Longing and Belonging: Hutchmoot Explained

I wrote this last year after Hutchmoot 2011. It still feels like a good summary of what is special about this event. Hutchmoot 2012 begins on Thursday. I hadn’t posted this essay here, only at The Rabbit Room. (Go there to see some of the original comments, if you like.) I’m really grateful to be a part of this wonderful (and wackily-named) part of God’s world and story. –Sam

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You know what a simile is? It’s like a metaphor. Well, Hutchmoot is like a Justin Gerard illustration. You look at the whole thing and you are amazed. But look closer at its many parts and there are little wonders in every corner. So, I take Hutchmoot as a whole and am astonished. It was one of the most wonder-full events of my life, once again.

It’s difficult to sit here, even more than a week later, and try to come up with words to convey what it was like, without really reducing the experience. But, I’ll try. The two words that seem to best describe Hutchmoot as a whole for me are Belonging and Longing.

Belonging

Others have written more (and more beautifully) about this experience, but it is truly amazing. It’s as if you have finally walked into the Cheers bar and the song is true, everybody knows your name and everyone’s glad you’re there. Sure, they may know your name only because you were a good fellow and wore your name badge, but still, it’s special. It’s fun to connect with so many people, many of whom you know and also know you because of either last year’s Hutchmoot, or The Rabbit Room. It is so special to see a face, hear a name, then experience a kind of awakening as you realize that this person is that person who has so encouraged you through comments at The Rabbit Room. The smiling face in front of you is the person who wrote those words which made your heart soar for the life-giving encouragement they gave you. And they are just as you imagined them, flawed and fantastic.

More, you have something to offer and much more to receive. You belong here not just for what you have in common, but for what others have that you need to hear. And, almost beyond belief, there are those who need to hear what you have to say as well.

It’s as if God has saved up presents from many lean Christmases and given them all at once. A feeling of deep, uncomplicated gratitude rests on me at Hutchmoot. I belong. It’s plainer than most places I’ve ever been. It almost feels like you are that puzzle piece and you are sliding into the place for which you were so carefully designed. Not for all of life, but for now. The fit is snug. And the picture, as a whole, is something beautiful and unexpected. It’s a dawn scene, and there’s green everywhere.

Longing

I was raised in West Virginia (by very West Virginian parents) until I was twelve years old. I am thoroughly Appalachian and especially Mountaineerish. At twelve, my family moved to Africa. In fact, I turned thirteen in South Africa the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison. For a while I felt almost as if I had been amputated, so great was my longing for home. Later, I was given eyes to see the gift I had been given. Gratitude for what I had been given and deep appreciation for the place I now considered a second home overcame what had been despair. But I never got over my home. I never became less than a West Virginian. Only more. I was adopted as a Zulu, immersed in English and Afrikaans culture. I added cricket and rugby to football and basketball. I never stopped loving and longing for the West Virginia hills. Sometimes, on rare occasions, we would meet someone from America, even West Virginia. Those moments were transporting. In my heart I was home again, among my own people. Then the moment would end, our well-met fellow Mountaineer would be on his way and a longing for home would stir inside me like a living thing. When will I be home?

Hutchmoot is like that. Except the longing isn’t for a state, or a town. The longing I feel at Hutchmoot is for a Kingdom.

Hutchmoot feels like an extended trailer for the Kingdom of God. It stirs up in me a longing for united community, for careful and passionate love of beauty, truth, and goodness. Mostly I am stirred up with longing for that Gardener King and his new creation, for that City coming down. The marriage of heaven and earth.

I have been to many events which felt like a fight –even a good, noble fight. But this feels like what good fights are for. This feels like the song and what the song is about.

I loved being at Hutchmoot. In so many, many ways. It was and remains a cherished gift of grace from God. What I received there is more than I can say, or say well.

The particulars of my own experience will have to be talked of elsewhere, or kept as a secret. I won’t elaborate on seeing a handmade name tag, a folded up paper in a back pocket, receiving forceful, life-giving affirmations, waking up with God-given jokes, and good dreams of friendship in old age. But all these little parts, and the whole blessed event, have worked in me a deep miracle. Maybe it’s just the miracle of thankfulness. That I could so deeply feel such genuine gratitude, is itself a gift.

I’m convinced Andrew Peterson has been called by God to the work of gathering this community. I won’t say that I don’t understand how I fit in, or why I am asked to serve this incredible group. I can’t anymore, because Andrew will yell at me and has threatened worse. But I do say that I feel it keenly as an astonishing work of grace in my life. I earned nothing, but was called, invited, and welcomed. I could say more about that, but I won’t. I’ll just say that I thank God for my friend, Andrew. And I thank God for the community which has grown up like a secret garden and nourished so many of us so well.

In the introduction to Mere Christianity, Lewis talks about the little rooms which make up the different denominations and traditions of different groups of Christians. These little rooms, he says, are connected to the great hall where all of Christendom resides. He aims to write for the great hall, the large, common room. Hutchmoot feels like a sample of that great hall.

It’s fitting that this blessed event ended with a room-full of Christians from many different little rooms singing the Doxology. I will never forget that song and that singing.

Thank you, Giver. Your Kingdom Come.

Praise him all creatures here below. Amen.


3 Comments

  1. Sam, you put into words what my heart has been longing for–community, family, a sense of home. I was excited (almost giddy) about HM 2012 before, but now its more of a tearful sigh that perhaps it really will be a place of acceptance, love, and family that will last beyond the few days we’re all together.

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