Out With a Bang

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.

8 Comments on “Out With a Bang”

  1. Dave Clinton says:

    Were they within 500 ft of a dwelling? If so, that is an illegal act in Massachusetts. Unless – (a) the lawful defense of life and property; (b) any law enforcement officer acting in the discharge of his duties; (c) persons using underground or indoor target or test ranges with the consent of the owner or legal occupant thereof; (d) persons using outdoor skeet, trap, target or test ranges with the consent of the owner or legal occupant of the land on which the range is established; (e) persons using shooting galleries, licensed and defined under the provisions of section fifty-six A of chapter one hundred and forty; and (f) the discharge of blank cartridges for theatrical, athletic, ceremonial, firing squad, or other purposes in accordance with section thirty-nine of chapter one hundred and forty-eight.

  2. paula says:

    Just awful, Fr. Tim. — as a vegan, I do oppose gun ownership and recreational hunting; and I know it’s non-canonical and unCatholic to the point of heresy, but can’t help feeling that that blasted and drowned goose is a part of the suffering body of Christ. Lord have mercy & forgive us.

  3. Father Tim says:

    David, I doubt that it was within 500 feet of a residence — though it must be close. It was certainly within range of a whole bunch of PEOPLE both on the beach and in boats. And, Paula, all I can say is that I’m looking forward to our St. Francis Day Blessing of the Animals in a couple of weeks.

  4. Cynthia Hallas says:

    Tim, this is disgusting; I can only imagine the confusion and fright, and not only among the little ones. I hope this will be the impetus people need to amend the law.

    As to your challenge, I’d go with “Eucharist in Bucharest” though it’s clearly fraught with logistical and financial difficulties.

  5. Cori Pursell says:

    I can’t resist your invitation to Eucharist, here are a few you might try;

    Eucharist in the Mist – A service for celebrating the first day of church sprinkler turn on or perhaps Sunday of the asperges.

    Eucharist and Kissed – A Friday night service for couples and some old marrieds on a date, with larger glasses of wine afterwards.

    Eucharist and ‘dissed – A service to prepare folks to go out and rally against whatever political, religious, Westboro Baptish Church event is in your area.

    Eucharist, just the gist – A short service where parishioners read the OT and NT on their Ipad’s or android phones, check their twitter for a quick sermon, drive through for bread and wine and get a blessing over their car as they pull out of the parking lot.

    Eucharist, checked off the List – This is for your mundane church goer who has already checked off
    Monday – slow and sluggish
    Tuesday – drop off the dry cleaning
    Wednesday – choir practice
    Thursday – CBS television night
    Friday – movie and a popcorn
    Saturday – mow the grass and watch the game
    Sunday – Eucharist off the list

    Eucharist for the pi**ed – A Service for when there is crowd overflow from the ‘dissed service. These are the ones who were standing around adding fuel to the fire rather than shaking the dirt of their sandals.

    And last but not least

    Eucharistic Feast with a Beast – A service for St. Francis Day


  6. Fred Carbone says:

    You have a lot of support in this – everyone I’ve spoken to in town is pretty surprised and horrified that this is a legal activity right there on the Bathing Beach. We need to act to make it illegal, and move hunting to more remote locations. Someone’s going to get hurt out there, and it would be better if there was action before this happens.

  7. Magdalene says:

    @ Cori– would you come to my church and join the worship committee? Pretty please???

  8. […] Yesterday I posted a number of anonymous online comments relating to Goose Gate highlighting the state of public discourse in this country. These were as sad as they […]

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