NEW: Veteran preacher says it took "courage" to hold Houston's service in New Jersey hometown
Marvin L. Winans grew up in a famous musical family, leads a Detroit church
He remembers Houston as "that little girl from New Jersey"
At an early age, Marvin L. Winans and his nine siblings learned the music and the faith of their parents.
A son of David “Pop” Winans Sr. and Delores “Mom” Winans, Marvin showed rare musical talent at age 4. By the time he was 18, Winans had preached his first sermon.
At 53, the gospel singer and pastor served as the eulogist at Whitney Houston’s funeral Saturday in Newark, New Jersey. The renowned pop singer died last weekend.
While many of her fans lamented the fact that Houston’s service was invitation-only, Winans thanked Houston’s mother for having the service at the church. “That took a lot of courage. And because of that you brought the world to church today,” he said during his eulogy.
Both Winans and Houston grew up in the church, with a love of gospel sown deeply in their hearts. Houston’s mother, Cissy, is a Grammy Award-winning performer.
Winans, pastor at Perfecting Church on Detroit’s east side, officiated at Houston’s 1992 marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown. After a tumultuous marriage, the pair divorced in 2007.
The minister was asked this week about why some people question their faith when a woman with such talent and potential is taken.
“Salvation is constantly a choice. It is a constant vigil of doing the right thing,” Winans told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “It is not a blame game on God that somehow God just took Whitney from us. It is a fact that we have choices and the choices that we make may not be the best choices, but just as a son or a daughter may disappoint their father doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love them.”
Despite her well-documented problems, Houston had a simplicity that many who knew her still remember, Winans said.
“If you scratched the surface it didn’t take you long to find out that she still was that little girl from New Jersey,” he told CNN Detroit affiliate WDIV.
The musical Winans family group hails from Detroit.
Siblings include Benjamin “BeBe” Winans and Priscilla “CeCe” Winans, who have recorded together, and the late Ronald Winans.
According to his bio on the Perfecting Church website, Marvin Winans has evangelized around the world.
“Wherever Pastor Winans ministers the word of God there are testimonies of healing, miracles, and lives being changed through the power of the Holy Ghost,” it states.
Winans told WDIV about the last time Houston performed at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. He joined her for “I Go to the Rock.”
“It is that rock of salvation, that rock of faith that we have in Jesus that sustains us in times like this,” he said.
Winans told “AC360” that it is important for people to tell others how much they care for them. “We take life and love for granted so often.”
“People need to learn how to say, ‘I love you and I miss you,’” Winans said.