As her silver casket was carried out of the church where she first sang as a child, Whitney Houston's unforgettable voice could be heard singing her greatest hit I Will Always Love You, reducing many mourners to tears, as the star made her final journey before being laid to rest.
Whitney’s mother Cissy followed right behind the casket and had to be supported by two helpers as she tearfully watched her only daughter’s coffin being taken out. Bobbi Kristina followed closely behind as the sobs of Cissy Houston could be heard throughout the church as she wailed: 'My baby!'
Shortly before the service began, the star's distraught ex-husband Bobby Brown was seen storming out of the church after arguing with Houston's family over the number of guests he was allowed to bring to the service.
The late singer will be laid to rest tomorrow alongside her father John Houston. The casket will be watched by 10 security guards until her burial, TMZ reported.
Among the mourners at today's highly-charged service, were singers Chaka Khan, Brandy, Roberta Flack, Jordin Sparks and Jennifer Hudson. Singer Ray J, who spent time with Houston during her last days, broke down crying before the service had even begun.
Final journey: Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston's boyfriend: Ray J emotionally reaches out to her coffin at the end of her funeral. The rapper put his hand out and touched the casket as it passed him down the aisle of the church, before collapsing into his seat overcome with emotion
Death of a star: Pall-bearers carry the casket of pop singer Whitney Houston to a hearse following her funeral service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, earlier today
Escort: A procession of cars with flowers - one of which is the golden hearse carrying her casket - drive down the Newark street after the service escorted by a police car
Mother Cissy and daughter Bobbi Kristina, 18, were in the front row, both in black, both with heads bowed in grief.
After storming out, Bobby Brown was driven away from the funeral but later returned in time for the start of the home going service.
Brown got into an argument with Whitney's family over whether or not he could bring nine people into the church with him. He was invited and told he could bring two people but instead showed up with an entourage of nine.
Bobby reportedly became upset when he was told his party could not be seated. He was also refused to sit beside his daughter Bobbi Kristina in the front row.
In a statement put out by his representative after the funeral ended, 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.
'I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us and no one else to move. 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.
'My children are completely distraught over the events. This was a day to honor Whitney. I doubt Whitney would have wanted this to occur. I will continue to pay my respects to my ex-wife the best way I know how.'
Speaking to CNN, Rev Al Sharpton said: ‘I talked to Bobby. He came to show love and respect to Whitney and Bobbi Kristina. He said all he wanted was to show respect and love. Bishop T. D. Jakes and I spoke to him earlier and he just wanted to show his respects.’
Saying goodbye: The hearse carrying Whitney Houston leaves the New Hope Baptist Church after her funeral service
High-profile guests: The tragic star's former husband Bobby Brown, left, arrives at the service with friends and family members, who were moved by security. Singer Alicia Keys, right, leaves the church at the end of the service, in which she sang a tribute to her late friend
Denied: Brown is believed to have got into an argument with Whitney's family over whether or not he could bring nine people into the church with him. He was invited and told he could bring two people but instead showed up with an entourage of nine and stormed out when he was told they could not be seated
Security: The casket will reportedly be watched over by 10 security guards before Houston's burial on Sunday
Whitney’s body was taken back to the funeral home directly afterwards and took the mile journey along the streets that she grew up in.
The service started off with a brief welcome by City Mayor Cory Booke, pastor Joe Carter took to the altar to read some scripture and start the celebration of Whitney's life. He said: 'Whitney you are the only woman who could bring all of us together, Whitney today is your day.'
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.
Front row: Whitney Houston's mother Cissy and daughter Bobbi Kristina sat in the front pew at today's funeral (in red circle)
Comfort: Alicia Keys embraces Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina and her mother Cissy, both in black, who were sitting in the front row of the church
Whitney Houston's funeral program referred to the singer as 'A Child of God'
'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'.
Gospel singer Donnie McClurken was the first soloist to sing. He performed Stand which was a request from the Houston family. As he came up to sing he briefly stopped to greet Whitney’s mother Cissy and her daughter Bobbi Kristina.
Members of the congregation stood up and started raising their hands and praising as Donnie McClurken sang to the congregation accompanied by the large gospel choir.
Dionne Warwick, who is officiating the service and introducing the guests to the congregation, told McClurkin after his performance: 'This song means a lot to Cissy and a great deal to Whitney so thank you.'
She then invited Tyler Perry to come and say a few words.
He started by saying: 'It was Pat (Whitney’s sister-in-law) that introduced me to Whitney. I met her a few years ago. She told me about things that she went through. I saw this sadness and heaviness.
'But before she would say what was bothering her she would interrupt and say "But the Lord... But my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ". I’m thankful for all that God has done in her life.
