A St. Louis church held a service to remember Whitney Houston, just as her family and celebrity friends gathered for a funeral service at her church in her home town of Newark, NJ. One of those at the St. Louis gathering was a friend of Houston's mother, Cissy, through the group Talented Teens International, which nurtures and promotes young performers.
"The last time we were together we were in the Bahamas," said Merdean Gales, who joined the gathering at Pleasant Grove Church in North St. Louis. She was referring to Cissy Houston.
"It was interesting, we were talking about family and about church, because she was a minister of music at the church," Gales said.
The message at the St. Louis gathering sounded as if it could be coming from the church in Newark. Pastor, Bishop Courtney Jones' words, seemed to echo those of actor, Kevin Costner, who co-starred with Houston in the movie, 'The Bodyguard', and spoke at the New Jersey service.
"We celebrate her even in death today. And we thank You because of the fact that she came back home. She started at the church. It ends at the church," Jones said to a crowd of St. Louis mourners.
"Whitney returns today to the place where it all began," Costner said in New Jersey.
"We welcome you home Whitney, you've made us proud,"Jones said from his pulpit.
The crowd in St. Louis watched network TV coverage of the Newark celebration.
The sang and gave praise; expressing themselves much as would if a member of their church had passed; praying especially hard for Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina.
"I was really sad about it. I'm really sad about Bobbi Kristina. I really feel for her. I lost my mother and I can imagine how she feels," said church member and Whitney Houston fan, Mikita Gibson.
"This is something that was needed. When you know artists by just one name, when you know Madonna, Michael, Lady Diana, but now Whitney ... you know it's a big void," said Gary Boyd, an organizer of the St. Louis event. "There's a lot of people going to be sitting around their televisions today watching it and feeling it."
"I think that's why people are so saddened and they're so touched by this because they felt like they knew her,' said Chaz Saunders, of Foxy 95 radio. The radio station also helped organize the service in St. Louis. "They felt like she was a family friend; you know the soundtrack of our lives."
Gales, who met Whitney Houston before she ever became a star, remembered her as a shy, young girl.
She said death would not be the end of Whitney's story.
"You can give and not love, but you can't love and not give. I believe Whitney is a perfect representative to have us know that she was a lover...that's what we would say to salute her; that you will never die until you're forgotten. Whitney will never be forgotten so she will never be dead," Gales said.
Whitney Houston was 48.
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