WE DO CHURCH !
Well, if there is one thing that could get me started writing a regular blog again, it was that February 18th four and a half hour service "singing Whitney Houston home" to heaven and her Lord.
The black Baptist community there in Newark New Jersey, where Whitney grew up and first sang, stated their custom:
This isn't a funeral. We don't do funerals.
This isn't a memorial service. We don't do "memorial services".
No, when some member of our community dies, we do what we do every Sunday. We do Church !
And so, the service—for that is what it was—celebrated and talked about two people throughout, and not just one: it was all about Whitney.......and Jesus.
Of course I was touched. You'd have to be made out of stone not to be touched. My IQ is allegedly in the top one percent in the country, but I have never been an intellectual. I have always been "an emotional," if there is such a word. I grew up on the Bible; and the one Biblical injunction I have never had any difficulty in obeying, is "Rejoice with those who rejoice; and weep with those who weep." I feel so deeply what others are going through.
And so, I wept on and off, throughout. Particularly when some of those who spoke or performed, were visibly struggling with their tears. Handkerchiefs were a required accessory that day. I also laughed, of course, with some of the stories Kevin Costner told.
I was thinking, as I watched: you know, I love the black church. At an earlier time in my life, and for a long time, I was an ordained minister; and I was the pastor of both blacks and whites in a large Episcopal church in Passaic New Jersey. So, last week, the refrains I heard were old familiar ones: the earth is the Lord's, and all that therein is. The heavens also. And our true home was and will be in heaven with Him. Our life on earth, then, is essentially a life at a hotel; and when we die, we check out of this hotel and go home, to Him, His Love and His Mercy. We gather, then, today, in order to "sing Whitney home."
I didn't know much about Whitney. I saw her (four times), and loved her, in The Bodyguard. She gave me my all-time favorite love song.
Then, over the years, I kind of lost track. I heard, dimly, about her battle with drugs beginning in the mid-90's, and her career going off the tracks, and her performances where she disappointed her fans greatly.
But I didn't pay much attention. Of course, it all got trotted out by the media upon the news of her death. So I was quickly brought up to speed. I discovered her joyous Star Spangled Banner on YouTube. By the time they "sang Whitney home" I could understand why the ministers kept emphasizing during that service two themes: that Whitney was incredibly gifted, and that God was a merciful God, and a forgiving God. Whitney truly needed that mercy, and that forgiveness. Along with the celebration of her gifts.
My favorite moment? When it was time to take the body out of the church, at the end, someone up front said simply: The Voice! ! And as the pallbearers surrounded the casket then lifted it up and marched in close formation down the aisle, holding it only on their shoulders, that voice rang out throughout the church, "I will always love you......"
As Clive Davis, the man who discovered her said, "This is a voice that comes along once in a lifetime." Amen, brother. Amen.