Whitney Houston's Funeral: Moment by Moment

Family and friends, including a roster of entertainment's biggest stars, gathered at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., to remember the singular icon

By Alexis L. Loinaz and Rebecca Macatee Feb 18, 2012 8:58 PMTags

We're on the scene at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., and will be bringing you updates as they happen, as the world remembers the singular pop icon. (All times are Eastern.)

3:58 p.m. Guests begin to file out of the church. A VIP reception is being held at One Newark Center, where guests including Perry and Costner are expected to attend.

3:55 p.m. "I Will Always Love You" is played on the sound system, filling the church with Houston's incomparable voice as pallbearers carry her casket down the aisle and outside the building.

3:04 p.m. Rev. Marvin Winans, who officiated at Houston's marriage to Brown, delivers a galvanizing eulogy. As he wraps up, he says: "Father, we thank you for this life of Whitney Elizabeth 'Nippy' Houston. We thank you that she was a dear friend, and we echo all the sentiments of those who have come to show their love...Let us leave here recognizing that Whitney left too soon. Let us leave here impacted by her life." He then launches into a tender rendition of "Let the Church Say Amen," as the choir joins him in song.

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2:52 p.m. CeCe Winans belts out Houston's tender ballad "Don't Cry," and afterward implores everyone to join her in singing "Jesus Loves Me," which is the last song Houston sang in public, at Kelly Price's pre-Grammys bash.

2:49 p.m. Warwick reads the stirring poem "Don't Grieve for Me, Now I'm Free," ending with: "Lift up your heart and share with me, God wanted me now, He set me free."

2:46 p.m. R. Kelly takes to the pulpit and immediately launches into Houston's hit song "I Look to You." His only words come afterward, succinct and heartfelt: "I love you Whitney. Rest in peace."

2:38 p.m. Houston's sister-in-law and manager, Patricia Houston, remembers the pop star's generous spirit. "Even when she was tired and a bit lost, she gave and gave, and then gave some more," she says. "When she didn't want to do things, she did it anyway, and we are so much better because of it."

2:13 p.m. Stevie Wonder approaches the piano and brings a moment of humor by saying, "In my little fantasy world, I had a little crush on Whitney." The crowd erupts into laughter, and Wonder continues: "I just had so much respect for her love of music." He then sings his soaring hit "Love's in Need of Love Today."

MORE: Aretha Franklin Jumped Out of Bed on Hearing About Whitney Houston's Death

1:50 p.m. Clive Davis, Houston's mentor and father figure, stepped up to the pulpit and said: "I loved her very much. Whitney was purely and simply one of a kind. Yes, she admitted to crises in her life. Yes, she confessed to Oprah about her searing battles. But when I needed her, she was there for me. An eternally loyal friend."

1:38 p.m. Keys sits in front of a piano and says, "In so many ways, [Whitney] reached back to people: to me, to Brandy, to Jordin [Sparks]. All these young artists, and they just feel strong and capable and loved...I think she's an angel to us, and a beautiful human being." Keys then launches into a stirring rendition of her song "Prelude to a Kiss."

1:25 p.m. Kevin Costner speaks to the congregation, and remembers how he and Houston talked about going to Baptist churches when they were growing up: "We both grew up in the Baptist Church. My grandmother played the piano and led the choir. The days of church were good ones for us, and we both remembered how our parents tried to explain God, and his plan for our lives, and this promise that if we listened carefully, God's voice would somehow come to us."

He added: "Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you, you weren't just good enough, you were great. You made The Bodyguard the picture that it was. A lof of leading men could have filled my part. But Whitney, you're the only one who I believed could have played [the character of] Rachel Marron at that time. I was your pretend-bodyguard once long ago, and now you're gone too soon."

1:01 p.m. A teary-eyed BeBe Winans steps up and says, "I"m gonna miss crazy Whitney!" before launching into song while sniffing back tears.

MORE: Will the Oscars Have a Whitney Houston Tribute, Too?

