Longing and Belonging


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.

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.


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.


  1. Jess

    Oh, God. I always see God in your writing, Mr. Smith. And the reflection of my own longing and belonging.

    Praise him all creatures here below. Amen.

  2. Evan

    This is so excellent. I must share this with friends who ask me about the Hutchmoot.

    I can’t wait to be in the Great Hall. And maybe there will be a Sorting Hat– except every name it calls will be in the same House.

  3. Laura Peterson

    Sam! So very well said, once again. I liked this – “That I could so deeply feel such genuine gratitude is in itself a gift.” I stumbled into the Rabbit Room at a time when it was difficult for me to be thankful. I think this place has reminded my heart what gratitude feels like, and that is a HUGE gift. Thanks for articulating that.

  4. James Witmer

    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.

    It is this kind of miracle that proves the eternal worth of Hutchmoot & the Rabbit Room in general, and makes me so happy for those of you who could attend… which is an even more unlikely miracle in the heart of one who wished to be there…

  5. Aaron Roughton

    Sam, this is the second time you’ve made me cry. The first involved a well placed round house kick. This second batch of tears was far more joyful. Thanks for this post.

  6. Donna S

    Gorgeously said. Since I was not in attendance – and was none too happy about that – I’m so surprised that reading the reflections of those who did attend makes me feel satiated rather than starved. This too, I think, is evidence of what a special gift this gathering is.

  7. Margret

    “Hutchmoot feels like an extended trailer for the Kingdom of God.” I know that you mean trailer, like a movie we all participate in with the most fantastic Producer and Director.
    That said, can I confess to you that my heart/mind didn’t envision a movie? Instead, it saw a fifth wheel. Really? Yeah, that camper contraption so many people pull behind their trucks when they go on vacation.
    That’s what I think our life is like here. We’re working and engaging ourselves in all we’re responsible for and, at the same time, we’ve hitched our lives up in pursuit of the Kingdom, of Heaven, of God. We’re really blessed along the journey when we have opportunity to meet others on the same quest. They’ll share the campground, offer encouragement, eat of our food while we plunder theirs, enjoy games together, rest, and have deep, meaningful “You, too?” conversations.
    I have prayed for all of y’all since discovering this site, and for Hutchmoot ever since the idea was dreamed up. I will continue to do so and someday, someday, it will be my privilege to attend.
    All of Heaven’s best to you and yours,

  8. Chris

    So basically, you’re saying that for the NEXT Hutchmoot, I need to reserve my spot, right away, no questions asked, and THEN figure out how to plan the rest of my life around it. Sounds like a plan.

  9. Bryan

    Stumbled through to your site from the Schoeneblog. Fantastic writing and the “Hutchmoot” sounds like a little slice of heaven on earth. Thanks for sharing.

  10. S. D. Smith


    Jess– That means so much. I appreciate you sharing that with me.

    DanR, JaimeGJ, Evan, Dave, Breann– Thanks, you guys. We have this in common, yes?

    Laura– Thanks, friend. Your encouragement meant a lot to me at HM.

    James– You are ordered to come to HM ’12. By order of the Order Givers. Thanks, brother.

    Aaron– Come back and I will taunt you a third time.

    Donna– I love that you said that. Thanks.

    Margret– Thanks for your thoughts. You lack nothing. I’m glad you are here.

    JR– You owe me ten bucks every time you use my patented devices.

    Chris– Yes. Build your life around this event. No, not really. The same God does all kinds of cool stuff all over.

    Bryan– Thanks for coming over. I hope you’ll come back. And thanks for what you said.

  11. tricia prinzi

    I love your words “deep, uncomplicated gratitude.” That was it. I felt like a lucky little kid who stumbled in on the best, most imaginative playmates ever. We were all mirrors taking in joy and reflecting it back. God is so good. Fantastic post, friend.

  12. Andrew C

    Sam, I have wanted (badly) to participate in Hutchmoot since the very first year, not have not yet been able.

    My family and I lead daily ministry to some of the most vulnerable people in the world: refugees. While it is work that we know is on the forefront of God’s heart, it is also consuming and exhausting. Many times (such as this morning) it feels like the life has nearly been sucked out of you. And our struggle to more closely abide in Jesus – and to develop encouraging community among those who work with us.

    Your reflections have given me a lot to mull over: how might God give us opportunity to pour more into those who serve along with us? It is in this work that I and my family have found our deepest longing for His Kingdom to come, as we are surrounded by so much brokenness.

    Thanks, Sam

  13. dawngreen

    My dear, dear Sam,
    How can I say what your words here have meant to me today? I have also felt the belonging that is a particular gift of HutchMoot. So incredible to me that I would feel welcomed as a part of such a creative and generous fellowship. The story of my life seems so mundane and often trivial in comparison with the talented and amazing participants in HM. In the end though I am aware of our interwoven tale of the experience of being a child of the King.
    The longing to return to the magic of HM reminds me that we have tasted the first course of the wedding banquet that awaits the Bride. My heart swells and the tears rise again as I read your words and re-live the mystery of shared Doxology and the Amen.
    One of HM’s greatest gifts to me has been a new friendship with a very talented educator/writer and his beautiful wife.

  14. Jen

    Yes, exactly. Longing and Belonging. That has to be it, because so many of us say the same. Amen.

    Between this, your last post (It is What it Is) and your “morning people” poems, I’m a fan of your writing. =) (Plus, I second Leanne. It was fun to meet your wife at one of ye olde chinwags!)

  15. Eddy Efaw

    The Doxology and the Amen . . . That song has never meant as much as I stood among my brothers and sisters in the sanctuary at Redeemer. I wanted that “Amen” to last forever because I knew when it ended something very special was ending too. It was as if I could see Christ himself slipping up into the clouds as he ascended into the heavens. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us at Hutchmoot. He was present in every conversation, reading, song, poem and story. And now his Spirit lives in us as we take his Kingdom back into our corners of the world. May we remember he will never leave us as we are longing to see him again. May we honor him through taking what we experienced at Hutchmoot and being co-creators in our families, friendships, churches and neighborhoods. When Hutchmoot ended is when it really began. “We are God’s workmanship (poiema, masterpieces, poems, creations) created to do good works.” Go. Create.

  16. Ashley Barber

    Yes. Thank you for summing up Hutchmoot with these two little and weighty words. I’ve been a part of the ‘moot wonder twice now and have met to actually meet you. How about next year? 🙂

  17. Chris Castleberry

    Nice post, Sam. Like so many others, I can so relate. I’ve been to meetings that make me think of that “great hall”, and it’s always such a refreshment. Hope I can make it to a Hutchmoot in the future!

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