18/02/2012 12:03 GMT | Updated 18/02/2012 12:07 GMT

Whitney Houston Funeral: Family And Friends Arrive To Say Goodbye

Whitney Houston's family and friends have arrived for the singer's funeral in Newark, New Jersey.

Some 1,500 guests are attending the private ceremony at the New Hope Baptist Church where Whitney sang as a child.

Ray J - who was believed to have been dating Houston when she died - his sister Brandy and singer Mary J. Blige were some of the first celebrities to arrive at the church.

The service, which begun at 5pm, is being streamed live here.

However, security is tight and police have cordoned off streets surrounding the church, with pockets of fans gathering outside the perimeter.

Earlier a golden hearse was used to transfer Houston's coffin, draped with flowers, from a nearby funeral home to the church.

Kevin Costner, her co-star in the movie blockbuster The Bodyguard, is scheduled to speak, as is Clive Davis, the music mogul responsible for launching and guiding her career.

Her cousin and fellow singer Dionne Warwick will be on the programme, as will friends including Alicia Keys, Tyler Perry and gospel stars Donnie McClurklin, Kim Burrell and Cece Winans.

Ray J, who spent time with Houston in her last days, expressed his devastation over her loss on Friday in a statement. He added: "Nippy, I miss you so much."

Aretha Franklin, who is too sick to attend the ceremony, also remembered her as Nippy and recalled how Whitney used to refer to her as Aunt Ree. "Hard to believe," Franklin wrote.

Houston, 48, was found underwater in a bath by a member of her staff at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last Saturday.

After the funeral, the superstar will be buried beside her father, John Russell Houston, at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, near where she grew up.

Whitney Houston funeral