12:50 p.m. Dionne Warwick introduces Tyler Perry, who remembers his beloved friend: "There are two constants that I know about Whitney Houston," he says. "There was a grace that carried her from heaven down through Miss Cissy Houston, a grace that brought her up through singing. The other thing I know for sure: Whitney Houston loved the Lord."

12:40 p.m. Rev. Donnie McClurkin steps up to the pulpit and launches into the song "Stand," which Houston's family reportedly asked him to sing. As the service began, Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown, was spotted arriving outside the church. Although there were reports that Brown was not permitted to enter the church, his publicist says that Brown and son Landon Brown chose to leave the service early in order to make it to his New Edition concert tonight in Connecticut. Brown was spotted being consoled by fellow mourners shortly before leaving. A source tells E! News that Brown brought a "posse" that organizers didn't want to accommodate (though Brown would later say he left after security repeatedly forced him and his kids to change seats).

Shortly afterward, Sharpton tweeted: "I am at Whitney's funeral. I spoke with Bobby Brown trying to calm him down and not distract from the services. Today is about Whitney!"

12:22 p.m. Newark mayor Cory Booker delivers his remarks: "May we understand that while we weep now, weeping may endure through the night, but joy—joy cometh in the morning."

12:18 p.m. The church's music minister begins the service by saying, "We welcome you to our home and we gonna have church today because we believe in a mighty God!"

12:16 p.m. Bobbi Kristina arrives outside the church, just as service begins inside.

12:12 p.m. The Rev. Al Sharpton arrives and mills outside the building for a few moments.

11:48 a.m. The church choir, clad in glorious white outfits, sings and claps jubilantly as guests continue to fill the building.

11:26 a.m. Mary J. Blige arrives at the church and enters through the front door. Jordin Sparks, Houston's costar in the upcoming film Sparkle, was also seen earlier.

11:24 a.m. Fans are congregating in two areas near the church, but police are encouraging them to step aside. Some fans sing, while one enterprising man sells buttons with Houston's image.

MORE: Ray J to Whitney—"I Miss You So Much...Your Smile Will Live in My Heart Forever"

11:20 a.m. In an interview with CNN, Jackson reveals that Aretha Franklin, who was expected to sing at the service, will not be performing. Franklin released a statement saying she had "every intention of being there," but "I had terrible leg spasms and locked leg muscles following my concert last night" and is sad to be unable to make it, adding, "My heart goes out to my dear friend Cissy, Dionne, Bobbi Kristina and the rest of the family. May God keep them all." Alicia Keys will reportedly be stepping in for her.

10:50 a.m. Houston's grade-school principal from her days in South Orange, Henry Hamilton, tells reporters: "It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining, she's up there, this is Whitney's day...People asked me, 'Should [the funeral] have been here or there?' This is where the family wanted it, this is where it should be." He also recalled her days in school: "She was a very good student. A little quiet when she was young. Talked a bit more once she got older, but a beautiful person."

10:26 a.m. The Rev. Michael Dyson, who is not presiding over the service, tells E! News that he knew Houston well, and that daughter Bobbi Kristina possesses "deeply entrenched faith taught to her by her mother," which will "help sustain her."

10:15 a.m. Guests begin to line up outside the church, amid makeshift memorials featuring balloons and handwritten signs. The church's digital board reads, "We Will Always Love You."

9:45 a.m. Outside the church, Jackson tells reporters that Houston had "God's gifts," adding that "she didn't go to Juilliard; she went to New Hope. [She comes from] an environment that honed her talents. We find joy in her singing...Forty-eight years is not a very long time. Jesus [died] at 33. Sometimes bright lights burn out quickly. But when we have them, we get so much illumination. From her, we got that joy."

9:35 a.m. A golden hearse bearing Whitney Houston's body pulls up alongside the funeral home.

9:17 a.m. A SWAT team can be seen on the rooftops of nearby buildings, and the area is on police lockdown.

8:35 a.m. The Rev. Jesse Jackson pulls up in a black SUV, one of the first to arrive at the church.

8:30 am. Media and early fans stationed outside the church are kept at bay by cops on horseback, along with at least a dozen police officers standing in front of the building.

PICS: Whitney Houston Funeral—Farewell to a Diva