Out With a BangPosted: September 20, 2010
In parts of this great country of ours you can spot bumper stickers that proclaim “God, Guns & Glory.” While I view this as, at best, the ultimate non sequitur, these themes all came together at the Hingham Bathing Beach last Saturday night. Really. And by the end, communion was served, a goose was dead, and a bunch of little kids were freaked out.
Last year I started a monthly Saturday night family service at St. John’s. In cold weather we, naturally, worship in our beautiful church. But I like to mix things up when it warms up so I’ve held “Mass on the Grass” in the Memorial Garden and on Saturday we had “Preach at the Beach.” If you can rhyme something with “eucharist” I’m all ears.
As we were setting up I noticed a couple of guys about 50 feet away. They appeared to have poles of some sort and I thought they might be ready to go clamming. Another person thought they were preparing to set up canvases to paint the idyllic, peaceful, post card-like scene in front of them. Hingham Harbor on a calm night is something to behold — you can see World’s End, boats bobbing up and down at their moorings, and several small islands dot the vista. But as I took a closer look I realized that these guys were toting not clam rakes but shotguns.
When my curate walked up to inquire what they were doing — did I mention that I’m an excellent delegator? — she told them that we were about to have a church service with a bunch of young children and that we weren’t expecting a shootout. They replied that they weren’t expecting a church service and started placing decoys.
As the service began, I kept a wary eye on our hunters. Fortunately it was a clear sky with nary a goose or duck in sight. The only thing out there was a kayaker or two and a guy paddling one of those standing surf boards that are suddenly all the rage. So the liturgy went off with the only thing needing to be reloaded were the communion wafers. Though I was pining for some bright orange vestments.
But just as people were taking out there picnic dinners we looked up and saw three Canadian geese flying off the coastline. Suddenly a loud Bang! Bang! Bang! rang out in the quiet late summer sky. And then only two geese flew away while one fell wounded into the water. Our friends took a couple more shots but missed and the wounded goose swam away before, presumably, drowning. The adults were stunned; the children were horrified. Well, with the exception of my son Zack who yelled “Wow! That was so cool!” One parent wondered whether it was open season on Episcopalians.
We did call the police just to make sure they knew this was happening. An officer showed up, talked to the men, and left. Evidently this is legal. I guess he asked them to pack up given the circumstances which they grudgingly did, giving us dirty looks in the process.
Now, I’m not opposed to hunting. I get the food chain thing. I’ve watched the Lion King way more times than I’m willing to admit so I understand the “Circle of Life.” But really? Hunting on a public beach? If this is indeed legal, then I think we need to examine the law. Regardless of whether there’s a church service (and we even had a permit to hold it), public beaches and firearms don’t mix well. It seems so obvious, I can’t believe I even have to state that.
And thus parents had something else to talk about on the ride home; something they really hadn’t anticipated when they took their kids to church. In the aftermath, one little girl was overhead saying softly, “That’s so sad.” And she’s right. It is sad that children can’t be sheltered from violence at a beachside church service and it is sad that this was allowed to happen at all. The law needs to be changed before someone, besides a goose, gets hurt.