By Cora Jackson-FossettSentinel Religion Editor
The unexpected passing of the legendary Whitney Houston deeply affected the religious community of Los Angeles who were quite familiar with her early upbringing in the church.
Houston's incredible singing began as a youngster in the choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, under the direction of her mother, Grammy award-winning recording artist Cissy Houston.
According to Whitney Houston's comments on a 1993 Barbara Walters special, she began singing in the choir at age 8 and sang her first solo at age 11 entitled, ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.' She said, "At 11, I knew God had given me a gift, this great talent so that I could sing all over the world."
Several leading clergy shared the following expressions about Whitney Houston. Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr."Whitney Houston had a tremendous gift and wrestled with a tremendous demon. Her death teaches us that we must at all times put on the whole armor of God. Satan's plan to kill, steal and destroy is real and we must rise everyday ready for battle.
"We pray that she will be remembered for all of the joy she brought and the good she poured into the lives of her friends and loved ones. May she find rest now with the Lord Almighty!"
Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., Presiding Prelate of the 5th Episcopal District and President of the General Board of the A.M.E. Church
Bishop Noel Jones
"Over the past month, I have been listening to Whitney Houston's CD, ‘I Didn't Know My Own Strength.' There was one line that caught my attention, ‘I was not built to break.' This line is the spiritual substratum of one of my most prolific ex-postulations. I have preached it globally.
"This is indicative of the spiritual God-given energy that ran through this incomparable gift that God gave us as Whitney Houston. She came into this world naked and will leave naked, but between the two nakedness's, she was one of God's splendiferous presents to humanity and one of the most euphonious, melodious voices that have ever been created.
"This gift may have blessed us more than it blessed her. It is so possible that we loved her gift more than we loved her person. She kept on blessing us while she was hurting. She glorified God.....I promise you that God loved her person more than her gift. She belongs to God into eternity, and her voice will belong to us into perpetuity.
"In this world from antiquity to the contemporary, when billions and billions have sang and lived their lives, long or short totally unmentioned; I propose, without equivocation, that Whitney Houston will not ever be forgotten. The world until its end will be cognitive of the fact that Whitney, you were here.
"To Whitney: None of us is indispensable, but some of us are irreplaceable. There will never be another like you.......REST."
Bishop Noel JonesPastor, City of RefugeRev. Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray"Whitney Houston was a prodigy of the church, just as in the case of Aretha Franklin and the scores of superstars who grew up in the spotlight of the sanctuary.
"Even as a star, she sang with frequency in her church choir, displaying on both stages the brilliant depth and breadth of the soul of the redeemed.
"Like all of us, she struggled with demons in life, and we can only pray that her final breaths were drawn in consolation and confirmation from the God of life."
Rev. Dr. Cecil L. "Chip" MurrayTansey Chair in Christian Ethics Center for Religion, USC Rev. Dr. Melvin V. Wade
"Many say Whitney Houston was iconic, but she was not just iconic, she was one of a kind. I believe being one of a kind started with the church that developed her into what she became.
"We hear so much about her struggle. But I believe that it could be that in the midst of Whitney's struggles, God just said, ‘I'll handle your struggle since you are in the flesh and are having difficulty handling it. I handle it for you.'"
Rev. Dr. Melvin V. WadePastor, Mount Moriah Baptist ChurchRev. Mark E. Whitlock II"Whitney Houston opened our hearts to understand and appreciate love. The world has lost a true ambassador of love.
"Love took her home so that she may love herself, once again. She lived in Orange County and was involved with our ministry so we knew her."
Rev. Mark E. Whitlock IIPastor, Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church
Rev. Dr. John and Lady Denise Hunter
"Whitney Houston was one of the most dynamic voices of our time. We are all deeply saddened by her passing and our hearts go out to her family. We continue to offer prayers for her family during this most difficult time."
Rev. Dr. John J. Hunter Senior Minister, First AME Church of Los Angeles