Whitney Houston Funeral Service: Stars Come Out in Newark, NJ, to Honor Late Singer

PHOTO: A coffin holding the remains of singer Whitney Houston is carried into the New Hope Baptist Church before funeral services for the singer in Newark, N.J. on Feb. 18, 2012.
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Two of the most important women in Whitney Houston's life, her mother Cissy Houston and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, were joined by mourners at an invitation-only "home going" ceremony at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. today.

"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 in the funeral program, The Associated Press reported. "And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years."

At the end of the nearly four-hour long funeral, Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You" played, as her mother Cissy led her casket out of the church. Bobbi Kristina followed.

During the service, Kevin Costner remembered his "The Bodyguard" co-star as someone who shared the same interests and values. Both grew up in the Baptist church, a bond he said they shared over the years of their friendship.

Costner recalled Houston's nervousness when she had to do a screen test for the role of singer Rachel Marron in the movie.

"The Whitney I knew was still wondering if I'm good enough. Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?" he said. "It was what made her great, and what caused her to stumble at the end."

A tearful Alicia Keyes remembered how Houston would reach out to young artists.

"[She] made us feel strong and capable and loved," Keyes said before she sang.

Houston's longtime friend and the man who jumpstarted her career, Clive Davis, said a talent like Houston's was rare.

"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that for a lifetime," he said. "When one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away."

Stevie Wonder also performed a rousing tribute to the star, on whom he said he had a crush.

After a song from a gospel singer opened the ceremony, actor/director Tyler Perry addressed the crowd, reminiscing about the first time he met Houston in Atlanta.

Aretha Franklin, who had been confirmed as a performer, said today she would not sing at Houston's funeral. "Unfortunately I had terrible leg spasms and locked leg muscles," Franklin said in a statement. "My heart goes out to my dear friend Cissy, Dionne, Bobbi Kristina and the rest of the family. "

One person conspiciously absent at the service, which stretched into the mid-afternoon, was Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown.

Brown made a brief appearance at the funeral. He touched the casket and then left with his children Landon and LaPrincia at the start of the ceremony.

In a statement put out by his representative, he explained, "My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston. We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions."

Brown had had spent much of the week with his daughter with Houston, Bobbi Kristina, who was hospitalized for stress and anxiety after Houston's death on Feb. 11.

READ: Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Whitney Houston

One of Houston's family members told ABC News that while many people in the family didn't want Brown to attend the funeral, they had no way to stop him because of his connection with Bobbi Kristina.

The singer will be buried Sunday in Westfield N.J.'s Fairview Cemetery. She will be laid to rest next to her father, John Russell Houston, who died in 2003.

On Friday night, members of Houston's family and inner circle were seen getting out of gold limousines for a private viewing at a funeral home. Among them were Bobbi Kristina, Cissy Houston and Davis.

Among others who attended were Oprah Winfrey and the Rev. Jessie Jackson.

Others on the guest list were Chaka Khan, Bebe and CeCe Winans, songwriter Diane Warren, pop singer Darlene Love, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Antonio "L.A." Reid, Brandy and Ray J, the singer Houston was rumored to be in a relationship with before her death.

Mel Gibson was also invited to the funeral, but did not attend. Gibson had tried to help Houston in some of her worst days, a gesture her family was always grateful for, TMZ reported.

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