Mourners: There'll Never Be Another Whitney

Hannah Thomas-Peter, US reporter

Whitney Houston's family friends and neighbours have been mourning the pop star's death in the area where she grew up.

They gathered at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, where 11-year-old Whitney sang as a soloist in the gospel choir and her mother, Cissy, was music director for over 50 years.

Church member Bernice Hall, who said she knew the Houston family, told Sky News Online said that even at that young age, it was clear Whitney Houston had an extraordinary talent.

She said: "It was so touching, and so warm and so lovely, to hear her voice, the way she would sing, it sounded like bells.

"It just gave you so much inspiration."

Houston was found dead in the bath in her room at the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel on Saturday night.

When asked if the troubled singer's legacy would be tainted by her highly-publicised battle with substance abuse, Ms Hall echoed the sentiments of many members of the congregation.

She said: "I don't even look at that, I look at Whitney and the way she was brought up and raised in this church, and that this is where she got all her faith in God.

"Everybody has mistakes in life."

Houston family friend Revered Jesse Jackson came to the New Hope church to pay his respects and remember how he watched Whitney grow up in to a "shining light".

He told Sky News Online he had spoken to her mother, Cissy, and explained how she was trying to cope.

"This was not some long debilitating sickness, this was sudden and so when this happens there is no rational explanation, you have to lean to your faith and hold on until the morning comes."

One young man, who didn't want to give his name, wrote "RIP Whitney, you're my hero" on a card hanging on the church fence.

"She was an icon" he said, "there'll never be another Whitney.

"She was such a good role model - someone who came from this area and made it big. That's how we will remember her."

Twenty minutes' drive away from the church is the Whitney E Houston academy, a school that changed its name in order to honour the talent of a local girl turned megastar.

Flowers and candles had been laid at the base of the school sign, one card next to six red roses read: "Whitney, you were the sound track to my life."