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. We also started holding our afternoon Celebrations on a weekly basis.
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.
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.
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 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood about 20 minutes north of us.
In 2017, we will be focusing on developing structures to support our growth and vision, and to help V&M transition from being founder-led to being truly congregation-led. We are starting a formal new leader training/apprenticeship program to help expand and empower people to share their gifts in the service of others. We will also be helping to midwife the birth the new church that will form in Cap Hill.