New York: Pop star Whitney Houston was bid a tearful adieu by her family, friends and Hollywood stars at a spirited funeral service in her hometown, a week after the singer's sudden death.
   
Gospel hymns and eulogies in remembrance of Houston filled the air during the four-hour service at the packed New Hope Baptist Church in Newark in New Jersey on Saturday.
   
Several fans had gathered outside the church to bid her farewell, while thousands watched the funeral service that was streamed live Online. Houston's silver casket was draped with white flowers with two huge white floral sprays in front of the main podium.
   
Houston had started her singing career in the church's choir. Pastor Joe Carter opened the service saying, "We are here today, hearts broken but yet with God's strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston. Whitney, you are the only woman that could bring all of us together. Whitney, on Sunday is your day."
   
Keven Costner, Houston's co-star in the 1992 film 'The Bodyguard', said, "You were a beautiful as a woman could be".
   
Costner said she must have been "escorted by an army of angels" to God.
   
Among those who spoke at the funeral were music moguls Clive Davis, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys.    
Davis, who became Houston's mentor, recounted his first meeting with Houston in 1983 and how he was floored by the singer's voice.
   
"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that for a lifetime. And when one person embodies it all, well, it takes your breath away," he said.
   
Pastor Marvin Winans expressed gratitude to Houston's mother, Cissy, for keeping the funeral in her hometown. "Thank you for your willingness to forget about everything else and have this service here. That took a lot of courage. Because of that, you brought the world to church."
   
Gospel singer BeBe Winans said he would miss "crazy Whitney."

Towards the end of the service, Reverand Marvin Winans said in his eulogy, "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 recognising that Whitney left too soon. Let us leave her impacted by her life."
   
The four-hour service ended with an audio recording of her signature track 'I Will Always Love You'.
   
The 48-year-old, whose once sparkling career was torn apart by drug abuse and personal problems, was found dead on February 12 at the Beverly Hilton, hours before her scheduled appearance at a pre-Grammys dinner.

(Agencies)