NEWARK, NJ – Saturday’s New Hope Baptist Church funeral service for Whitney Houstonwas more of a celebration of the superstar’s life than a somber affair. Houston’s love of music, family and her faith took center-stage.
“We are here not to mourn our loss, but to celebrate her life,” Newark Mayor Cory Bookertold a crowd of family, friends and entertainment celebrities who filled the church,where “Nippy,” as loved ones called her, began at age 11 singing with the junior gospel choir.
Several family members and A-listers spoke at the ceremony remembering their fallen sister, friend and colleague - “The Voice.”
Tyler Perry: “She had a grace that kept on carrying her through and through. Whitney Houston loved the Lord.”
Kevin Costner: “This feels right. We were a lot alike. We both grew up in the Baptist church.Our church was our private bond.”
“I was your pretend body guard once on screen, now you’re gone. To Bobbi Kristina & all young girls that maybe dreaming that dream and have doubt, I think Whitney would tell you to guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle of your own life. So off you go Whitney, off you go, escorted by army of angels to your heavenly Father. When you sing before him don’t you worry you’ll be good enough.”
Alicia Keys said Houston inspired her and other young singers, including Brandy, Monica, Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks. ”She made us feel strong and capable and loved,” she said. “She’s an angel to us.” She then sang her song “Send Me an Angel.” Keys was moved up to the position in the service originally reserved for Aretha Franklin, who was too ill to sing.
Clive Davis: “You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. 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.”
“All I can say is that I loved her very much. Yes she was one of a kind. And yes, she confessed to Oprah about her demons, but for when I needed her, she was there. I was her industry father and so proud of it.”
“To Bobbi Kristina: Always be proud for your mother. She loved you very much. She’ll forever be looking after you and never let go of your hand.”
Davis said Houston was getting ready for a comeback, that she was getting in shape and had given up smoking in order to “get her high notes back.” “Clive,” she told him, “I’m gonna be ready by August.”
Stevie Wonder performed at the memorial and rewrote “Ribbon in the Sky” to tell Houston’s story, changing the chorus to “An angel of God’s choir of love.”
A very emotional R. Kelly sang the hit he wrote for Houston “I Look to You,” which includes the lines, “After all my strength is gone, in you I can be strong.”
CeCe Winans sang her own song ”Don’t Cry for Me.”
Dionne Warwick read the traditional bereavement poem, “I’m Free.”
The ceremony closed with the Winans family singing “Tomorrow” and Rev. Marvin Winans giving a final sermon and prayer “God has spoken, say Amen.”
“I Will Always Love You” was played as Whitney Houston’s body was carried outside the church.
Rest in peace Whitney Houston!