NEWARK, N.J. (MCT) — In a fitting tribute to a musical life, Whitney Houston was remembered Saturday at the Baptist church where she once sang in the choir, on the gritty streets of Newark where fans belted out her hits, and from the preacher’s podium where a constellation of stars offered memories in words and song as they bid farewell to one of their own.
Although New Hope Baptist Church was filled to capacity with many celebrities — Kevin Costner, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder — the invitation-only funeral service resonated with gospel hymns and preaching that one pastor said “brought the world to church.”
Costner, among the first of 16 speakers and singers, remembered Houston as a “sweet miracle” and spoke of having to battle studio executives who shied away from pairing him — a white leading man — with a black woman in “The Bodyguard,” the romantic tale of a pop star named Rachel Marron seeking protection from a stalker.
“I thought she was perfect for what we were trying to do,” Costner said of his co-star, adding that he also had to push an insecure Houston to dive into what would be her first starring role.
“We are here today, hearts broken, but yet with God’s strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston,” said Pastor Joe Carter as her flower-draped silver casket was carried to the front of the church. “Whitney, you are the only one who could bring all of us together. Whitney, today is your day. We celebrate.”