Hutchmoot 2012: You Are Not Alone

I returned home a few weeks ago from Hutchmoot.  The long weekend was exactly what my dry and thirsty soul needed.  Being reunited with friends from last year, new friends we’d only previously met online, and being immersed in a long weekend filled with Christ-centered music, talks, writing, acting, and fellowship is a cure for all ills…for me at least.

Coming to Hutchmoot, my head was filled with stress, my heart was filled with worry, and my body was in a state of utter exhaustion.  I was in the process of quitting my job, closing one of my three stores and prepping to do inventory at the other two stores upon my return.  I felt lucky to even be going to the conference.  Even then, I was afraid that I’d spend the whole weekend getting phone calls from work, spend the whole time thinking about work, and maybe that with all that was going on, taking two days off to attend the conference isn’t something I should be doing.

I was wrong.

We walked into Church of the Redeemer and were greeted with warm hellos, and “Hey, you made it!” (Nashville traffic on Thursday afternoon was atrocious).  We snuck into the sanctuary, just in time for announcements and were greeted with hugs and big hellos from our friends Sherri, Jen, and Chris.  The place was packed.  During the registration in March, the conference sold out in 7 minutes, allowing around 80 more attendees than anticipated to get in  before registration could be closed.  The energy and excitement in the room was tangible.  For a conference largely attended by self-proclaimed introverts (I am not included in this group), there were no wallflowers to be found in the crowd.  Announcements were given by our conference coordinator and Master of Ceremonies, A. S. “Pete” Peterson, and then we were off to a taste of Heaven’s table courtesy of Evie Coates, Lewis Graham, and the magnificent kitchen staff.  The weariness I’d felt coming in to the conference began to fade.  An evening of acoustic songs, originals and excellent covers, awaited us after dinner courtesy of the Square Peg Alliance.  One phrase kept echoing through my mind as I heard these songs and immersed myself in the fellowship:

You are not alone.

Friday was a day full of sessions, talks, laughter, more amazing food (incredible coffee too), and an evening topped off with the release show for Light for the Lost Boy.  As I mentioned in my review, this concert was the culmination of my healing.  I’d felt so weary for so long, I didn’t realize that how deep my hurts went.

The servants of the secret fire were gathered there
The embers of the ages like a living prayer
And all at once I saw the shadows flee
Shine Your Light on me
Be a light unto my path
And a lamp unto my feet
– Andrew Peterson, “Shine Your Light on Me”

Again, these Servants of the Secret Fire spoke the words I needed to hear:

You are not alone.

After Friday’s concert, I was a bundle of crazy energy.  I couldn’t stop grinning; I couldn’t stop laughing; I couldn’t stop talking!  An evening of shenanigans followed with our “Weird Rabbit” gang (Jen, Chris, Sherri, Ryan and myself), in which I laughed a whole lot, made bad jokes, and probably embarrassed my husband and all our friends with my giddiness.  It was awesome.  Proverbs 15:15b says, “…the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.”  My heart was feasting.  I heard it again.

You are not alone.

More of the same blend of excellence was to be had Saturday–great sessions, talks, laughter, food, coffee, fellowship, and a fantastic keynote from Phil Vischer (that’s right folks, Bob the Tomato was at Hutchmoot!).  I kept thinking, “This can’t possibly get any better!”

Inaccurate.

The last item on our schedule for the evening was a little something called, “Reveille.”  Really, it was a bit confusing.  “Reveille” after all is a wake-up song, not an 8 o’ clock at night song.  We all were waiting in the sanctuary with excited chatter, when none other than Andrew Osenga walks onto the stage in a Space Suit.  You heard me, Space Suit!  Andy O. rocked out with a full band, performing the entirety of his latest record, Leonard the Lonely Astronaut including a few B-sides from the record as well.   (Reveille is the name of his Rocket Ship in which he built himself, and if memory serves correctly, recorded the record).  An absolutely phenomenal show was  given and Andrew truly brought down the house.  Hutchmoot is not the typical place for a rock show, but this was an all out rock show.  I loved every minute!  Through the excitement and the cheers, I heard it again.

You are not alone.

Hutchmoot Sunday is always a more reserved day.  Everyone is a bit tired from a full weekend, but I think I’ve never felt a greater sense of sadness at the end of a conference.  To quote fellow ‘Mootian, Brenda Branson, “Now I truly understand why the disciples wanted to make tabernacles on the mountain top and stay there with the Lord.”  I had no desire to make the long drive back to Charlotte.  Pete kept assuring us that Hutchmoot 2012 would go out with a bang.  Pete is not in the habit of making empty promises.  The conference ended with a surprise dramatic performance of the book of Philippians.  Yes, you did read that correctly a performance of the book of Philippians, courtesy of Stephen Trafton, Broadway actor (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables), member of the Church and Art network, and brother-in-law to Pete Peterson.  Stephen did a one man retelling of the book of Philippians.  Reciting the book in its entirety, including references to Paul’s journeys that lead him up to the letter, audience participation, and leaving us with the question, “How have you been changed?”  I think everyone in attendance can no longer read Philippians without hearing Stephen’s voice.  I know I can’t.  How have I been changed?  I heard it again.

You are not alone.

From the point of entry at this conference to the final chorus of “Doxology,” the Holy Spirit truly covered me.  For months I’d felt alone and afraid.  Last year, Andrew Peterson gave me permission to call myself a writer.  Throughout the course of the year, Hutchmoot folks gave me permission to pursue this crazy dream of becoming a writer.  Finally, I gave myself permission to do this.  As another ‘Mootian, Laura Peterson so eloquently put it at the end of the first Hutchmoot, “It’s nice to know I’m not the only Gonzo.”  Again, I hear the Lord’s voice in these words.

You are not alone.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

______________________________________________________

If even after this blog post you still have no idea what a Hutchmoot is, watch the video below.  I hope Andrew can help you understand the excellence of the conference.  

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About The Nerdy Blogger

Ashley Whitehead Thomas is The Nerdy Blogger. She holds a B. A. in English Literature from Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and began her M. A. at Signum University in Spring 2013. Ashley blogs, reads, writes (for fun and for hire), and spends time with her husband, Ryan, and their two cat-monsters, Luna and Oliver.
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10 Responses to Hutchmoot 2012: You Are Not Alone

  1. Laura says:

    Gonzo!
    Love this post. 🙂 You’re not alone.

  2. Jen says:

    Beautiful, Ashely! You captured the spirit of the weekend so well… I’m glad you held off a while in writing this, because now that I’m fully back into life at home, it’s good to remember what a sweet time this was. Last year, I felt such a sense of belonging. This year was like coming home.

    So thankful for you and your friendship! Friday night shenanigans might be some of my favorite memories. I loved being part of the gang for the weekend. 🙂

  3. David says:

    Outstanding synopsis. You whisked me back to Redeemer Nashville.

  4. Peter B says:

    For some reason, I had this page up again — and what a needed reminder. Your recollections brought out the chill-bumps of remembrance.

    If I weep, let it be as a man who is longing for his home.

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