A somber goodbye for Whitney Houston in childhood church

NEWARK - Hundreds gathered in Newark today to celebrate and honor the life of late pop diva Whitney Houston.

The private funeral service was held at the New Hope Baptist church in Newark. A gleaming casket adorned with flowers of white, and lavender, Whitney's favorite color, sat at the front of the dais while a host of speakers commenced, beginning with Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Houston, who was born in Newark and moved to East Orange when she was 4, performed as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the church when she was 11.

Houston's longtime musical mentor, Clive Davis, spoke at the funeral. The eulogy was given by gospel singer and longtime family friend Marvin Winans.

Others who took part in the program included Donnie McClurkin, Tyler Perry, Kim Burrell, Rickey Minor, Alicia Keys, Dionne Warwick and Cece Winans.

Fans without invitations were kept far away. Newark police say streets were shut down for six square blocks around the church.

Houston died Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the age of 48. Her ties to New Jersey continued after her rise to stardom in the 1980s. In 1997, the Franklin School in East Orange was renamed to The Whitney E. Houston Academy School of Creative and Performing Arts.

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