Tollers, Hugo, Charles, Jack and their friends met in a small pub in Oxford England called the Eagle and Child originally to discuss mythology, but eventually shared a great deal of their thoughts, lives, and writings. The room where they held these discussions was called the Rabbit Room. To this point, the story seems insignificant, until you realize that “Tollers” was J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, and “Jack” was C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia books and other Christian and fiction treasures. Their group of friends shared ideas and stories in the Rabbit Room.
The Rabbit Room has a new incarnation online at rabbitroom.com, a community of musicians, writers, thinkers, and creators. I believe the instigator of all this was one of my favorite songwriters, Andrew Peterson. And now, there are a number of contributors to the Rabbit Room, some incredibly wise, creative, and gratefully, humble people. Obviously, in a community like this, the writers are not only sharing with each other but with people around the world. Some of this community connect because of music, some because of books, some art, some faith, some sharing interests in specific authors or topics. Thinking people are drawn into discussions on a variety of issues.
This weekend the Rabbit Room held their annual Hutchmoot, a weekend where they come together in a physical place, where they share, challenge, and encourage one another. I participated in this weekend, and honestly I hesitate to even mention it to you, because now I am afraid you will try to take it over next year, and there will not be space for me. But nonetheless, I must share what God has done in my life and the kind of community I hope can grow here on this website, at my home church in Austin, and that you will have the opportunity to tune into what God is doing at rabbitroom.com.
I find it hard to put into words what happened this weekend. Which is ironic considering that a great deal of the weekend was about the value and beauty of words. I suppose I should start from my own point of view. I did not go into the weekend as a musician or songwriter. While that is obviously a part of who I am, I was not part of the group putting on the weekend, I was a participant. So I didn’t go in announcing who I was. I didn’t go in assuming I had something to share. I went in hoping to learn. I sat with people in sessions, at meals, in the hallway, talking about their hopes and their lives, and sharing mine as well. Most of the time I went to sessions on writing, since I am at the very beginning of trying to learn how to do that. It was wonderful, because everyone in that circle knew more about writing than me. Not only could I learn from the presenter, but I could learn from every person I encountered. I loved hearing their ideas and receiving their encouragements. Because whatever stage a writer is in, they remember the fear of beginning. And according to them, most of that fear remains.
I loved being at a conference (although I hesitate even to use the word conference because it gives off a connotation of education rather than community) where no one was seeking a record deal. No one was trying to get a book published. They were just there to do life together, to do the creative life together. I learned about poetry from S.D. Smith and Andrew, but then continued learning from the people attending that were passionately in love with great poetry. I might even try to finish the poem I started last year. I learned about building a co-creative community, which had a less to do with organization and stuff, and much more to do with letting go of our fears. I learned about the intersection of creativity and discipline. I listened to people’s passions, heard their stories, and shared a little of mine.
We heard from the Square Peg Alliance, which is a group of songwriters that don’t fit the CCM radio mold. And they’re amazing. Every one of them. I was already a big fan of Andrew, Andy Gullahorn, Andy Osenga, Jill Phillips, and Jason Gray. But I found the music of Ben Shive (who is ridiculously talented) and Eric Peters (who is another incredible honest songwriter). I got to know Randall Goodgame, who is an amazing singer/songwriter who has started using those talents to make music for kids, Slugs & Bugs. I heard Katie, who started singing and I immediately thought, “She sounds just like the girl from Coal Train Railroad.” Of course, she was the girl from Coal Train Railroad, a mom making jazz music for kids. And I’m sure I forgot someone. Sorry.
We heard from writers like Pete Peterson, who you’ve already heard me rave about his books Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green. Andrew Peterson has also written a series of 3 books (so far) which are incredible and funny. Travis Prinzi is a Harry Potter authority and author, which appeals to the nerd in some of us. I won’t assume all of you are nerds. Jonathan Rogers is an incredibly intelligent man who has written both fiction and non-fiction books. And the weekend was capped by a visit from Sally Lloyd Jones, the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible. I am hoping that they recorded that session and might post it on the Rabbit Room, because I could never express to you the joy and challenge that she brought to us. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, you HAVE to go. I don’t want to just give you a quote; it wouldn’t do it justice.
I don’t want this to get excessively long, but I hope you check out rabbitroom.com. And I hope we can stir that kind of community here as well. I hope you will create and be willing to share it with others. And after being challenged by these guys about the quality of our words, I may not post three times a week like I promised. I might actually try to write something good. Who knows? Well, I just wanted to give you an inkling of what I received this weekend. Now it’s time to hit the studio. I’d appreciate your prayers as we add a song to the new record. And no, I don’t know when it’s coming out, but we’ll be working this week. Thanks.