Chris Yaw Interviews John Helmiere: Don't Plant a Church, Plant a Movement

Taken with permission from

Valley and Mountain is not your typical church - in fact now, in its infancy, it is best described as a movement - which may be where the next generation of vibrant congregations is going.

John, a gifted United Methodist Church minister, is a few years into this Seattle, WA plant, which meets in different locations and centers around intentional practices, social justice and something kind of cool called deep listening.

Enjoy the wisdom of this young minister who's navigating uncharted waters to reach a relatively unchurched/dechurched population.


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John Helmiere has a dynamic vision for how the Church is supposed to affect society. Here are my notes from the interview:

Three Metaphors

Scuba School, Compost Bucket, and Open Space Software Program is how John describes Valley and Mountain's vision to help people go deep, fertilize, and be always accepting of the Spirit's move among all people.

What? You Don't Have Service Every Sunday?

That's just not flying (yet?) at Valley and Mountain where people come together around a Sunday liturgy (of sorts), a midweek 'Theology on Tap' in a bar, and irregular short course experiments, ie Radical Hospitality and Simple Living.

Deep Listening

John's title, if he has one, is not 'pastor' but Minister of Listening - exemplifying the congregation's commitment to practice a Quaker-influenced style of being present in all interactions.

About John Helmiere

The Rev. John Helmiere is the founder of Valley & Mountain Fellowship (UMC) in Seattle and currently serves as its Minister of Listening and Convener.  A Tampa native, he studied religion and philosophy at Dartmouth College and Yale Divinity School and is a provisional elder in The United Methodist Church.  John studied and participated in congregation-based social action at Glide UMC in San Francisco and founded Voice of Hope Ministries, the social action ministry of Community of Faith UMC in Clermont, Florida. Currently, he serves on the executive board of JusticeWorks (a grassroots movement to undo racism in the criminal justice system) and is active in Washington-based campaigns for economic justice.

He is a 2012-2013 Fellow of the Beatitudes Society, the 2010 recipient of the Tweedy Prize (Yale Divinity School's highest award), the winner of the Saint Francis Creation Care Sermon Contest, and a former Ministry Fellow with the Fund for Theological Education.  John is married to Frederica Helmiere, a pioneer in exploring the intersection of spirituality, ecology, and international development.  He enjoys hiking, traveling (having visited 36 countries on 6 continents), making puns, and eating any possible combination of cheese and bread.

Books John Recommends

Community and Growth - Jean Vanier

Sadhana - Anthony DeMello

The Emerging Church - Bruce Sanguin