Special Reports

Either go to funeral to celebrate Powell boys' lives or stay home

If, on Saturday, you plan to celebrate the lives of Charlie and Braden Powell at their memorial service, please, come and be welcome.

If you plan to protest a few hate group members who have said they’re coming in from Kansas, please, reconsider.

Chuck and Judy Cox, the boys’ grandparents, ask this of you. The Rev. Dean Curry, pastor of Life Center church, asks this of you. He has volunteered the sanctuary at 1717 S. Union Ave., for the 11 a.m. service.

Curry also asked the same of Fred and Marjorie Phelps’ family. He left that message on their Westboro Baptist Church’s phone after they tweeted they intended to parade outside the boys’ memorial service.

The Topeka hatemongers claim that when Josh Powell hacked and burned Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, he was carrying out God’s vengeance on the state of Washington for legalizing gay marriage.

That’s a new low in the quality of their hogwash, and it has set well-intended but unwelcome plans in motion.

Motorcycle groups, contingents of veterans and gays, Occupy Tacoma and Seattle and hundreds of individuals and families responded over Facebook and on blogs with pledges to put themselves between the Phelpses and the memorial service. Bikers promised to rev up a mighty roar to drown the Phelps’ voices.

The Cox family does not want that, Curry said.

“They want this to be about the kids,” he said. “They want these children to be remembered as happy boys.”

He wants the day to be about Jesus’ love, and free of protests and counter-protests, “even if on the surface, the aims are more noble.”

Any protest, from either side, he said, would sully the event for those whose hearts are with the boys.

“As followers of Jesus, we are committed to honoring Charlie and Braden by allowing those closest to them to mourn in a loving, solemn and dignified manner,” Life Center said in a statement Thursday. “In moments like this, we focus exclusively on celebrating two precious boys and supporting a hurting community. Any and all groups attempting to use media attention for grotesque political demonstrations will be asked to remain off church property.”

Curry is serious. While mourners and supporters are welcome to attend the service, police will be on hand to remove any demonstrators from church grounds.

The property across the street is more problematic, and church leaders struggled Thursday to craft a plan that would honor the family’s wishes but shield them from the bigots if the Phelps crew turns up.

Oftentimes, they don’t. They threatened to picket military funerals and memorial services on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and did not bother to show. They just grabbed low-hanging publicity with their threat to appear.

This time, they might turn up to plug into the national media, what with Washington’s imminent legalization of gay marriage and the outrage over the boys’ deaths.

Associated Ministries’ director, The Rev. Chris Morton, is out of town, but he wanted Pierce County’s people of faith to have a civil way not only to respond to that presence, but also drown it out.

“There is nothing like singing to bring a community together,” he wrote in a letter to The News Tribune. “Whether the songs are old, familiar protest songs, marching songs or religious hymns, voices join together to create a single voice. Join your voices with others as we break out in spontaneous song.”

He suggested meeting across the street from the church.

Curry and the Cox family asked for reconsideration. They would prefer the focus be on the boys and the service.

The Rev. Gordon Hutchins and lay minister Michael Collier of The Bridge, a ministry of the United Methodist Church, acted for Associated Ministries to find a solution.

The Elks Club offered it. The club, with its vast parking lot at 1965 S. Union Ave., will open Saturday morning for members of groups who want to shield those at Life Center from any Phelps’ spew.

If the haters from Topeka show up, The Bridge’s people will hand out sheets of children’s hymns. Protesters, now protectors, will walk, singing songs of God’s love and line up across the street from Life Center. They will be a peaceful presence as mourners arrive and leave.

If, as anyone who loved Charlie and Braden hopes, the hate crew develops the humanity to stay away, those who came to protect the sanctity of the boys’ service will happily have no reason to be there. They can go in peace.

Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677