Aretha’s home church comes alive with memories of the Queen of Soul

Along with Rev. Jesse Jackson, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit opened its doors to the community to begin the celebrations of the life of one of its most revered voices

Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks at New Bethel Baptist Church, the church where Aretha Franklin’s late father Rev. C.L. Franklin was a minister and where she began her singing career, August 19, 2018 in Detroit. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Family, fans, and visitors gathered with members of Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church to remember Aretha Franklin during a special Sunday service just days after her death.

The Queen of Soul died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at age 76.

READ MORE: Click here to see all of theGrio’s coverage of the wake of Aretha Franklin’s passing

Guests received two sermons, one by former Detroit police Chief Ralph Godbee, who is now a minister, and another by Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend of the legendary singer, USA Today reported.

“Aretha was born in a shack in Memphis,” Jackson told the crowd, adding that more than two-hundred Black folks were lynched in Tennessee in 1942, the year she was born “in the midst of oppression. No one was saying Black Lives Matter then.”

Jackson also recalled the time Martin Luther King Jr. was facing bankruptcy and Franklin swooped in to save the day.

“She went on a 11-city tour with Harry Belafonte and gave all the money to Dr. King,” Jackson told the church. “She has a crown of jewels (now in heaven). Jewels for singing. Jewels for serving.”

READ MORE: Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin generated net worth of $80M

New Bethel was alive with the chorus of voices gathered to honor Franklin at her home church, where her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, once served as pastor. The “Respect” songstress is listed as a patron on the large stone, according to the report, and all morning during the service, locals stopped to add their own tributes to the makeshift memorial that covered the walls and sidewalks on either side of the main entrance.

“It’s a sad day … Aretha is gone from our eyesight and the reach of our hand,” but it’s a happy day because she is in heaven, said New Bethel pastor Robert Smith Jr.

Godbee also recounted the time Franklin had to check him for acting out of line with one of her family members.

“I remember one time when I was police chief, my assistant coming in and giving me a note that said Aretha Franklin was on the phone. I picked up the phone and she cursed me out. I’ve never been more honored to be cursed out.”

He said it’s just one example of love for Detroit.

”There’s a revival in this city and it will be on the back of the spirit of the Queen,” he said.

A public viewing for Franklin will be held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Aug. 28-29. An invitation-only funeral is scheduled for Aug. 31 at the city’s Greater Grace Temple.

READ MORE: What we know so far about Aretha Franklin’s memorial