If you’ve been hanging around the Rabbit Room for any length of time, you’ve read about two of our favorite things: Hutchmoot and Laity Lodge. If you don’t know what Hutchmoot is, I encourage you to click this link. If you don’t know what Laity Lodge is, click this one. If you’re not all that into clicking links and want the quick summary, here it is:
Hutchmoot is a yearly gathering in Nashville for people who like good stories, good music, good food, and community. Laity Lodge is a beautiful retreat center in the Hill Country of Texas where many in our community have experienced life-changing rest. Well, thanks to our friends at Laity Lodge, and in response to quite a few emails from those of you who are frustrated that Hutchmoot (capped at 135 registrants) sells out too quickly, we’ve cooked up the mashup of the century, and we’re calling it the Hutchmoot Retreat. It’s happening at Laity Lodge, February 20-23, 2014.
My first time at Laity Lodge was with my good friends Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Buddy Greene, and Jeff Taylor. And as if that wasn’t enough, the featured speaker that weekend was Eugene Peterson (who is not, unfortunately, my uncle). The Gullahorns had told me again and again that the Lodge was right up my alley, and boy, were they right. A typical retreat includes a speaker, a musician or two, and a visual artist, along with about 75 attendees. The food is stellar, the hospitality is legendary, and the scenery is breathtaking. People have long referred to Laity as a “thin place,” and I’m inclined to agree. To get there you have to drive through the Frio River, which functions, in my mind at least, as a baptism of sorts, the crossing of a threshold from one world into another. There are quotes from poets and theologians gracing the pathways; there’s a little bookstore with books by Wendell Berry, Frederick Buechner, Walter Wangerin, Madeline L’Engle, and C.S. Lewis; there are nature walks and roaring fireplaces. The staff is made up of sweet, humble souls ready to serve your every need. It’s truly a heavenly place, and I don’t use that adjective lightly.
The values fostered by the leadership at Laity Lodge greatly influenced our hopes for Hutchmoot a few years ago: rest, conversation, community, wonder, all grounded in the hope that whoever came would encounter the God who loves them most. To our delight and astonishment, it worked. Our little Nashville conference has been a blessing to us and to many of you. Hutchmoot, however, is tough to replicate. For starters, with our barebones staff and limited financial resources, there’s no way for us to do more than one per year. I think Pete loses a bit more hair on top of his head and grows a bit more on his face after every Moot. Not only that, we don’t feel right about making it bigger. As much as we’d love to fling the doors wide open and raise the number of spaces, we believe the result would be a loss of intimacy, which is one of the best things about Hutchmoot. So after quite a few conversations and a lot of planning, the solution we came up with was this: join forces with Laity Lodge and offer a second, slightly different Hutchmoot experience in Texas.
The retreat will feature a few familiar faces: Pete Peterson, Jennifer Trafton, and myself, plus singer/songwriters Eric Peters, Jill Phillips, and Andy Gullahorn. The artist-in-residence is Paul Soupiset, a great artist who has history with both Laity and several of us. But that’s not all, folks. We’ve also invited one of our favorite authors to speak to us: Kathleen Norris. She’s the award-winning author of The Cloister Walk, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Acedia and Me, and The Virgin of Bennington. Throw in some excellent food, a beautiful setting, and springtime in a Texas canyon, and you have what promises to be a restful, inspiring weekend which, based on my previous experience at the Lodge, just might change the way you see the world, your life, and our God.
I hope you’ll join us.