Reshaping the Church

The Rabbit Room: Community with a heart for beauty, art and connection

Posted December 08, 2023

by Luke Evangelista

Photo by Lachlan Ross for Unsplash

Andrew Peterson is no stranger to creative disciplines. Peterson is the writer of the best-selling “Wingfeather Saga” and an acclaimed musician, according to his website. Drawing on his own creative vision, The Rabbit Room fosters a community for fellow creatives to gather. This community is so much more than a mere art club, however. Instead, it is a collective that nourishes Christ-centered communities through their artistic creations.

“We were in London for a few days during the final throes of spring and took the train to the famously literary town to visit, among other things, the former home of C.S. Lewis,” wrote Peterson in a web article re-telling the experience.

Peterson was in the British town of Oxford, England and visited The Eagle and Child, the meeting place of the Inklings — a creative community comprised of literary giants such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis.

“After my fish and chips in the back room of the Eagle and Child, I noticed a paper sign attached to the gable,” Peterson wrote. “On it was written the name of the little room where the Inklings met: the Rabbit Room.”

When Andrew Peterson noticed the paper label, modest as it was, something about it was striking, according to his community website. As a creative, Peterson has a keen eye for anything inspirational, but even he could not anticipate all that this label on the wall, obsolete and irrelevant to some, would come to mean to him. It is from this experience that The Rabbit Room began.

Perhaps it was the aura of Oxford that grabbed Peterson, or maybe the legacies of Lewis and Tolkien. Perhaps he was anticipating nothing more than a pleasant getaway, but what Andrew Peterson got out of this trip to C.S. Lewis’ old livelihood would blossom into something remarkable. With visions of the Inklings alive in his mind, Peterson went home.

Peterson wrote he journeyed back to south Nashville, Tennessee, with a clear vision of the Inklings’ long-past community in mind. He saw a shimmer of hope for the same vision in his community.

Like that old pub, Peterson wrote he envisioned a creative community that would be a place to enjoy company, laugh abruptly, discuss glory and sharpen one another’s stories. Named after the Inklings’ meeting place, The Rabbit Room would play host to creatives who are alive to the beauty of the Creator.

What once started as a modest website in 2006 has grown into a testament to what the body of Christ can be, according to The Rabbit Room’s website. Over the years, they have steadily amassed a platform of constructive dialogue and creative distribution.

Peterson and his creative colleagues launched Rabbit Room Press in 2008, the publishing wing of The Rabbit Room, according to their website. In March of that same year, Rabbit Room Press released “The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness,” authored by Peterson.

This fantasy novel was the first book in what became a four-book series. While these books are certainly fiction, Peterson wrote he strives to do much more than merely entertain.

“So this is a story about light and goodness and Truth with a capital T. It's about beauty, and resurrection, and redemption,” Peterson wrote in a note to parents on the books’ website.

“This is a story that feeds the imagination and stretches the soul and it is a beautiful testimony to the power of family,” according to one Amazon review.

Since the first release of The Wingfeather Saga, Rabbit Room Press has published many more books. With topics ranging from mystical fantasy to creative memoirs to spiritual reflections, these books adhere to no specific genre.

They struck a chord in the 2017 release of “Every Moment Holy,” available through the publisher. In this collection of liturgies, readers will find intriguing titles for uniquely normal occasions such as “Ritual of Morning Coffee” and “Upon Seeing a Beautiful Person,” as well as over a hundred others. Bringing a classic feel of liturgies to the ordinary events of life, author Doug McKelvey resonated with those who ache for God’s peace in a hectic world.

“It gives words when you can’t find them,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. Another added that the book is “Just what you need when you need it.”

Every book published by the press maintains the drive for beauty, both internal and external.

In 2010, the Rabbit Room continued to bloom as the community started to jump off the page. The first annual Rabbit Room gathering, named Hutchmoot, happened in 2010.

“It's a gathering. A meeting. A retreat. A conference. A powwow. A shebang,” according to the Hutchmoot website.

Hosted in the Nashville area on an annual basis, creatives from all over the nation come out from their corners of the world to recline at the table, says the website. To describe it as merely a conference does not quite give an accurate picture. Hutchmoot is when the Rabbit Room community at large comes together and comes alive.

Hutchmoot is a “3-day feast where we celebrate the way the Lord speaks through stories and music and community and meals,” Peterson said on “The Home Row” podcast.

While some might think this event is all for the sake of spectacle, it is intentionally curated for the connection of the community, according to the Hutchmoot website. With food, speakers and coffee conversations, Hutchmoot makes space for personal connections. The gathering is a time not just for information but for celebration.

A big part of that emphasis is sharing meals. Curated by resident chef John Cal, creative plates and gorgeous desserts are an integral part of the Hutchmoot experience, according to the Hutchmoot website.

The Rabbit Room community found a physical home in North Wind Manor in 2021, according to an announcement on their website. This 150-year-old farmhouse became a haven for the creative community in south Nashville.

