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Guests pack Newark church for Whitney Houston's funeral




Whitney Houston returned to New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., one last time Saturday, as 1,500 family and friends packed the pews to say goodbye to the 48-year-old singer.  

Alicia Keys sang Send Me An Angel, while Steve Wonder sang Ribbon in the Sky and R. Kelly performed Houston's own I Look To You for the crowd, which included remembrances by the singer's costar in The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, cousin Dionne Warwick, who presided over the service, and her mentor, Clive Davis, who said, "You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime."

Aretha Franklin was also scheduled to sing, but canceled Saturday after she started having leg spasms following a concert Friday night at Radio City Music Hall, People noted.

Costner ended his speech with a special note to Houston's daughter: "To you, Bobbi Kristina, and to all those young girls who are dreaming that dream, thinking that maybe they aren't good enough, I think Whitney would tell you, guard your bodies. And guard the precious miracle of your own life. Then sing your hearts out."    

Bobbi Kristina spent the service with Whitney's mother, Cissy Houston. The singer's 18-year-old daughter stopped to speak with her mother's boyfriend, Ray J, who attended with his sister Brandy.  

Also at the funeral was Whitney's ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who said he was invited and arrived with his other children, but got lips flapping when he left early. He explained the drama in a statement to ABC News, telling people he thought he was being disrespected and was actually trying to avoid a problem.  

"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 and no one else to move,” he said.  “Security then prevented me from attempting to see my daughter Bobbi 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."

Other guests included singers Monica, Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks, filmmaker Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey.  

"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 to Whitney in the service's program, according to the AP. "And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years. Rest, my baby girl in peace." It was signed "mommie."

[Photo: Getty Images]

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[Last modified: Sunday, February 19, 2012 4:24pm]


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