Colleen Montgomery is both the Director for Digital Ministries in the Virginia Synod of the ELCA, and the pastor of All Places Together, a completely online worshiping body and mission development of the Virginia Synod. The core affirmation of All Places Together is that “God loves you wherever, whoever, and however you are.” One of the ways this gets lived out is that All Places Together is a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation. For those unfamiliar with RIC, it is a program for Lutheran communities of faith to answer the inclusive call of the Gospel by publicly welcoming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
All Places Together was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleen was in a parish at the time and went through a large theological shift over how God is with us. She found new life and energy doing more digital ministry. After contacting her bishop’s office about the idea of a digital congregation, an exploration committee was quickly formed and within 4 months All Places Together was an official mission development. Their first podcast debuted in May 2021.
Pastor Colleen’s most substantial engagement is through their podcast, which debuts weekly on Sundays, called All Places Together. The podcast takes on three main forms:
- Something like a sermon, although not as formal
- Interviews and
- What Colleen affectionately calls “mix-tapes”: these “weave together a biblical story and short form stories from three to four different voices that have lots of sound effects and end up feeling kind of like a radio lab”.
Along with the podcast, Colleen communicates and interacts with followers regularly on various social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Facebook content currently centers around the weekly podcast. While on Instagram and TikTok, Colleen said she likes to be more playful and find ways to connect the Bible with modern life. As an example she said that over
Holy Week, she did a series where she took characters in the story and used Taylor Swift songs to imagine what it might have been like for them.
All Places Together is in the process of building and launching their own private social network so listeners and followers can have a new way to begin to connect with each other. She mentioned that right now the connection is largely asynchronous. As a pastor and content creator, followers and listeners are primarily consuming content from and communicating with her. A private social network will allow people to begin to connect with each other and help form a more interactive community. Another project she is working on is an outreach and evangelism ministry from All Places Together called Mother Hen Media Ministries, which will be a social media subscription service for inclusive churches. The subscription fees will go towards funding All Places Together but also go towards supporting brick and mortar churches as well. Colleen says, “I’m not here to compete; I’m here to collaborate.”
Pastor and content creator
Right now Colleen says that it can be difficult finding the line between pastor and content creator. “The struggle point is, as a pastor, trying to find that balance between sharing your own story in a way that invites people to share their own story too and not centering on yourself or setting yourself above.” What makes it more difficult is that social media algorithms reward engagement, and vulnerability is a good way to drive engagement. But Colleen said, “I’m not trying to be a TikTok star … I’m not the only woman pastor and I’m not the only queer pastor. I’m just trying to find my voice and adding my voice to the choir that has already been singing about God’s love for all places and knowing when it’s my time to be quiet and let somebody else be the lead voice.”
The core belief that God loves you wherever, whoever, and however you are is infused into everything that gets shared from All Places Together. Colleen has already seen some fruit from the seeds planted. She has had several followers who are LGBTQIA+ who have reached out and said something like “I never knew that God could love me.” One of the members at All Places Together joined because her two daughters, who were not connected with a church, regularly listened to the podcast. So now the mother listens so that she can engage her daughters and her grandchildren in their faith walks in a way she previously wasn’t able to. “My hope is that everyone who hears that will be encouraged and then want to share that love for themselves so that the people in their lives can know that they are loved wherever, whoever, and however they are.”
All Places Together can be found here https://www.allplacestogether.org/
The All Places Together Podcast can be found wherever you get your podcasts.
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