'There was a grace that followed her through her life. There was a grace that kept on carrying her. She loved the Lord.'
He ended by saying: 'God bless you family. We love you Whitney.'
He told the story through tears and laughter at how giving their long term friend was.
Bebe Winans sang a heartfelt rendition of I Really Miss You. The lyrics of which speak of how much he will miss her ‘wit, charm, just want to hold you in my arms.’
'I’ll miss her voice when she will call. I’ll miss her smile most of all. I’m gonna miss you.’
During the song, Bebe’s voice broke as he became emotional and he ended the song in tears.
The Bodyguard co-star: Kevin Costner paid tribute to Whitney Houston today and shared fond memories of his time with the singer with the rest of the congregation
Legend: Stevie Wonder said in his fantasy world he had a crush on Whitney before serenading the audience with Ribbons In The Sky
Celebrity mourners: Stevie Wonder arrived a few minutes late to the service and was helped to his seat. Speaking at the service, Tyler Perry said, 'There was a grace that followed her through her life. There was a grace that kept on carrying her. She loved the Lord'
Mentor: Clive Davis told the congregation, 'You wait a life time for that kind of voice to come along
My love is your love: Sister-in-law and manager Pat Houston is the first of her family to pay tribute to the star at the end of the service
Dionne Warwick said: ‘That’s someone who truly knew Whitney. He loved the lord and still does.'
She then invited gospel singer Bebe Winans to come up and sing.
Bebe Winans and his sister CeCe Winans came up to the altar. CeCe was a close friend of Whitney’s and is Bobbi Kristina’s Godmother.
'Whitney invited us over to her home and we sat in her closet. It was a huge closet,’ Bebe said.
He told the story of how Whitney changed her tour so they would be the ones to headline instead of her which made ‘Clive Davies’ mad.
He said that she was doing it because they were ‘poor’ and she was ‘rich’ and she wanted to help them and get them more exposure.
Performer: Singer Alicia Keys was tearful as she walked to the piano and spoke about her friendship with the singer
Leader: Houston's aunt, singer Dionne Warwick, officiated the service today and took to the altar several times to welcome the singers and speakers to the congregation
Grieving daughter: Bobbi Kristina claps for Stevie Wonder after one of his performances
Weeping: Singer Alicia Keys struggled to contain her emotion as she sang at friend Whitney Houston's funeral, who she called 'a beautiful human being'
'I can see her running around as a skinny child': Costner obviously found delivering the eulogy difficult
Costner said of The Bodyguard: 'Whitney was nervous and scared that she wasn't good enough for the role. A lot of men could have played my role. But you Whitney were the only person who could have played Rachel Marron'
'She took our breaths away': Clive Davis spoke about how stunningly beautiful Whitney was in The Bodyguard
'I’ve felt my mother’s guidance and she’s helped me through my life. You wait for a voice life Whitney’s for a lifetime. A voice like that. A smile like that. And for someone to embody all of those things is astounding.
'Whitney and I spent Tuesday afternoon at the Beverly Hills hotel [days before she died] and saw that she had applied some makeup. She was one beautiful woman.
'We talked non-stop music. In the past every hit we shared was pure joy. When she broke that record of seven consecutive number ones. We felt utter disbelief. We pinched ourselves. She was never arrogant.
'Whitney held my hand when I worried about her getting The Bodyguard. But she dazzled in her close ups during Run To You. She captured the world forever with I Will Always Love You.
'Is there anyone who has sang Star Spangled Banner that remotely compares to her. Will there ever be?' he asked.
He spoke about the songs they listened to and recorded over the years and said the songs were ‘scorching his brain’ right now.
'Yes she spoke to Oprah about her searing battles but when I needed her she was there. She was there for me. And entirely loyal friend,. I believe in you and me.
'I was her industry father and was so proud of it. And Bobbi Kristina - she loved you so very much. She defined not only pure talent but true heart and soul. She will forever be looking after you and never let go of your hand. You should be so proud of your mother.
'She came to see me and was excited about the new cuts from her new movie Sparkle,' he said of the soundtrack.'I’ve been swimming every day,’ Whitney told Clive. ‘I’m committed to getting my high notes back. No cigarettes. Clive I’ll be ready by August. Well Whitney I will be ready by August. Everyone in heaven including God are waiting. And I just know you will raise the roof like no one has done before.’
