Whitney Houston's funeral, or "Home Going"  has ended as mourners remember her life in song, words, prayers and tears.

The enthusiastic, swaying New Jersey Mass gospel choir welcomed attendees to the  church where an invitation-only crowd with celebrities ranging from Beyonce and Oprah Winfrey to Governor Christie and Mayor Corey Booker in attendance.

"We are here today, hearts broken but yet with God's strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston," the Rev. Joe A. Carter told the packed New Hope Baptist Church after the choir behind him sang "The Lord is My Shepherd."


Governor Christie attends Whitney Houston's funeral

Governor Chris Christie received a brief standing ovation at the service for his order to lower flags at state facilities in New Jersey in her honor. Reverend Marvin Winans praised the Republican for sticking by his decision when he was criticized for the order.

The casket was carried out of the church as "I Will Always Love You" played, clapping as the song came to an end as mother Cissy Houston and her sisters sobbed loudly.

Houston is scheduled to be buried next to her father, John Houston, in nearby Westfield, in another service on Sunday.

"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime"

Mourners including singer Jennifer Hudson and Houston's mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, stood, swayed and clapped along in the aisles as gospel singers BeBe Winans and the Rev. Kim Burrell joined with pop stars like Alicia Keys in paying tribute to the 48-year-old pop superstar who first began singing in the Newark church.

"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime," said music mogul Clive Davis, who shepherded Houston's career for decades.

Others were more mournful; singer Ray J., who spent time with Houston during her last days, broke down crying. His sister, singer Brandy, put her arm around him. Cissy Houston and Houston's daughter, 18-year-old Bobbi Kristina, clutched each other in the front of the row.

Actor Kevin Costner, her co-star in "The Bodyguard" that spawned her greatest hit, remembered a movie star who was uncertain of her own fame, who "still wondered, `am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?"'

"It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end," Costner said.

Filmmaker Tyler Perry praised Houston's "grace that kept on carrying her all the way through, the same grace led her all the way to the top of the charts. She sang for presidents."

Houston's mother was helped by two people on either side of her as she walked in and sat with her granddaughter and other family to begin the service.



Bobby Brown (L) stands outside prior to the funeral services for Whitney Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church

Bobby Brown made an unexpectedly short appearance at the funeral.  Townsquare Media' Stacy Proebstle says Brown was observed having "words" with Al Sharpton outside the church. Proebstle and other reporters say Brown get back in his car and left.

Associated Press reports Brown did enter the church, walked to the casket, touched it and walked to the back of the church. Security guards were saying Brown would be seated but the people he arrived with had to sit apart from him. Instead, Brown left and appeared upset.

The Star Ledger further clarifies that Brown arrived with an entourage of 9 and wanted them to sit in the family section. Security refused and Brown left with the group

Sharpton tweeted, according to TMZ, "I am at Whitney's funeral. I spoke with Bobby Brown trying to calm him down and not distract from the services. Today is about Whitney!" Jesse Jackson told CNN he  tried unsuccessfully to smooth things over with Brown before he left.

Brown says in a statement, "My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston," Brown, 43, says. "We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions. I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us to move."

The problem then escalated, he says, when security prevented him from seeing daughter Bobbie Kristina.

"In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene," he says. "My children are completely distraught over the events."

During the week it was reported that Brown wanted to attend the funeral to support his daughter Bobbi Kristina who has been distraught over the death of her mother. Cissy Houston is said to have not wanted him to attend over concerns he only wants to get Whitney's money and that the family blames him for her drug and substance abuse problems. However, an invitation was extended.

Brown is scheduled to perform tonight at a casino in Connecticut.

Fans Show Their Love For Whitney




The crowd outside the church fell quiet as Whitney Houston's flower-covered casket arrived earlier this morning from the Whigham Funeral Home. Three police officers escorted Houston's silver casket, draped with white roses and purple lilies. White-robed choir members began to fill the pews on the podium. As the band played softly, the choir sang in a hushed voice, "Whitney, Whitney, Whitney."

