A year ago my family and I played a concert in Sheffield, England. After it was over we stood in a circle with four British friends and prayed. They were fans and supporters of the Rabbit Room, and we talked about the crazy idea of trying to pull off a Hutchmoot in the U.K. someday. The gist of the prayer was, “Lord, we’d love to do this. If it’s your will, please help us make it happen.”
It’s no secret that I love playing on this side of the pond, whether it’s Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia (hello, Sweden!), or Europe in general, so trying to put on a Rabbit Room gathering over here wasn’t a new idea. But it seemed like an impossible one—until a few key people sent me emails that said, “We’d love to see this happen over here, and we’re willing to help.” I came home last summer and excitedly told Pete, “I think it’s time. Let’s do it.”
As Executive Director, Pete is in charge of a lot already, and he looked at me with a mixture of hope and dread. Planning and executing Hutchmoot right there in Nashville is hard enough, let alone trying to make it work from the other side of the ocean, but he agreed and we started the long process of planning Hutchmoot UK. I confess, we went into it with a lot of trepidation. Not only were there the logistical concerns (finding the right venue in Oxford, filling the roster with speakers and artists we didn’t yet know, travel and accommodation planning, etc.), but there were also translation questions. Just because something works in Nashville doesn’t mean it’ll work in Oxford. Would people resonate with these ideas, with this format, the way they seem to in America? Not only that, we were worried about disappointing people. When we started Hutchmoot in Nashville there were low expectations; we had nothing to live up to. Many of the people coming to Oxford had heard good things about the U.S. conference and we didn’t want to let anyone down.
Pete and I had a lot of conversations about our shared anxiety over the logistics—but I kept coming back to one thing that brought me a lot of comfort: the people. After traveling over here quite a bit I had met so many of the wonderful people who I knew were coming. Tom and Rach Hart, who live on a farm in Suffolk. Jo and Michael Tinker, who have been involved in music ministry for years. Eilidh Patterson, a singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland. Joshua Luke Smith and his wife Kara, from Bath, who are both songwriters. Mark and Rachel Meynell, involved in church work in the U.K. (and beyond) for years. Heidi and Glenn Johnston (and their daughters!), from Northern Ireland, who have come to Nashville Hutchmoot several times. Ross Wilson, Northern Irish painter and sculptor. My British buddy JJ, who is both a concert promoter and a chef. Micah and Katie Coston, from Oxford by way of South Carolina. There were also the Americans flying over to help: Shigé Clark, Chris and Annaleigh Thiessen, Becca Jordan, Doug McKelvey, Rebecca Reynolds, Jonathan and Helena Aman, Phillip and Lanier Ivester. You get the picture. There were people, Christians, all of whom are bright lights in their home communities, all gathering in Oxford to share their spiritual gifts with this Rabbit Room community.
Jamie and I were both a bit giddy at the thought of all these friends of ours—many of whom didn’t yet know each other—coming together for three days of feasting in the name of Jesus. What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty could, I guess. But it didn’t. One of the greatest delights in life, for me, is seeing friendships born. When we gathered in Oxford on the first day to pray, to invite the Lord to work his will in us all weekend, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the way he answered that prayer a year ago with a resounding “Yes.”
People really do gather around the fire of the Gospel to warm themselves before journeying back home to tell the story to their neighbors and families again.Andrew Peterson
What a joy it was to listen to the songwriters on the first night, one from Glasgow, one from Derry, one from Manchester, and two from Nashville, all sharing songs that came from such different places and yet all pointed to one King. What a joy to watch Pete try and break up the exuberant conversations happening in every corner of the building so people would go to the next session. What a joy to move through the dining hall and see old and new friends sharing a meal. And what a joy when, after three good days, we sang the doxology together in that fine old church building to end the weekend—and then watched those new connections spill out into the Oxford night with a new story to tell about God’s goodness and provision. Sessions and songs and meals are good, but the people are why this works. Everything else is icing on the cake.
We cleaned up the church in a hurry so we could make it to the Lamb and Flag (yes, the same one where the Inklings sometimes hung out) before they closed. We crammed into the pub and raised a toast to the first ever Hutchmoot U.K. just before the bell rang and they turned us out into the Oxford night. These things happen, folks. People really do gather around the fire of the Gospel to warm themselves before journeying back home to tell the story to their neighbors and families again. Our prayer is that this little gathering was a nourishment, that it was an affirmation of the gifts we’ve all been given, and that it brought a fresh passion to love our neighbors in ways that surprise us and them.
So, on behalf of the Rabbit Room, allow me to offer our deepest thanks to everyone who showed up and served, everyone who planned, everyone who cleaned, cooked, sang, spoke, laughed, and loved in the belief that these little things are great things in the Kingdom of God.
Can we do it again next year? Please?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. If you were there, what surprised you? What were the little moments of grace that will stick in your memory? What will you carry home?
As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.