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Hundreds Gather To Honor Prince At Private Service

MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) -- We've seen many public tributes to Prince in the three weeks since his sudden death.

But on Sunday, a private memorial service took place at the musician's place of worship. Nearly 500 guests attended the service at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Minnetonka.

While many people will remember Prince for his music, members of the congregation say faith also brought out the best in Prince.

To the world he was Prince, but to fellow members of his church, he was Brother Nelson.

"It's a different side than what the world sees because it was personal with us," church member Lisa Dixon said. "If he meets you he's going to talk to you about Jehovah. He was shy but that there, brought him out."

The Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall members in Minnetonka worked hard to keep the early evening memorial private. Local law enforcement provided security and traffic control, while church staff checked each guest as they arrived.

"His lyrics meant a lot to a lot of people throughout their lives," church member Kristin Kokkila said.

Fans congregated outside the church as some of Prince's famous friends, like comedian Sinbad, made their way inside.

"It was very beautiful, very beautiful," Dixon said.

Fellow congregation member Lisa Dixon described the memorial, as peaceful, with prayer, spiritual music and some remarks by Larry Graham. He's a musician and close friend who is credited with introducing Prince to the religion.

"Brother Graham mentioned they were on tour and they would just drive around the parking lot studying the bible and he looked at his watch and said I think I was supposed to go on! So that was very funny," Dixon said.

While the day was meant to be private, Prince's congregation stayed true to a man who loved his fans. A lucky handful of the people lined up outside were invited inside, until the church reached capacity.

"What did that mean to you? A lot, it was nice, it was nice, it was beautiful," fan Heilana Hasche said.

Prince's sister said family members would not be attending Sunday's memorial. They held a private memorial service for Prince in the days after he died. They are also working on a memorial service to be held in August.

Authorities said an exact cause of death for Prince remains under investigation.

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