It was a bittersweet moment at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where friends and family gathered on Saturday, to say their final goodbyes to singer Whitney Houston who died last week at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Houston's home going ceremony was held in her childhood church, and it was invitation-only. Fans were able to join the family in sending Houston home via live stream and hear the speeches.
The funeral service opened with lively gospel from a full choir at the New Hope Baptist Church. The choir, adorned in white, at times had their voices accompanied by a power organ that rang out in the Newark church. Shortly after, Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the gathering was mourning their loss, but celebrating Houston's life.
We love you Whitney Houston, Booker said. Thank you.
Rev. Joe Carter of New Hope said hearts are broken at Houston's death.
Whitney you Are the only one that could bring all of us together, Carter said. Whitney today is your day.
After Carter led the church through a reading of Psalms 23 and a portion of John 14, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin took the stage to sing one of his most inspirational songs, Stand. Houston's cousin told the church that McClurkin's song meant a lot to Cissy, Houston's mother, and that it also meant a great deal to the dead singer herself. Other musical tributes came from gospel singer Cece Winans, Alicia Keys, Kim Burrell, Stevie Wonder and R. Kelly.
Noting that he knows the grief that Houston's family is facing, Tyler Perry said he was introduced to Houston years ago while in Atlanta. He said Houston told him of her struggle and was very candid and open in sharing her past with him.
I would see this heaviness come upon her, Perry said, noting that before he could open his mouth to offer a word of help, Houston said, But the Lord.
Perry said it was from that moment on he knew I would do all I can to stand by her.
Death Has Not Won
Bishop T.D. Jakes, who was saddened by Houston's passing, said in moments like these it feels like death has won. However, he encouraged Houston's family that there will be times when they will hear her voice speak to them and it will feel like she is in their presence.
Death has not won. Don't you dear think that death has won, Jakes said. They may leave you outwardly but will never leave you inwardly. Love will last forever cause god is love.
About Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston was born on Aug. 9, 1963 in Newark, N.J. to singer Cissy Houston. She was discovered 20 years later by her mentor Clive Davis, a famous producer. Houston sang in church before become a worldwide sensation and was a backup singer for Chaka Khan and Jermaine Jackson. Houston's debut album Whitney Houston, was released in 1985 and sparked several hit songs. Her song Saving All My Love for Youbrought Whitney Houston her her first Grammy for best female pop vocal.
At her funeral on Sunday, Davis said one would wait a lifetime for a voice and smile like Houston's.
And when one person embodies it all it take your breath away, Davis said, adding that Houston blew him away in 1983 when she sang her version of The Greatest Love of All.
That night we connected and we connect every night there after, Davis said.
Houston's career peaked from the 1980s to the late 1990s and she became a best-selling artist worldwide with more than 50 million records sold in the U.S. alone. Soon, Houston was sharing the big screen with top actors like Kevin Costner with whom she starred in the movie The Bodyguard. She also starred in Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher's Wife.
Throughout her lifetime, Houston received two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards. The has a reported total of 415 career awards and more than more than 170 million albums and singles were sold worldwide. For her role in the 1995 movie The Preacher's Wife, Houston reportedly brought in a $10 million paycheck. Reports are that Houston also had a $100 million record deal with Arista Records in 2001.
Marriage to Bobby Brown
Houston married singer Bobby Brown in July 1992. A year later she gave birth to their daughter Bobbi Kristina, her only child. They had a troubled marriage, which ended in 2007. Houston battled drugs for years and confessed to Oprah Winfrey in 2010, that at one point in her life doing drugs was as an everyday thing. Brown was reportedly refuse entrance at Houston's funeral on Saturday. Speculation are that Brown left the funeral because of a seating problem.
Houston Found Dead
Houston was found dead in her suite at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 11. Police Lt. Mark Rosen told the media that Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. at the hotel. Authorities were alerted about Houston's condition around 3:43 p.m. from hotel security.
How the singer died is unknown at this time.
Kevin Costner Remembers Whitney Houston
Costner was among those who went to New Hope to to send Houston off. He spoke about his similarities with the singer -- they both grew up in a Baptist Church and have family members who have led choirs -- and he also spoke of a Houston, who at time would feel like she was not enough.
The Whitney I knew, despite her worldwide success, still wondered 'Am I good enough?' Costner said. You weren't just good enough. you were great.
Costner said Houston is gone to soon.
Off you go, Whitney. Off you go escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father, Costner said. And when you sing before him, don't worry, you will be good enough.
Following the eulogy, Houston's body was escorted out of the church to her version of I Will Always Love You playing in the background.