Last spring, when the Rabbit Room announced that the in-person gathering of Hutchmoot was cancelled, I felt my stomach drop in disappointment. I had been among the lucky ones who had raced to our computers and successfully managed to score the coveted and oft-elusive tickets to what has become my favorite weekend each year. It was all for naught—or so I thought.
I wondered how they would transition this incredible event to the confines of a computer screen. I couldn’t imagine it being the same or even coming close to creating the deep, spiritual and creative experience that reboots my artistic juices and fills my soul with the knowledge that I am not alone every year.
Each of us is a priest and prophet in the Kingdom of God, and we can create little slices of Heaven in the spaces where God has placed us if we will only be willing to gather his people around the proverbial table and pass the peace with a smile and a song. Jeanine Joyner
When the Hutchmoot: Homebound tickets went on sale, I was happy to see they offered a small group package, complete with Mystery Moot Kits for all. I purchased mine and began to invite people that I knew would be a gift to the Rabbit Room. There were a few friends who had heard me talk about my experience, two of whom had even been to Hutchmoot before, but the rest were friends from my church. They are a beautiful, creative, and diverse group, not just in ethnicity but also in gifting. One is a spoken word poet, another paints. One writes, another is a talented artist with the voice of an angel. Then there is the budding guitar player and my own daughter who lives and breathes all things creative. Even my husband, who does not share an artistic bent of his own but loves music of all kinds, was able to join us and partake of the feast! It was a recipe for success, an opportunity to bring home and practice what I had learned from my previous experiences during those beautiful autumn weekends in Franklin.
I began by packing each attendee’s Mystery Moot Kit in a gift bag with a card. I hand-delivered the kits and used them to help build anticipation for what was to come. I loved the mystery element of the kits, and my friends did too. We all worked hard to exercise self-control and not open all the envelopes immediately!
I carefully planned a menu appropriate to the occasion, remembering that quote by C. S. Lewis: “Feasting is an act of war.” I took that admonition to heart and planned my weapons accordingly! I provided snacks that were available throughout the day, and asked my guests to bring lunch items to share. When they arrived, the dinner menus were printed out on beautiful paper and posted so everyone could see and anticipate what was to come. Friday night was baked chicken pasta with salad and several desserts (including Jon Cal’s apple berry crumble) as well as my own apple pie with the Rabbit Room logo carved out of the crust. And, of course, we had ice cream—buttered pecan flavor, to be exact. Saturday was Texas themed because, as I often say, you can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of this girl! We shared a huge tureen of taco soup with all the trimmings, along with two different flavors of cake and a fruity Sangria (for the adults, of course).
Together, we chose which sessions we would watch as a group, intentionally keeping the Hutchmoot schedule just as it would have been if we were meeting in Franklin. I cast the video from my computer to the large TV in the living room, allowing the intermissions to play in the background as we milled about and chatted between lectures and performances. The rhythm felt right and gave my guests an experience very near to what I remembered from my own years of attending in person. I enjoyed introducing my friends to artists, speakers, and musicians I have grown to love and marveled at the incredible variety of story, music, and art that was available to us through the magic of the Hutchmoot: Homebound website. (It really was magic. I still can’t believe what they accomplished in just a few short months.) We shared stories, deep and meaningful conversations, and tears. We laughed together and even sank into my big living room sectional with too-full bellies together.
As we feasted on all that was Hutchmoot throughout the weekend, I watched God do what he does best. He took people of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and talents who had entered the room as strangers and artfully wove our hearts together until, by the end of Sunday’s sessions, were were singing the doxology in unity with tears in our eyes and hope filling our hearts. We experienced the fullness of God’s Kingdom together, right here in my home.
Now, I’m not going to pretend I don’t long for another in-person gathering of Hutchmoot with the long hallway full of books, bear hugs from beloved friends, music trickling down the halls and Jon Cal’s masterpieces that I don’t have to clean up, because I certainly do! But I learned something last year that I will never forget: each of us is a priest and prophet in the Kingdom of God, and we can create little slices of Heaven in the spaces where God has placed us if we will only be willing to gather his people around the proverbial table and pass the peace with a smile and a song. When we reach out beyond our usual circle of friends and share the abundance that is the goodness of God, I believe he smiles and nods in approval. After all, a parent loves nothing more than to watch their children walk in joyful unity with one another.
This October, let us feast upon all that is good and true wherever we may be, with brothers and sisters from many walks of life. Let us grow this community and allow it to truly reflect the fullness of God’s Kingdom. And may we have the grace to recognize the gift we have been given when, at last, we are able to walk through the virtual doors of Hutchmoot and hear Pete boom out a hearty “Welcome” from North Wind Manor.