Updated 02/18/2012 05:24 PM
Family, Friends Celebrate Life Of Whitney Houston
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It was a tribute in prayer and song as friends and family said goodbye to pop superstar Whitney Houston on Saturday.
They gathered at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark to pay their respects to Houston. She got her start at the church singing gospel hymns in front of the faithful.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker opened the service with remarks.
“We are here to mourn our loss, but to celebrate her life. God is in heaven, and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston,” said Booker.
Fond memories from gospel legends and celebrities resonated throughout the church.
They focused on her faith and her music.
"There was a grace that kept on carrying her, that's one thing I know. And the other thing I know for sure—and this is more important than anything she's ever done in her life—Whitney loved the Lord," said actor Tyler Perry.
"Whitney lived music. Whitney loved music. This was her world, and she was so glad we were back," said record producer Clive Davis.
Music icon Stevie Wonder sang a tribute to Houston, as did Alicia Keys and Be Be Winans.
While fans weren't allowed inside, large groups gathered around the area to pay their respects.
“Right now, this is the dignified celebration of a life, which means it has to have a certain decorum, a certain respect. It’s no disrespect to the fans, it’s an embrace of the necessary moment of grief for the family,” said author and radio personality Michael Eric Dyson.
Still, fans have found ways to pay tribute since the singer’s death. Flowers were left at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and drag performers put on a show at the XL Nightclub in Manhattan on Wednesday.
The celebration of Houston’s life comes also with an examination of its darker spots, however. Houston struggled with drug and alcohol abuse in her later years, prompting comments from Reverend Al Sharpton Saturday.
“I go to celebrate a friend and a life that meant so much to so many, and to warn the industry that we must use Whitney’s death as a wake-up call. There must be things done in the industry to appeal to artists and appeal to those who handle them,” said Sharpton.
Houston will be buried next to her father at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, New Jersey.