“We’re gonna have Church today.” It was the beginning of the funeral to celebrate one of the most powerful voices ever to grace the pop charts.
Today, is Whitney Houston‘s day. Today is the day that her millions of fans all over the world joined with her family, colleagues, mentors, and her Church to honor her life and send her home to the Lord. In a moving service that lasted more than three hours, countless stars and spiritual leaders of the Baptist community came together and celebrated this unforgettable performer.
Although an illness kept Aretha Franklin from attending or performing at the service, power houses of the soul community like Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder were on hand to honor their fellow legend. The mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, might have said it most succinctly when he started the service by saying, “God is in Heaven and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston.”
There were performances by her Church choir, lead by her cousin Felicia Moss. Soulful singers like Donnie McClurkin, BeBe and CeCe Winans and Kim Burrell moved the audience, both in the pews and across the internet, to rolling tears. Alicia Keys composed a beautiful song to one of her idols that demonstrated just how inspirational this woman truly was.
The most moving speeches might have come from two men who worked with Whitney the closest in her career. Clive Davis and Kevin Costner shared stories of Whitney’s humility and grace. They talked about her eagerness to make those around her happy and content. They alluded to the vulnerability that ultimately brought down this troubled pop icon. Their stories had a way of making a woman who seemed larger than life relatable and sympathetic.
They were many references throughout the service to harsh press that Whitney has received over the years from TD Jakes and Whitney’s personal bodyguard Ray Watson. Tyler Perry confronted those critics head on, quoting scripture and reminding us all that “If God be for you, who can be against you.” He added that in the case of Whitney, “God was for her and she is with him, singing with the angels.”
Many of the speakers and performers gave messages of encouragement to Whitney’s mother and daughter who were both in attendance. Cissy and Bobbi Kristina didn’t speak, but the mourners all spoke to them throughout the service, urging them to find strength and take comfort. In the eulogy, Pastor Marvin Winans thanked Cissy for “bring(ing) the world to Church today,” and he wasn’t wrong. The whole country got a dose of soul as they mourned their fallen pop star.
It was a moving and emotional send-off for a singer who managed to touch millions of lives through her gift. I suppose the best way to end this piece is by quoting Tyler Perry one more time: “There was a grace that carried her all the way through and it was this grace that carried her home.”
To this beloved mother and icon, may you rest in peace.
(Photo: Christian Science Monitor)