NEWARK, NJ (CBSNewYork) -- A bouquet of flowers and a sympathy card greeted worshipers as they arrived at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark Sunday - the church Whitney Houston called home as a child.
"A lot of people when they pass, I send my condolences. I feel for them, but this particular person touched my soul. Not even my heart, touched my soul," said congregation member Michelle Richardson told CBS 2's Mark Morgan.
"The family shared Whitney with the world, but Whitney was a mother, a daughter, a sister, and that's the focus we want to keep in front of everyone today," said Pastor Joe Carter.
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Morgan spoke with several members of Houston's home church who have vivid memories of a young Whitney singing.
"I can see her coming from the choir stand as a little girl, coming down to the microphone with this big booming voice from this little, little, girl," said Barbara Pulliam, church deacon.
"She could sing like an angel. She had a voice no one else could have. No one could buy that kind of voice. God gave her that voice," said congregation member Madelyn Davis.
After growing up in East Orange, Houston rocketed to fame, and had a school named in her honor in the city. To members of this church she remained a hometown girl.
"To everybody else, she was this big celebrity, but to us, she was Newark. To us she was new hope," said congregation member Abdul Taylor.
Houston's new hope family will seek strength as it grieves the loss of one of it's own.
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