Goose Gate 2010: The Final Word

As we put Goose Gate 2010 to bed (and I’m hoping there’s no sequel), I wrote a last word in my most recent “In Good Faith” column for the Hingham Journal.


What’s Good for the Goose

By the Rev. Tim Schenck

Unless you’ve been hiding behind a duck blind recently, you’ve undoubtedly heard of what I now refer to as Goose Gate 2010. After lots of publicity and much rancor the upshot is that hunting is no longer allowed on the Hingham Bathing Beach. And I applaud this outcome.

In my mind, this had nothing to do with hunting and everything to do with safety and common sense. Children, picnickers, passers-by, boaters, and nearby parking lots simply don’t mix well with firearms. Call me a goose-hugger (actually somebody on a talk radio program did) but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.

While I realize you never know what might happen when you hold an outdoor church service in a public place (yes, we had a permit), you certainly don’t expect to see and hear gunfire. Let alone an animal falling out of the sky. But I do like to occasionally hold liturgies outside as a reminder that God doesn’t actually “live” inside our churches; that God isn’t under some sort of Martha Stewart-like house arrest. God is omnipresent both indoors and out.

And so as part of our monthly Saturday Night Family Service we held “Preach at the Beach” on a beautiful, peaceful late-September evening. As any Hinghamite well knows, the view of Hingham Harbor opens up an idyllic, post card-like vista that is something to behold – you can see World’s End, boats bobbing up and down at their moorings, and several small islands dot the seascape. By the end of this night, communion was served, a goose was dead, and a bunch of little kids were left with many questions.

It was all pretty surreal for those of us gathered on the beach that night. Needless to say the only thing I’m used to reloading when I celebrate the Eucharist is the stack of communion wafers. And I certainly don’t own any bright orange vestments.

Now, I’m not opposed to hunting and I get the whole 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 on the South Shore of Boston? Many of the hunting laws in Massachusetts date back to colonial times. Sure, it was legal to hunt in public places in the 1620s – there were few people around and how else would you put food on your family’s table? But today hunting on a public beach just doesn’t make sense. Having served in the military, I understand gun safety; but I also know that sometimes things go horribly awry. Why take that chance at the Hingham Bathing Beach?

Following the service and picnic on the sand, parents had something else to talk about on the ride home; something they really hadn’t anticipated when they took their kids to the service. In the aftermath, one little girl was overhead saying softly, “That’s so sad.” And she’s right. It was sad that children couldn’t be sheltered from violence at a beachside church service and it was sad that this was allowed to happen at all. But I’m glad the police and town officials found the by-law that prohibits the discharge of firearms on town property before someone, besides a goose, got hurt.

Again, this is not about hunting or gun control or separation of church and state or class warfare or Tea Party politics, though all of these issues were brought up by anonymous online commenters, talk radio hosts, and a number of bloggers. Rather it is about keeping people safe on a very popular public beach. I hope on this issue, at least, we can all agree that common sense has prevailed.

The Rev. Tim Schenck is Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist. Visit him on the web at where you can access his blog “Clergy Family Confidential.”


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