Whitney Houston's funeral honors her spiritual roots

Whitney Houston's funeral honors her spiritual roots
Pallbearers carry Whitney Houston's casket to a hearse outside New Hope Baptist Church after funeral services in Newark, N.J. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

If you tuned in to see a show when you decided to watch Whitney Houston's funeral on your computer or television, you probably were disappointed.

For all the snarky comments and prurient probing into the circumstances of her death, the celebration of Whitney Houston's life on Saturday was a tribute to her spiritual roots.

It had none of the choreographed dazzle of Michael Jackson's service at Staples Center.

This was a church service, pure and simple.

It wasn't about the diva, but about the daughter, the cousin, the friend. We heard stories about Whitney, but we felt closer to Nippy, the girl who got her start in the choir stand and never really left gospel behind.

This was a home-going, not a funeral.

The phrase sounded awkward when TV commentators said it -- as if it were some exotic ritual or a way to blur the harsh lines of her death.

But it's more than a euphemistic distinction. It reflects a fundamental belief among black American Christians: Death is not an end, but a new beginning. A return home to a forgiving Father in heaven, where the weary are comforted and the troubled move beyond sin.

In my church, in my community, we season our mourning with celebration. We don't "die," we "pass" -- from this life to the next. From struggle to rest.

Whitney's service was a fitting tribute -- a reminder of both the power of faith and the pull of human weakness.

I cheered with the crowd in the sanctuary as the pallbearers hoisted her casket to their shoulders.

Then I turned the television off, as the commentary suddenly turned to the latest scandalous "revelations."

It doesn't matter now. Whitney's gone home.