Our Story

In early 2010, local residents on behalf of The United Methodist Church asked Rev. John Helmiere to start a new church in the Rainier Valley.  That summer, John and Freddie moved in and got to know the people and place. John started calling himself the “Minister of Listening” and spent the first 6 months in deep listening, instead of doing. Through this process, a handful of people began showing interest in a new spiritual community in the Rainier Valley and gathered for a cookout where people shared their dreams about what this could look like. Out of that cookout, a small group, a theology roundtable discussion group, and a series of social justice actions started.

In 2011, we began gathering for leadership/brainstorming meetings, and by Easter of 2011 had launched monthly Celebrations and moved from using the Rainier Community Center for these gatherings to the Torah Day School, an Orthodox Jewish school in Columbia City. On the creative liberation front, we got involved with the local port truck drivers’ efforts to gain dignity, safe conditions, and fair pay for their work.

In 2012, we focused our energy on deep community building. We went on hikes, held outdoor movie nights, went on our first retreat, started a few more small groups, began gathering twice a month for Celebrations, started a tool/resource sharing bank, and generally tried to learn how to love and receive love freely in a community of the Spirit.

In 2013, we went all-in on our efforts to build community building and instigate creative liberation, when we teamed up with an artist collective to lease the first floor of the building on the corner of Rainer and Orcas as well as the vacant lot behind it and began renovating the dilapidated building with a vision of creating a multipurpose “social change incubator,” that we would call the Hillman City Collaboratory. Partnered with an artist collective Community Arts Create, V&M is the fiscal sponsor and general underwriter, we shared the tasks of vision-setting and operations with many other groups and people not affiliated with V&M.

In 2014, we opened the Collaboratory and by the end of the year had relationships with over a dozen social change organizations and a much more deep and wide reach in our neighborhood. This is one of the ways we live out our commitment to being a church that is integrated, not isolated, in our broader community.

In 2015, new leaders helped to solidify and expand the role of music in our ministry, helping us live more into our vision of being a mystical community, where people don’t just think or talk about the Divine, but get to experience it intimately through music, the language of the soul. We also continued to strengthen our systems at the Collab and grew our connections to over two dozen social change groups that vehicle.

VIDEO - Valley & Mountain: Celebrating 5 Years Together

In 2016 was a year of breakthroughs, as we launched a second service, doubled in size, expanded our children’s ministry, started the Resistance Choir, and began laying groundwork for a new church to form elsewhere in Seattle.

In 2017, our top priority is build structures of support and accountability to support our growth, and to help V&M transition from being founder-led to being truly congregation-led. We have been implementing ways to empower new leaders and enable people to share their gifts for our shared vision. We will also be helping to midwife the birth the new church that is starting.

Our top theological priority of 2018 was dismantling white supremacy to build the Beloved Community and we joined in the streets, celebration, and events to organize for liberation. This was also the first year that V&M began to build our foundations through deepening our fundraising efforts and growing sustainability together, we believed and showed one another that we can do this! This is the year that V&M hired SJ as Hillman City Collaboratory Manager, and they rocked it in V&M's first first paid position at the Collab. We also shared time together in Taize Candlelight Services hosted by Laura, Freddie, and Kelle.

In 2019 we gathered for table turning actions centering immigration solidarity and economic justice. We launched the 6-month seattle residency project to provide an opportunity for Seattle artists working in a wide range of visual disciplines to practice in a uniquely renovated space in the Ravenna Collaboratory! To wrap up the year together, we hosted an incredible "Queering Advent" series full of storytelling and the embodiment and incarnation of Grace.

Of course, 2020 was a year with much change-- as we locally and globally shifted to meet personal and communal needs within the first months and year of the covid19 pandemic. As we shifted to gather online together V&M continued growing and evolving. Our Sunday Celebration audience grew wider, not just in number but also in the number of locations folks joined from. Rev. Sekou brought a vision for running a training center based out of V&M to spread for teaching social justice organizing/activism, liberation theology, and creative worship.

In 2021, we got to work together to idea share and make decisions after Hillman City put the space up for sale. John, Neal, & Emma guided our community as we were proactively thinking about our future through online zoom gatherings, phone calls, and more creative connections we said "goodbye for now" to our beloved in-person Collaboratory space and built intentionally into our options for continuing to gather online.

In 2022 we regathered! After more than 2 years physically apart we restarted in-person services in a fresh new space with ample space for kids and community meals. Celebration is now accessible anytime, anywhere and we plan to keep it that way. Whether because of distance or disability, we're glad you're here with us, remotely. 

It was a year in which V&M moved gracefully through its first pastoral transition. We celebrated John's twelve years as Convener of Valley and Mountain, and welcomed three full time pastors Rev. Sekou, Dr. DeAnza, and Mx. Summer focusing on Theology & Arts, Congregational Care & Table Turning, and Youth Ministry & Education! Thanks to the choir and the V&M House Band, Sunday morning is vibrating with full and soulful sound! With another Roots cohort, pastoral apprenticeships, Revolutionary Bible Study, and Theology Book Club, 2022 was rich with spiritual development.