Today's service is expected to last 2-3 hours. According to CNN's Don Lemon, in the Baptist church a funeral is a place to get emotions out. Yelling, screaming, crying and singing are all acceptable forms of expression during the service.

Many are standing in the aisles inside the church.

Among those seen arriving at the church are Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who welcomed attendees,  ex husband Bobby Brown, Governor Chris Christie, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King,  Queen Latifa, Diane Sawyer,  former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, Ray J Norwood and sister Brandy, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and actress Vivica J. Fox.

Family prepared a service where singer Dionne Warwick, Houston's cousin, music mogul Clive Davis, who shepherded Houston's career for decades, actor Kevin Costner and sister-in-law Patricia Houston were to speak. Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and gospel stars CeCe and Bebe Winans were to sing. Houston's voice, a recording of her biggest hit, "I Will Always Love You," was to close the funeral.

Close family friend Aretha Franklin, whom Houston lovingly called "Aunt Ree," had been expected to sing at the service, but she was too ill to attend. Franklin said in an email to The Associated Press that she had been up most of the night with leg spasms and sent best wishes to the family; "May God bless and keep them all," she wrote.

Singers Chaka Khan, Brandy, Roberta Flack, Jordin Sparks and Jennifer Hudson were among those filling pews. Brandy comforted her brother, Ray-J, a singer who spent time with Houston during her final days. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Lela Rochon were also gathering as the choir began to sing gospel and the congregation clapped.

Townsquare Media's Stacy Proebstle talks to Rev DeForest Soaries of the Somerset Baptist Church about how Whitney never lost her roots once her career took off.

Jesse Jackson talks about Whitney Houston

"Rest, my baby girl in peace"

Whitney Houston's mother Cissy arrives at the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark

A program featuring a picture of Houston looking skyward read "Celebrating the life of Whitney Elizabeth Houston, a child of God." Pictures of Houston as a baby, with her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston and daughter, Bobbi Kristina filled the program.

"I never told you that when you were born, the Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me long," Cissy Houston wrote her daughter in a letter published in the program. "And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years."

"Rest, my baby girl in peace," the letter ends, signed "mommie."

The service marks one week after the 48-year-old Houston, one of music's all-time biggest stars, was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel in California. A cause of death has yet to be determined.

Franklin is a close family friend affectionately called "Aunt Ree" was one of the first performers to be made public by the family.

Franklin appeared in concert at Radio City Music Hall last night. The  New York Post says  she recalled memories of Houston for the crowd, telling them “Whitney is in a better place and we were lucky to have had her for the short time that we did." Jesse Jackson says Franklin was up much of the night talking to family and is simply too exhausted to perform today.

Hundreds of fans and members of the media are present in the area as police have closed a six-block area around the church. 1500 people have been invited to attend.



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Stevie Wonder and gospel star CeCe Winans are expected to perform at the funeral. Music mogul Clive Davis, who launched and shepherded her career throughout the decades, may speak, along with Kevin Costner, her co-star in the blockbuster film "The Bodyguard."

Her ex-husband Bobby Brown also is expected to attend, along with the couple's only child, Bobbi Kristina.

Houston's death marked the final chapter for the superstar whose fall from grace while shocking was years in the making. Houston had her first No. 1 hit by the time she was 22, followed by a flurry of No. 1 songs and multi-platinum records.

Over her career, she sold more than 50 million records in the United States alone. Her voice, an ideal blend of power, grace and beauty, made classics out of songs like "Saving All My Love For You," "I Will Always Love You," "The Greatest Love of All" and "I'm Every Woman." Her six Grammys were only a fraction of her many awards.

But amid the fame, a turbulent marriage to Brown and her addiction to drugs tarnished her image. She became a woman falling apart in front of the world.


Jordin Sparks (L) and Whitney Houston in Sparkle

Her last album, "I Look To You," debuted on the top of the charts when it was released in 2009 with strong sales, but didn't have the staying power of her previous records. A tour the next year was doomed by cancellations because of illness and sub-par performances.

Still, a comeback was ahead: She was to star in the remake of the movie "Sparkle" and was working on new music. Her family, friends and hard-core fans were hopeful.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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