Whitney Houston's Private, Faith-Focused Funeral

Houston's mother, Cissy, is orchestrating Whitney's funeral around their faith.

ByABC News
February 14, 2012, 4:23 PM

Feb. 15, 2012 — -- For Whitney Houston and her family, God was always paramount. That's likely why her mother, Cissy Houston, eschewed a big, public memorial at New Jersey's Prudential Center for a private, invitation-only funeral on Saturday in the Newark church that launched her daughter's career.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker confirmed Tuesday that the family has no "plans to set up a public viewing at the Prudential Center this Friday" despite reports to the contrary. He also said that the city won't be orchestrating a memorial either "in compliance with the family's wishes."

A source close to the family told ABCNews.com that "things changed rapidly" after initial reports that the Houstons were considering putting together a memorial to rival the Staples Center tribute that followed Michael Jackson's death in 2009. The source said, "This is now a family situation." The same funeral home that handled the burial arrangements for her father, John Russell Houston, in 2003, has been chosen to lay her to rest.

Cissy Houston, 78, is steering this ship. The Grammy-winning gospel singer has reportedly been inconsolable since her daughter's death. Whitney grew up singing alongside her mother at the New Hope Baptist Church. In her 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey, she talked about how from a young age, her talent was rooted in God.

"I knew in the days when I was a teenager singing for God," she said. "I was so sure."

In her 2002 interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Houston elaborated on how her spirituality had evolved, saying, "I pray every day. I'm not the strongest every day, but I'm not the weakest either. ... I know I'm a child of God, and I know he loves me. Jesus loves me, this I know."

As a child, she said she also knew she'd be a star. In an interview more than two decades ago with journalist Steve North, now at the Daily Beast, Cissy Houston reminisced about Whitney's ambition. "Mommy, I'm going to be a star," she remembered her daughter saying. "I'm going to take care of you, and you're never going to have to work again!"

"I'm actually amazed sometimes," Cissy told North. "She just goes, she soars. And hearing her sometimes just gives me chills."

The two sang together on Whitney Houston's 1987 album, "Whitney." But in Whitney Houston's darkest times, it wasn't necessarily her mother that got her through. She said it was God.

"[I'd] talk on the phone," she told Winfrey in 2009, talking about her drug abuse. "Watch TV. Listen to gospel. I would still read my Bible, amazingly enough. I would still read my Bible. I still had it in me. I knew God was there. I knew the light was there, and I was just trying to get back to it. I just kept trying to get back to that spirituality."