“I feel like I have stumbled upon a secret meeting of people I always hoped existed, and it does.” ~I'm still working on figuring out the exact quote from the opening night by Joshua Luke Smith
You know that moment when Lucy stumbles upon a secret world through the wardrobe or Harry receives a magical letter or Anne with an “e” finally is able to go to a real forever home? There is a feeling akin to these stories that I am feeling: wonder and relief. Is this real? Are the stories true? Yes, it is. Yes, they are.
An explanation is most needed, I’m sure, if you don’t know what a Hutch-a-ma-call-it is. I’m still figuring it out myself. If you will bear with me, I’d like to share with you about one of my favorite weekends, ever.
In June, a dear friend told me to check out The Rabbit Room, as it seemed like we had similar values. Suddenly, several people in different parts of my life told me to read the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, someone I knew only to be a singer that I enjoyed a few encouraging songs I had heard in previous years. Little did I imagine that he would be much more, and I’m usually so proud of that imagination of mine. I sheepishly admit I tend to narrow people down, even though I, in principle, abhor doing just that! Well Andrew and Pete, two brothers started an experimental creative community called the Rabbit Room that you can read all about on their site, and their yearly meet-up/conference/feast is called Hutchmoot in good ole Franklin, Tennessee. I read the saga in a week in July, binge-listened to the podcasts while working on some art projects, read some beautiful articles, and somehow, I noticed this thing called Hutchmoot. I felt the echo of affinity in my heart for what I was reading and hearing about in all of these things. I must have signed up for the waitlist, but I do not honestly remember doing it amidst the tumultuous summer schedule I was living. All I remember was come August, I got an email and there were two spots left. I decided to go for it. I called my mom and said I did a crazy thing. I spent a lot of money on something I could not even define. I emailed a friend hoping to be able to stay with her. She did me one better, and she found me a place with one of her friends close to the gathering who was going to be there too. It was official, I was going.
Part of me wants to keep everything a secret, my little treasure, but the other part of me wants you to know every little detail. I loved that it was shared first thing, “We have an agenda, but we don’t have an agenda for you,” freeing up for God to do what He does in each of us with the time given at Hutchmoot. To most people, I described this weekend as an art and faith conference, but to you, dear reader, I will call it a taste of heaven. There are things I will keep close and mysterious, but here, here is my story of Hutchmoot, of belonging.
I arrive alone. In line, I befriend two cousins from Wisconsin. We sit in the sanctuary together sipping coffee from our new rabbit coffee mugs. Suddenly we are talking to the mother and daughter sitting in front of us. There is a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker (okay well she dabbled in pottery so I used a little creative liberty there), a librarian, and me, a painter. Well, those are our normal descriptions because each of us is much more than a title. We each have more creativity to share across many disciplines. I start saying that I am a writer out loud to strangers. This is something that I have only just started saying this year despite that word being on my business card for two years. There’s a freedom and an understanding. Those compassionate eyes understand. There is a literal feast served to us later and a musical one even later still. There is this concept explained to us of being resonators for each other like the strings in a piano. I am seriously glowing in joy. I have had moments in my life of finding resonators here and there, those streams in the desert, so to speak. It seems like all the streams were meeting up here for a short while.
Day Two starts with a session entitled “Fools and Dreamers” where I find many kindred spirits who are passionate about truth and beauty and playing, too. This is the part where I step into true slightly-manic wonder that I have made it to this place. All those streams were leading me here in this moment. There proceeds to be a teamoot, a doodlemoot, more activities to try. I listen to a talk on the idea of slow church. I go to an improv session where we start off giggling and end in the reverence of thinking how the reading of the letter of Philemon would have gone down back in the day. In each place, it is effortless to extend the conversation with those around me. What a gift! Someone refers to us as rabbits, and some personal memories come to mind. I was highly fascinated by bunnies growing up. My dad would tell me stories of rainbows and unicorns and bunnies and princesses at bedtime. My mom would get me a stuffed bunny every Easter, and I still cherish them. One is by my bed right now. I love the imagery of rabbits multiplying throughout my life. And now, I’m in a room with 300 rabbits.
I couldn’t sleep when I was younger so I read to make my eyes tired, a trick my mom thought would work more quickly than it turned out. I would be up for hours most nights with a book in my hand complete with a booklight and my faithful cat cuddled close to keep me company. I remember thinking these characters understood me better than most people. These stories could take me to a place I desperately needed. When I finished a book, I would go searching for the next book. Being into the magical fantasy genre, I was fixated on finding a beautiful book. I’m not even talking writing-wise. I am talking leather bound, gold leaf, jewel on the front, beautiful. I was judging a book by its cover, but hey, I was a kid! I would go from bookshop to bookshop asking for it. No one ever had one. So I would settle with a book that sounded interesting. I knew it would come someday. Now, I know that book search was rooted in my deep yearning for scripture and the one true book. I also think that desire was leading me for true community and the mystery of something more.
Something more like sitting exhausted next to a woman, fully intending on not saying anything while we waited for dinner on Day Two. We ended up striking up a conversation and eating dinner together. Two hours later, divulging much of our stories complete with confessions and secrets and desires over a bowl of chili, she asked me my name. We had never fully introduced ourselves, and we laughed.
Something more like finding out there is a whole group of Virginians I haven’t met yet. And they are having lunch together in two hours! And I go up to table after table until I find them. How sometimes I have to go to Kansas City to find out about the Rabbit Room, to the Rabbit Room to find out about Hutchmoot, and Hutchmoot to find out about my Virginians.
Something more like being a part of a songwriting session, something I have never done and sharing our new song after three hours leading the room in worship.
Something more like my dinner friend finding me on Day Three to pray for me and share another meal.
Something more like someone you briefly met at the coffee bar seeing you by yourself and pulling you into a seat that seemed saved just for you for the evening show.
Something more like another new true friend saying goodbye and “I love you” in an embrace after only three days of a relationship.
Something more like somehow being able to make 5 different people I have only just met to pretend to blow up make-believe balloons at dinner. You, dear reader, have to do it do. Would you please? Simply imagine that thing you are stressed about and pretend to blow it up in a balloon. Seriously use your body and blow that balloon and tie it tight. Put a string on it. Let it go up to the sky. Watch it go up to the Lord as you let it go. Now what color was it? I would like to know.
Something more like finding balloon rabbits throughout the building. Something more like waking up every morning without an alarm. GASP! Something more like standing in the dinner line with an author I didn’t know about until that day and being able to goof around and talk solemnly all within moments. Something more like expecting a keynote speech and receiving a worship hour. Something more like seeing Psalm 22 as even more beautiful as we think of our Saviour calling it on the cross.
I imagine this wonder and relief to be much like that stage of a new believer that openmouthed takes it all in and can’t help but share with everyone. I know I’ve been that new believer before, and I’ve watched those new believers full of excitement take big leaps of faith before they learn those religious things that inevitably will make them more cautious. Although I have a suspicion, that the wonder will stay alive, and I will not be too cautious at Hutchmoot in the future because of the freedom to be my quirky self.
So if you were there and saw me big eyed and mouth agape, thank you for caring for me by accepting me wholeheartedly and patiently and enthusiastically. If you weren’t there, and anything of all this scritchscratch makes any sense, I invite you to check out the Rabbit Room. And maybe just maybe, your journey will take you to Hutchmoot with your eyes and mouth open wide. Where the streams will converge into one mighty river if even for a few days to give us the strength to enter back into our deserts offering beauty and truth and play to those around us.
I am thoroughly delighted to find the stories are true. There is always something more when it comes to Jesus and His people. Do not be afraid.