biggest pop star in the world wasn't sure she was good enough, she didn't think she looked right, there were a thousand things to her that seemed wrong, I held her hand told her she looked beautiful and that I would be with her every step of the way.

In her now infamous interview with Diane Sawyer in 2002, Houston admitted to being overwhelmed by the pressure of starring opposite Costner. She explained that she seriously considered quitting, concerned that she was not up to the task.

She needn't have worried.

You sang the whole damn song without a band. You made the picture what it was, Costner said. A lot of leading men could have played my part... But you Whitney, I truly believe, were the only one who could have played Rachel Marron at that time.

Costner also pointed out that he and Whitney actually had a lot in common, acknowledging with a joke that such a claim probably seemed rather dubious to most. He later offered advice to Whitney's fans on behalf of the fallen star.

To all those young girls who are dreaming that dream are maybe thinking they aren't good enough, I think Whitney would tell you, guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle of your own life, and then sing your hearts out knowing that there's a lady in heaven making God wonder how he created something so perfect, Costner said.

 So off you go Whitney, off you go, he said in conclusion, escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father and when you sing before him don't you worry, you'll be good enough.

The public reception to Costner's eulogy has been largely positive, though some have joked about the tribute - which came as a surprise to many of Houston's fans who were not aware that Costner and Houston were particularly close.

Confirmed: Kevin Costner has not seen Whitney since the set of 'Bodyguard' in 1992, @SandraRose joked in a tweet.

Kevin Costner's best performance ever, tweeted @frankyarriola. America forgives him for Waterworld.

Pastor Marvin Winans, who delivered the sermon, used the opportunity to plug his church and advocate more generally for faithful living.

There is this untruth, this misrepresentation, that living for the Lord is sometimes boring; dull; ho-hum; unfulfilling; second rate; unimpactful; dissatisfying; wait until you have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel sort of existence, he said. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Winans seemed intent on shattering the conception that Christian life is about deprivation: he endorsed the Prosperity Gospel, insisting that the Lord does not want his followers to be poor.

Don't think that the church is for somebody that don't want anything, he said. Don't think that the church is for somebody that can't get a gig anywhere else. Don't think that the church is for people that have no hope.

Winans briefly commented on public and media interest in his sermon.

Folk been coming to the church and trying to hear me, 'Whatch you gonna say?'... I'll be there Sunday. Come Sunday, all them people that was trying to hear me preach today.

All the news agencies...come Sunday, I do this every Sunday.

The pastor thanked Whitney's mother Cissy Houston for holding the funeral at a Baptist church - the same church where Whitney performed in the choir as a child.

I want to thank mama Houston, Cissy, for your willingness to forget about everything else and to have this service here, Winans said. That took a lot of courage. And because of that, you've brought the world to church today.

Members of the African-American Christian community took to Twitter to support Pastor Winans.

Pastor Winans is officially the Pastor of the Universe. No other preacher has PREACHED on CNN, wrote Prophetess Tera C. Hodges, the founder of Life Now Ministries in Altanta, Ga.

 Let's pray for pastor Winans this could indeed be the most important moment in the history of preaching. The world is listening. Save Lord!! [sic], tweeted @stanleybrown.

PRAYING for Pastor Marvin Winans!, wrote Pastor Chris Harris. This very well may be the moment MILLIONS will hear the Gospel Message for the 1st time EVER! SALVATION!

Winans appeared on ABC's Good Morning America Monday to reflect on the funeral. When asked what he would remember most about the service, he said: What stands out to me is looking over at her mother [Cissy Houston] and looking at Bobbi Kris [Houston's daughter] and seeing her being satisfied by just the outpour of love that came from everyone for her little girl.

Love is always a choice. People don't have to be nice. People don't have to show up. There would have been a million excuses and all of them would have been acceptable, Winans continued. Every now and again I would look over at Cissy and I could just see that she was satisfied that all of these people to took the time to come see her little girl.

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