Five months is “very near future,” right? On Hutchmoot 2012 and the effects of abundance

Quite some time ago – by my calculations a little over five months – I promised a report from Hutchmoot 2012 “in the very near future.”  Well, here we are, five months later, and the promised report is arriving only now.  I suppose I could put on my defense counsel hat and argue that five months is “very near future” – but an advocate loses credibility when he advances arguments that don’t pass the straight face test.  So consider this little preface to the report proper a mea culpa.

The timing of the report, though, does have a providential bright side: Registration for Hutchmoot 2013 opens at noon EST tomorrow (3/5).  So if what follows sounds interesting, you know where to go to sign up for the next Hutchmoot.

First, for the benefit of my friends that haven’t attended a Hutchmoot, a brief word on the question “what is Hutchmoot?”  A simple answer to that question is elusive — as you can see from the video here.  You could call it a conference for writers, songwriters, artists of various stripes, etc. You could call it the annual meeting of people connected with the Rabbit Room (see http://www.rabbitroom.com/ — hence the “Hutch” in Hutchmoot).  But it is much more than that.  The same quality that makes it difficult to describe also makes it accessible to people who don’t think of themselves as writers or artists by vocation.  If I had to sum up Hutchmoot in one sentence to someone who hasn’t been to one, I might sum it up thus: “Hutchmoot is where people go to see how the art, story, and acts of God come to bear on every aspect of their lives.”  But that doesn’t get at the sheer abundance of the thing itself, as we shall see presently.

I.  Always More Where This Came From

“There’s always more where this came from.”  That was the last sentence of Jonathan Rogers’s Note on the Linocut Print that appeared on the Hutchmoot 2012 folders.  The print showed the caught fish that broke Simon Peter’s nets, as St Luke described in the fifth chapter of his gospel.

Jonathan’s print is a good point of departure for a retrospective on Hutchmoot 2012 because the sign the print depicts, the miraculous catch of fish, followed a paradigm.  You might call it the “there’s always more where this came from” paradigm: a paradigm that runs through Hutchmoot as it runs through history, from the Abrahamic covenant through the present; a paradigm that will run on to the ultimate judgment and restoration of the world.  For the catch of fish was a sign Jesus repeated.  Almost impossibly, the encore was more marvelous than the original, as much more marvelous as the new heavens and the new earth will be more marvelous than the originals.  Jesus transposed the sign from old to new creation. The transposition revealed itself, among other things, in a curious detail: In the first catch, the nets were torn; in the second, they were not.

“There’s always more where this came from.”

II.  The Embarrassment of Riches

Any one man’s attempt to describe exhaustively the riches of a Hutchmoot is bound to fail.  You could almost, without fear of blaspheming, paraphrase St John: If every wonder of Hutchmoot were to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.  You can say that without blaspheming because Gerard Manley Hopkins was right:

I say more: the just man justices;

Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –

Christ.  For Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Time would fail me to tell of Hutchmoot’s riches – the tens of thousands of places where Christ played just in one city over one long weekend.  I might mention (for starters) Andrew Osenga’s left hand getting around the fretboard of his guitar with the speed of Leonard’s spacecraft blasting through the atmosphere; the crystal clarity of Eric Peters’s voice (even lovelier live than on his recordings); Skye Peterson lighting up the Thursday Square Peg concert by singing “Voice of Jesus” with her dad; Sam Smith’s deft interviewing touch in drawing enough treasures of knowledge out of Nate Wilson to fill a dragon’s den (e.g., on Adam’s surrender to the dragon, Job’s brave fight against it, and Christ’s slaying it; and Moses’s wizard duel with Pharoah’s court magicians); the culinary artistry of Evie Coates and the kitchen crew (the meals alone were worth the registration fees!); Rebecca Reynolds gushing over Dorothy Sayers on the trinitarianism of all creation, both God’s big-C Creation and our little-c creations; Stephen and Juliette Trafton treating the theatre workshop to a Man of La Mancha flash mob; Pete Peterson’s unobtrusive skill in running Hutchmoot as a well-run, but not a tightly-run, ship; Ron Block’s uncanny ability to make every last grain of a guitar’s spruce top resonate with every note he plays; and Stephen Trafton opening our ears to hear St Paul to the Philippians as we’d not heard it before.

That’s hardly scratching the surface of Hutchmoot’s published wonders.  And it doesn’t even touch the venue of the real action at Hutchmoot: The dining tables and room corners where God’s image-bearers swap stories, ideas, loves, hopes.  For my money, it’s those tables and corners, where new friendships are born and old ones nourished, that make Hutchmoot less like a fleeting mountaintop retreat and more like a Council at Rivendell, from which a marvelously diverse cast of players may go out into the broken yet glorious Theatre of God, with fresh wisdom and a clearer sense of their place in the great comedy of the Author of Life, to play Christ in ten thousand places.

III.  Now What?

Stephen Trafton closed his recitation of St Paul’s epistle to the Philippians with a simple question: How have you been changed?  It was both a fitting close to his outstanding reading and a perfect send-off from Hutchmoot.

I thought of Stephen’s question to the moot as a question of how to deal with astonishing riches.  Abundance does strange things to people.  It may arouse pride in some, fan the fires of envy in others, make some ashamed, and open the eyes of others to see wonders to which they would otherwise be blind.  Abundance may work differently on the same man at different times – as it did on Simon Peter on the sea of Galilee, looking at an encore net-breaking catch of fish, only this time in unbroken nets.  And so, to end where I started, and to transpose Stephen’s question into a Petrine-Johannine key, I might ask: Presented with that abundance of fish, do we fall on our faces and ask the Lord Jesus to go away on account of our sin, or do we cast ourselves into the sea and swim to the shore from which He speaks, sins and charcoal fires past be damned?

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Posted on March 4, 2013, in David Mitchel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Er . . . what’s a Hutchmoot?

    • That is the question that stumps pretty much everyone, Don. You could call it a conference for writers, songwriters, artists of various stripes, etc. You could call it the annual meeting of people connected with the Rabbit Room (see http://www.rabbitroom.com/ — and, hence, the “Hutch” preceding the moot) But it is much more than that.

    • I added a brief explanatory paragraph at the front end, Don — since your comment told me that this account, if it was of use to anyone, would really have been of use only to others who’d been to a Hutchmoot. Still, there is something about the thing that defies summary. You could almost say of Hutchmoot what Flannery O’Connor said of her stories: If you could summarize it, there would be no need to hold a Hutchmoot, or attend one. Cheers.

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