Greater Grace Temple in Detroit prepares to host Aretha Franklin's funeral

Bishop Charles Ellis in charge of funeral preparations

By Larry Spruill - Reporter

DETROIT - Bishop Charles Ellis is the man in charge of putting together what’s expected to be one of the largest funerals in our city’s history, honoring the life of Aretha Franklin.

There will be 4,000 people, including dignitaries, musicians, friends and family members -- not to mention a crush of media -- at the church to broadcast Franklin's funeral to the world.

Sunday after Sunday, Ellis stands boldly at the pulpit at Greater Grace Temple, preaching words of inspiration to his congregation.

In a Local 4 exclusive interview, Ellis said over the years, the church has hosted funerals for some of the greats.

“There have been so many people, prominent people," Ellis said. "You had Rosa Parks. You had Coleman Young. You had Irma Henderson. You had Brenda Scott. We have been able to accommodate people and we (have) been able to roll out the red carpet, not to be a facility, but a home."

Ellis said next Friday, his church will host the biggest funeral Detroit has ever seen, and that’s the celebration of the Queen of Soul.

"What does it mean for Greater Grace to hold Aretha Franklin's funeral here?" Local 4's Larry Spruill asked.

"You know, when you talk about my dad’s funeral, that was probably the biggest," Ellis said. "Then, Mayor Coleman Young. That was now the biggest. Then you had Rosa Parks. It doesn't get bigger than that. Well, think again. I think it has gotten bigger than that."

The church can hold up to 4,000 people, and Ellis said he’s expecting all of the seats to be filled with some of the world’s biggest names.

“I can tell you that the family has absolutely received condolences from President Clinton, President Bush and President Obama,” Ellis said.

Right now, the funeral is just for close friends and family members, but Ellis said there will be large television screens and monitors for those who will be lined up outside the church on 7 Mile Road to watch the Queen of Soul make her final departure.

With all eyes centered on Greater Grace Temple next week, is the man in charge of making things happen nervous?

“My dad always said everybody gets nervous, but you don’t have to let everyone know you’re nervous," Ellis said. "If it sounds like somebody is chopping wood, that’s my knees knocking."

The all-star lineup for Franklin's funeral includes Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Shirley Caesar and many more.

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