NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Clapping hands and swaying to gospel hymns in the church where Whitney Houston's powerful voice once wowed her congregation, the biggest names in entertainment sang along with the choir to remember the pop superstar at her hometown funeral Saturday.
"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."
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."
Stevie Wonder and Oprah Winfrey were among the biggest names gathered to mourn Houston, along with Hudson, Monica, Brandy and Jordin Sparks - representing a generation of big-voiced young singers who grew up emulating her. Houston's voice, a recording of "I Will Always Love You," closed the funeral.
Houston's cousin Dionne Warwick presided over the funeral, introducing speakers and singers and offering short comments about Houston between them.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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