Whitney Houston mourned at New Jersey church of her youth

Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:54pm EST
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By Edward McAllister

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - At the New Jersey church where her singing career first took flight, fans and admirers gathered on Sunday to celebrate the life of Whitney Houston and mourn her passing a day after the pop music diva died in a Beverly Hills hotel.

Cards and flowers were tied to the railings of the New Hope Baptist Church, and congregants hugged and cried at the entrance. Among those paying their respects was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist.

"The suddenness of it all leaves us traumatized," said Jackson, who watched Houston grow up and sing at New Hope. It was in that red brick church on a quiet backstreet near downtown Newark where Houston's career began as a soloist in a gospel choir in the 1970s.

"We must lean on our faith. Our hearts are heavy today," Jackson said.

Houston, whose soaring voice lifted her to the top of the pop music world, but whose personal decline was fueled by years of drug abuse, died on Saturday afternoon in a Beverly Hills hotel room. She was 48.

Houston's only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, who was suffering from anxiety, was taken on Sunday morning from the hotel by paramedics to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Beverly Hills police and fire officials said.

A fire department spokeswoman declined to disclose any information about the daughter's medical condition but said she was "awake and talking" at the time she was transported.

Houston's family expressed their grief in a brief statement issued on Sunday.   Continued...

<p>Flowers and a card are seen left as a memorial to deceased singer Whitney Houston, in front of the New Hope Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir, in Newark, New Jersey, February 12, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger</p>