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Whitney Houston's Homegoing, Star-studded and Filled with Music 

New Hope Baptist Church prepares for Whitney Houston’s Homegoing in Newark, NJ  

By Sheilah Belle

Newark, NJ – On Saturday, February 17, 2012, the world stopped and came together to celebrate and honor one of the brightest stars and talent of the music and entertainment industry, Whitney Elizabeth Houston.

Throughout the history of music there has been no one quite like Houston and there will never be another.  With a voice that was as sweet as honey, yet soulful to the core, Houston was blessed with this gift that empowered the world.  Houston’s career also evolved to include acting, modeling and business, which were all remembered during her Home Going ceremony at her childhood church, New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ.

The touching ceremony was filled with tears, laughter and music that she loved and guests who loved her from the Music, Religious and Political world and beyond.   

With Houston’s cousin, Dionne Warwick leading the ceremony, the nearly four hour tribute to the 48-year-old singer, who died just seven days earlier in her Beverly Hills hotel room, was sad but filled with lots of love.

"We are here today, hearts broken, but yet with God's strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston," the Rev. Joe A. Carter told about 1,500 mourners that filled the pews and stood along with aisles at the New Hope Baptist Church including luminaries Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson Deloris “Mom” Winans and Jordin Sparks.

One of the first speakers up was Tyler Perry who shared his heart and surprised many as his words turned into a brief yet powerful sermonette that touched everyone to the core.

Kevin Costner, Tyler Perry and Clive Davis

"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime," her mentor Clive Davis said. "You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that, for a lifetime. When one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away."

Kevin Costner, Houston's co-star in "The Bodyguard," said “Whitney and I had much in common.  We both grew up in a Baptist Church.  The church is what we knew and was our private bond.”  He said, I believed in Whitney and postponed the making of the Body Guard (the movie) until after she finished touring.  “Even after that, she had to try out,” but she eventually got the part.  Costner said, “She worried about being liked and being good enough. Speaking of Whitney, he said, “You weren’t just good enough, you were great and made the picture what it was.”

Costner continued, "Call it doubt, call it fear -- I've had mine and I know the famous in the room have had theirs," he said. "It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end."

In 1998, Whitney Houston worked on “the come back album with Clive Davis who said, “Whitney lived music. Whitney loved music!”

Many directly addressed Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, speaking of the singer's love for her, as the 18-year-old clutched her grandmother Cissy Houston in the front row of the church.

Her father, Bobby Brown, did not stay for the service, according to The Associated Press.

In a statement put out by Brown's representative, he explained: "My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston. We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions. . . . In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene."

Houston's Godmother, Aretha Franklin, who was expected to sing "The Greatest Love of All," was unable to attend because of illness.

Most of the songs chosen for Houston's service reflected her struggles and personal challenges, as well as her faith in God. Stevie Wonder rewrote "Ribbon in the Sky," and Gospel singer Kim Burrell reworked Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" for the occasion. 

Pastor Donnie McClurkin of Freeport's Perfecting Faith Church said the family asked him to sing his hit "Stand," which includes the lines, "When there's nothing left to do, you just stand."

Also giving musical tributes were CeCe Winans, BeBe Winans, R. Kelly, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder.

CeCe Winans sings and R. Kelly gives a moving tribute as well  

As Houston's coffin was carried out, her hit "I Will Always Love You" played. Bobbi Kristina Brown began crying and the sobs of Houston's mother rang throughout the church. 

Giving words of encouragement were Bishop T. D. Jakes before Bishop Marvin Winans delivered the eulogy.  He said, “May we not just talk about you Lord, but live for you Lord!”

Bishop T. D. Jakes eloquently asked the question, “ If death was the winner”, while concluding, while it may appear that way, it was God who had the last word.

Before giving the eulogy, Bishop Winans called up all of the Winans who were present, including BeBe, CeCe, Angie, Debbie, Carvin and Marvin Winans Jr., to give a special musical tribute to Houston.  Bishop Winans stepped down to play the piano while BeBe and Carvin sung much of the lead to the song, “Tomorrow.”

Bishop Winans later preached from Matthews 6:25.  He said, “I promise you, I am not going to give a speech, but I’m going to preach.”

“The life we live is our gift to God” said Bishop Winans who ended his eulogy with singing “Let the Church Say Amen.”

As church members prepared to exit, Whitney’s coffin was then positioned to be carried out.  Suddenly six pall bearers were positioned as they hoisted Whitney’s coffin on their shoulders, then walked out of the church with their hands in front of them. 

As they took their first step, there was only voice that could be heard…Whitney Houston’s as she began to sing, “I Will Always Love You.”

Houston's mother Cissy followed directly behind her daughter's casket while the first three rows of guests preceded her, including Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Kevin Costner, Alicia Keys, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton along with Houston's close family and friends.

Then suddenly you could hear Cissy cry out, "My baby!"

The family wanted the funeral to be private, opting against a Michael Jackson-style public memorial at the nearby 19,000-seat Prudential Center.

Nevertheless, the public grieving for Houston has been massive. Flags across New Jersey flew at half-staff today by order of Gov. Chris Christie.

Makeshift memorials made of flowers, balloons, signs and remembrances stand outside the New Hope Baptist Church, the nearby Whigham Funeral Home, where a private viewing was held for family and friends Friday night, and the Whitney E. Houston Academy Elementary School in East Orange, N.J.

Houston is expected to be buried today at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, N.J., where her father, John Houston, is buried. 

Cissy Houston leads the family precession as they leave the church

 

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