Photo by David Mcbee for Pexels

Surrounded by gentle meadows, the farmhouse escapes the bustle of modern life, according to the announcement. Insightful conversations and community events are commonplace. The property oversees logistical operations and hosts local events, making North Wind Manor The Rabbit Room’s home base.

A staple event at the manor is The Local Show, which is a monthly festivity to the tune of laughter, music and melody, according to their website. These nights give the creatives at The Rabbit Room a platform to encourage and uplift other musical artists who are cultivating their craft.

Two weekly events are hosted at North Wind Manor: Stilla and Fika. Stilla, Swedish for “still,” is a time to come into a focused environment ideal for work or deep study, according to their website. On the other hand, Fika, Swedish for “coffee,” is a family-friendly time of joyful gathering.

The Rabbit Room offers several virtual resources as well as in-person with North Wind Manor events recorded and available to online viewers of The Rabbit Room. Conversations can also continue online with recorded Hutchmoot gatherings.

Since its founding in 2006, The Rabbit Room has steadily blossomed from merely a website into what it is today. Their podcast website shows how a media network of 13 different podcasts has taken shape over that time. From the story-driven podcast of “Fin’s Revolution” to the writing insights given in “The Habit,” there is a wide variety among their podcasts.

As the community has grown, their resources have grown with it. But what makes The Rabbit Room a community are not the programs but the people. While the circulation of content has its place, there is no substitute for physical connection, Peterson said.

“There’s no such thing as an online community, really. Community requires face-to-face interaction,” Peterson said in an interview with J.A. Medders.

Out of this physical community comes its other dimension — not the programs but the dialogues held within them. One finds conversations about matters like the artistic experience and biblical poetry, according to their website.

The topics of choice at The Rabbit Room hover at the intersection of faith and the arts. Words like ‘community,’ and ‘story’ are the heart of The Rabbit Room’s mission.

The Rabbit Room continues a conversation that has been going on for centuries in the body of Christ, according to church historians like Paul Corby Finney. The Rabbit Room’s existence speaks to the question, “What is the role of artistic beauty in the church?”

Stunningly ornate cathedrals in Europe show how those before us answered this question. As some have observed our society becoming increasingly media-driven, The Rabbit Room does not seek to be just another source of mere content adding to the clutter but prioritizes art that nourishes its audience, as their mission states.

The community strives for beauty, not clicks. In a world rife with bland consumption, The Rabbit Room stands strongly as an admirer of God’s beauty in this world.

Someone who came to embody this role of art in the body of Christ was C.S. Lewis. As a major inspiration for The Rabbit Room, Lewis left a profound mark on the legacy of the Christian storyteller. As their illustrated vision tree symbolizes, the Rabbit Room picks up where C.S. Lewis left off, using storytelling as a sophisticated expression of childlike wonder.

The inspiration for The Rabbit Room is not solely the legacy of Lewis but the legacy of The Inklings. These authors and artists do not shy away from boldly sharing their art and proclaiming the beauty of God's creation — an example for the body of Christ.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva for Pexels

A fundamental component of the Rabbit Room is the belief that a community can sharpen creativity. After his trip of inspiration to Oxford, Peterson came home with a deep conviction that the community around him could nourish lasting artistic work and that this artistic work could in turn nourish the community, according to their website.

The Rabbit Room website shares, the collective believes that communities not only cultivate art, but art also cultivates communities.

This creative community, in turn, aims to make art that serves to encourage and edify communities elsewhere. In an entertainment industry that is over-saturated with branding, ticket sales and similar metrics for engagement, the Rabbit Room approaches with a more selfless perspective of the artist, according to their website.

The value of the art is not designed to be returned in praise to the author or musician. Instead, art from this collective is made to nourish Christ-centered communities everywhere. In what some perceive as a self-obsessed creative economy, the sacrificial posture of the Rabbit Room is a welcome breath of fresh air.

The community that Lewis, Tolkien and others demonstrated in that fateful Oxford pub decades ago has inspired this creative community to bloom into what it is today. In its 15+ years, the Rabbit Room has grown considerably, it has added its tables and pulled up more chairs, as their website charts. It is challenging to put into words all that this community has blossomed into.

The Rabbit Room is more than all that it has done: it is a culture. It is composed by people and upheld by the community.

In many ways, the Rabbit Room is a perspective, a type of lens through which someone views the life around them. It is a perspective of listening for God in beauty and displaying His glory through creation. It views people as a blessing to be in community with.

This collective of creatives in south Nashville greatly models what it means to dwell in the body of Christ. They offer a vibrant reminder that there is space in the kingdom of God for each individual’s gifts and anyone can find a place to grow those giftings.

By maintaining a platform for personal connections to be fostered, the Rabbit Room offers a slew of encouraging reminders. Perhaps we can each be reminded that the life of discipleship is not bound to certain days of the week or to certain types of giftings.

Does this vision of a beaming community stir something deep in you? Well, the door is open to all. As the website warmly invites: “Come on in and find a seat. The feast is waiting and you are welcome.”

Check out Rabbit Room events, the press, and online membership here.