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February 18, 2012


Whitney Houston's funeral on Saturday began with a few words from Newark mayor Cory Booker, who welcomed guests to the city and praised the "I Will Always Love You" singer.

"God is in our heaven, and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston," Booker said. "We love you, Whitney; thank you."

Houston's friend, gospel singer CeCe Winans -- whose brother, pastor Marvin Winans, is presiding over the service -- then sang for the assemblage, performing a powerful, hearrtfelt rendition of "Don't Cry for Me," a song that Houston had performed as well.

Pastor Joe Carter, of New Hope Baptist Church, encouraged the crowd to remember that they had gathered to celebrate the fallen singer, even as they mourned her death.
Houston's cousin, Dionne Warwick, approached the pulpit to applause from the assemblage and, in hushed tones, expressed her love for the singer and introduced Houston friend Tyler Perry."We are here today with hearts broken, yet with God's strength, we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston," Carter intoned.
Perry (pictured at right) delivered an impasioned eulogy that emphasized Houston's deep faith, even -- perhaps especially -- in her most troubled times.

"There was a grace that kept on carrying her," Perry said. "Whitney Houston loved the lord, and in every conversation we had over the years it was evident that she loved the lord ... nothing separated her from the love of God."
"If there was a grace that carried her all the way through, it was the same grace that carried her home," Perry continued. "God bless you Whitney; we love you so much.""If there was a grace that carried her all the way through, it was the same grace that carried her home," Perry continued. "God bless you Whitney; we love you so much."
Kevin Costner, Houston's co-star in her breakthrough 1992 film "The Bodyguard," delivered a lengthy, often humorous speech that recalled their mutual upbringing in the Baptist faith and Houston's insecurities about her participation in the film.

Thanking Houston's family for inviting him, Costner encouraged the assemblage to "dry our tears" and "suspend our sorrow just long enough to remember the sweet miracle that is Whitney."

Recalling their conversations about their religious upbringing, Costner revealed that the church brought faith as well as the opportunity for mischief for them as children.

"The church was the center of our social life, and Whitney and I would laugh remembering how it was also the place where you could also get in big trouble," Costner said

The actor also recalled how, prior to filming "The Bodyguard," there were concerns that casting a white actress might have been a safer bet.

"I told everybody that i had taken notice that Whitney was black; the only problem was that she was perfect for what I was trying to do," Costner recalled.

Addressing Houston's uncertainty about her abilities -- " the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble," according to the actor -- Costner said, "Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you that you weren't just good enough; you were great ... a lot of guys could have played [Costner's] part, but you were the only person who could have played Rachel Marron at that time."
Performers and speakers at the invitation-only service Saturday include Houston's "The Bodyguard" co-star Kevin Costner, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Tyler Perry. Houston's godmother, Aretha Franklin, was also scheduled to sing, but reportedly took ill and was unable to attend the service.Guests began arriving to Houston's funeral at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey shortly before noon. As limousines pulled up to the church -- which Houston attended and sang at as a child -- a choir and band began performing.
Houston's long-time friend, pastor Marvin Winans, will preside over the services.

Houston died on Feb. 11 at the Beverly Hilton hotel, prior to producer Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammys party. She was found submerged in her bathtub by a member of her personal staff. Houston was 48.

A cause of death has not been announced, pending the results of a toxicology test.

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