NEW YORK - In a ceremony by turns spirited and poignant, family members, friends and luminaries of the entertainment world paid tributes to pop star Whitney Houston who enchanted millions with her talent.

Nearly 1,500 people streamed into Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church for Houston’s funeral, a 3½-hour by-invitation farewell event that blended gospel strains and scripture with personal anecdotes and soaring musical performances.

Houston, a Newark native who died last week at age 48, sang in the junior choir at New Hope as a child. And despite calls for a public funeral, it was at New Hope where Houston’s mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, insisted her daughter be given her farewell.

The Rev. Marvin Winans, a close family friend and Houston’s eulogist, thanked Cissy Houston for her decision, calling it courageous. "You brought the world to church today," Winans told her.

Hundreds of fans, from across the United States, gathered in the streets near the church, outside a perimeter set up by police to give the family privacy. Inside the church, it was an assembly befitting one of the top-selling female vocalists of all time.

Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, R Kelly and gospel singer Bebe Winans performed during the service. Others in attendance included Mariah Carey, Spike Lee, Forrest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Cicely Tyson, pop singer Darlene Love, filmmaker Tyler Perry, Roberta Flack, Mary J. Blige and actor Kevin Costner, Houston’s co-star in the 1992 film "The Bodyguard."

Singer Bobby Brown, with whom Houston shared a tempestuous 14-year marriage, arrived at the church shortly before noon but left some 20 minutes later after a dispute about seating for his entourage. He later blamed the altercation on security officers, a claim Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio denied.

Houston’s daughter, 18-year-old Bobbi Kristina Brown, sat next to Cissy Houston, often with her arm around her grandmother’s shoulders. Nearly all of the performers and speakers stopped by, before or after they walked onto the altar, to kiss and embrace the two.

Houston’s casket, heaped with purple and white flowers, lay before the altar. Large matching flower arrangements sat on each side.

A white-clad choir, featuring more than 100 members of the New Hope Mass Choir and the New Jersey Mass Choir, sat on one side of the stage, with dignitaries, dressed in black, on the other. A seven-piece band led by Rickey Minor, Houston’s longtime music director, accompanied some of the singers.

Speaker after speaker lauded Houston as a unique talent whose range and power reached into people.

Music producer Clive Davis, who discovered Houston and guided her career, recalled hearing her sing for the first time in 1983. "You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime," Davis said. "You wait for a smile like that — a presence like that — for a lifetime and when one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away."

In a moving speech, actor Costner recalled Houston was terrified before her screen test for "The Bodyguard" and feared she would be rejected.

"The Whitney I knew ... still wondered, ‘Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me’

"It’s the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble at the end," Costner said.

He concluded his talk with a note of encouragement for her even today. "So off you go, Whitney, off you go, escorted by an army of angels, to your heavenly father," Costner said. "And when you sing before him, don’t you worry. You’ll be good enough."

It was a week ago Saturday when Houston was discovered dead, submerged in the bathtub at a Beverly Hills Hotel. While bottles of prescription pills were found in her room, authorities have yet to determine a cause of death.

Houston’s on-again, off-again struggles with alcohol and drug addiction have been well documented. But in recent weeks, she told friends she was working hard to stay on a healthy path ahead of the upcoming release of her new movie, "Sparkle," a remake that tells the story of a mother raising three musically inclined daughters. The movie is due out in August.