At Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Rev. Al Sharpton led a special prayer and recalled the life of his close friend, who died Saturday.
"God in his own way decided to give her a voice that rung to the very corners of this Earth, and she sang like nobody sang," Sharpton said. "There was something about Whitney that would reach in you and make you feel, because she grew up at the knee of a great gospel singer, her mother."
A moment of silence was also taken for the pop singer at First AME Church in Los Angeles.
Parishioners at the service said they want to remember Houston for her triumphs, not her tragedies.
"Whitney Houston, her legacy will remain forever," said fan Galex Chappelle. "It has deeply sorrowed our community."
Sharpton said Houston's passing is a huge loss for the world.
"I just don't want to believe it, but I'm forced to accept it," he said.
Houston had the ability to connect with a cross-section of people through her music. She was in a class of singers possessing the rare gift to touch millions of people.
"I really love Whitney. I love the way she sings, I loved the way she looked, she appealed to everybody," said Beverly Morgan-Sandoz of Pasadena. "I miss her."