'I lost a friend, a boss, a sister': Houston's bodyguard and brother-in-law Ray Watson spoke in place of Aretha Franklin, who did not attend the ceremony due to illness
Closest friends: Clive Davis embraces Cissy and Bobbi Kristina
Praise: Kim Burrell sings one of Whitney's favourite songs, changing the lyrics to make it more personal to the singer
Rejoice: Hand-clapping choirs performed traditional gospel songs including Grateful, by Hezekiah Walker, as more and more celebrities filled the pews of the New Jersey church
Traditional home-going service: The New Hope Mass Choir and the New Jersey Mass Choir, all in white, sand and rejoiced inside the New Hope Baptist Church as guests arrived
Casket arrival: A coffin holding the remains of singer Whitney Houston is carried into the New Hope Baptist Church before the noon funeral services for the singer this morning
Final journey: The hearse carrying the body of pop singer Whitney Houston makes its way to the New Hope Baptist Church past the County Hall of Records, where the American flag flies at half mast
Mourners congregate: Guests start to arrive for the funeral of Whitney Houston for the three-hour memorial service starting at noon. She will be buried tomorrow
Moments after the drama singer Stevie Wonder arrived and was led up the church steps and through the front door.
It is thought the Houston family arrived in four limousines and were given a police escort with motorcycle outriders and two police cars at the front and the back of their convoy.According to CNN, guests held in their hands an invitation with a cover featuring a photo of a smiling Houston. The six-page funeral program contained color family photos and a note from Cissy Houston, the singer's mother.
Going home: To Whitney's family and friends, she was known as Nippy, a nickname given to Houston when she was a child, it stuck with her through adulthood
Respects: Close family and friends arrive for the funeral service of pop singer Whitney Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey
Dressed in black: Two women pause to look at the memorial display before they go into the church to pay their last respects to Whitney Houston
Image: The golden hearse carrying the body of singer Whitney Houston bears a photo of her in the window as her family and friends prepare to say goodbye to the star
First mourner: The Rev Jesse Jackson leaves Whigham Funeral Home after visiting with the family of Whitney Houston before going to the New Hope Baptist Church to prepare for the service
Not singing: Aretha Franklin, who performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York last night, pulled out of singing at her god daughter Whitney's funeral at the last minute, saying she was 'too ill'
Fan: Renee Taylor, of Baltimore, Maryland, stands with a sign a few blocks from the New Hope Baptist Church before the funeral of Whitney Houston where fans gathered to pay their last respects
Emotional time: Whitney Houston's mother Cissy Houston, 78, was seen arriving at the funeral home for a special private viewing with close friends and family on Friday afternoon
Sad day: Whitney's daughter Bobbi Kristina was also seen arriving at Whigham Funeral Home in New Jersey yesterday
A year later: Whitney Houston and her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown were pictured together at the 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala. She died on the day of the same event this year
Last moments: Whitney Houston's last ever public performance on Thursday February 9 with her close friend Kelly Price. She was found dead two days later
Let the mourners come: Fans of the late Whitney Houston gathered outside the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey, yesterday where the singer's body was being held ahead of today's funeral
As well as close family of Whitney in attendance friends also gathered together to pay their respects.
Aretha Franklin believed Whitney Houston had overcome her demons and was primed for a comeback, which made learning of the troubled singer’s death all the more shocking.
The Queen of Soul said she was watching TV in her hotel room in Charlotte, North Carolina, when she learned of Houston’s death in a hotel suite across the country in Beverly Hills, California.
She said she had seen recent video of Houston, 'and she looked fresh, she looked healthy and she looked gorgeous. And I thought, "Yes, she has conquered her challenges and she’s on the way".'
Now her fans should remember Houston for her artistry, Franklin said, and not focus on the challenges she faced with substance abuse.
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.But a comeback was on the horizon. She was to star in the remake of the movie Sparkle and friends and family said she was working on new music.
Capturing a moment in history: People took photographs and paid respects at the candle lit shrine at the funeral home on Friday night
From the heart: A fan signs a memorial book as she pays her respects to the late singer, who died last Saturday
RAY JAY'S STATEMENT
Ray J, who was dating Whitney in the months before her death finally broke his silence.
The 31-year-old released a statement that said: 'Over the past few days, I've tried to process the emptiness that I am experiencing. What my heart feels cannot be expressed in words. The world lost an icon, but I lost my close friend.'
Alluding to a nickname given to Whitney by her father he added: 'Nippy, I miss you so much!'
'You were so happy and full of love. Your smile will live in my heart forever.'
Ray J was seen at LAX airport on Friday catching a flight to New Jersey ahead of Whitney's service today.
It has also revealed yesterday that Mel Gibson reached out to the I Didn’t Know My Own Strength singer a few years ago to try and deal with her addiction issues.
The Braveheart star was invited to the funeral by Whitney's family but is unable to attend because of prior family commitments, TMZ reports.
Police have reportedly obtained her medical records and are investigating what drugs were supplied to her in her final days.
No cause of death has been identified yet and officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests.
IF WE COULD BE ABLE TO RUN AWAY FROM DEATH,LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD: