New Birth Missionary Baptist Church members and followers of Bishop Eddie L. Long gathered to say farewell to their spiritual leader today.
Long died Jan. 15, following a battle with an aggressive cancer. He was 63.
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where Long served as pastor, hosted the funeral.
The "celebration” of Long’s life lasted nearly six hours, with Long’s family, clergy, former Gov. Roy Barnes, Deion Sanders and others delivering tributes.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters were at New Birth covering the service.
Here is a live blog of the funeral:
The live stream has ended, signaling the end of Eddie Long’s funeral service.
Clergy members and the family of Eddie Long are leaving the sanctuary as the choir sings.
Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral home delivers acknowledgements.
New Birth hosts an altar call, inviting attendees to join the church and Christianity.
Bishop Neil C. Ellis ends his eulogy.
"Please people, all across this world,” he says. “Please let my friend rest in peace."
5 hours since the start of the funeral, a few hundred people have started to leave the church. Some attendees cite hunger and school-aged children as their reason for leaving.
3:28 p.m.Global United Fellowship’s Bishop Neil C. Ellis of Nassau, The Bahamas begins to deliver the eulogy.
He refers to Long as “one of the 21st century generals of the kingdom of God.
“Bishop Eddie Long will live forever,” Long’s son, Edward, says.
He says he realizes that some people may have attended the service or watched the funeral online to ensure that his father is really dead.
“The tomb is empty,” he says, referencing the Biblical story of Jesus Christ. “His spirit got up.”
Eddie Long’s grandson, Eric, delivers a heartfelt message.
The crowd laughs as he thanks Long for "[giving him] money, toys and [taking him] to school every day."
"I love you big daddy,” he says. “I hope you rest in peace with God."
Eddie Long’s daughter, Taylor, speaks of watching her dad remain strong in his faith while experiencing “excruciating pain.”
She tearfully thanks the congregation for embracing her father.
Long’s wife, Vanessa, gives remarks.
“He died empty, but he finished strong,” she says. “Everything we need to move forward, he put in us. We’re going to get back to the business of ministry. We’re going to serve the community. We’re going to serve others, because that’s what he would do.”
Long jokes that her husband was finally able to fill the balcony again.
“We can’t get it twisted, it’s not about Bishop Long, it’s about the God that Bishop Long served,” she says.
Long also praises her children for exhibiting grace during the past six months.
Bishop T. D. Jakes delivers a tribute to Long via video.
“He will be greatly missed and greatly remembered,” he says. “If there is one silver lining that hovers in this dark cloud today, I’m glad that this suffering is over.”
Jakes says he tried “feverishly” to rearrange his schedule in order to attend the funeral, but was unsuccessful.
Jakes says Long “was one of the first people to put boots on the ground to welcome [him] to Atlanta.”
Tributes to Long continue.
Pastor John Gray, associate pastor to Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church in Houston, speaks.
William Murphy leads the choir in “Praise is What I Do.”
This is the largest funeral hosted at New Birth since Coretta Scott King’s homegoing service in 2006.
Long spoke at the funeral.
Gospel singer Dottie Peoples leads the choir in “He’s an On Time God.”
A New Birth member acknowledges that Bishop Paul S. Morton is in the audience. Morton does not deliver remarks.
Byron Cage joins the choir in singing “For Every Mountain.”
Gospel singer Byron Cage leads the choir in “Broken But I’m Healed.”
Byron attended the service with his mother and posted about it on Instagram.
Tributes to Long continues with speeches from “current [New Birth] staff members in chief leadership positions.”
Eddie Long’s peers and friends speak of how he influenced them in a prerecorded video.
New Birth reverends and deacons pay tribute to Long.
Deacon M. C. Norman becomes too emotional to finish reading a prepared speech.
A clergy member finishes reading the speech.
A video from the American Red Cross plays.
The video shows a montage of photos from New Birth members and thanks the church and Long for their “generous and enthusiastic commitment” to donating blood.
Michael Thurmond, DeKalb County CEO, pays tribute to his friend.
He praised Long for supporting him when he was successful, but also when he failed.
“We should not focus on his passing. We ought to thank God for what he has passed along to us,” Thurmond said, referring to Long as a “great resident of DeKalb County.”
Civil rights activist Xernona Clayton pays tribute to Long.
“The work he did speaks for him. The love he gave speaks for him,” she says. “We can’t help but remember his life and all the good he did. We can say ‘he’s still living.’”
Wearing dark shades, an emotional Deion Sanders pays tribute to his friend. “This man taught me so much about how to be a man,” he says. “I want you to know this man was real and perhaps all the media, naysayers [and] doubters, perhaps you were wrong about this man.”
This man will never be replaced, but New Birth get ready for the new birth,” he says, as the audience cheers.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes pays tribute to Long.
“Eddie Long was a force of nature,” he said, referring to the pastor as a "confidant, friend and pick me up."
Ahead of upcoming tributes from former Gov. Roy Barnes, Deion Sanders and more, a member of clergy urges everyone to keep their tributes to two minutes.
“The family wants to celebrate, but they’re really not interested in being here all day,” he says.
Rev. Gary Oliver and Rev. C. Carl Smith read passages from the Old and New Testaments, respectively.
As choir sings and attendees mourn, Long’s casket is wheeled out of the sanctuary.
Ushers move through the aisles passing out tissue.
Long’s casket is closed.
Long’s rings and cross are removed from his body. They will be given to his wife.
A clergy member greets the crowd. "By the wishes of the family we have not come to mourn, we've come to celebrate," he says.
The crowd is encouraged to focus on the Lord, not on Long.
As the choir sings, clergy enters the sanctuary. Many of them are wearing white robes with red, purple or black stoles.
The funeral procession enters the sanctuary with flag bearers as the choir sings “Hosanna.”
The live feed of the funeral has started. Watch the funeral via New Birth’s live stream here.
The main sanctuary, which seat 6,200, is now standing room only. An additional overflow room will open soon.
The main parking lot is full. Attendees are being directed to additional parking. There is a large police presence on Evan Mills Road to direct traffic.
New Birth ministers line up to enter the sanctuary.
Praise and worship begins ahead of the funeral.
The choir arrives in the sanctuary. New Birth staff says 600 people are participating in the choir for the program. Choir members are dressed in black. Praise dancers wearing white and gold sashes have also arrived.
The viewing ends. The funeral for Eddie Long is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. New Birth staff is working to enforce phone restrictions. Ushers are ensuring that no one is taking photos or streaming inside the sanctuary.
White vehicles are lined up in a row in front of the church. Eddie Long’s family is expected to enter the sanctuary shortly before the program begins.
The main sanctuary is full. Ushers have opened the balcony.
An AJC reporter describes the scene in the main sanctuary as “organized chaos.” Ushers and other church staff members are forming a barrier around Long’s body and quietly instructing the long line of guests to “keep moving.”Long is wearing a gold cross, rings on his fingers and an off-white robe with a patterned stole.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes, former Falcons and Braves star Deion Sanders, Rev. Byron Cage, Dottie Peoples and civil rights activist Xernona Clayton are among the prominent figures who are featured on the funeral program.
Global United Fellowship’s Bishop Neil C. Ellis of Nassau, The Bahamas will deliver the eulogy.
Here is a look at the order of service for the funeral:
The New Birth parking lot is about halfway full. Visitors have started to line up. Long will lie-in repose from 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. The funeral will begin at 10:30 a.m.