In the midst of what Aetna Insurance calls a “loneliness epidemic,” which has only been exacerbated by a global pandemic, with political polarization of historic magnitude wearing away connections, we could all use a primer on how to build robust community. Blessedly, that’s what the apostle Paul did for a living. His First Letter to the Church in Thessaloniki is our best window into how that work began, written as it was so immediately after he had been with that brand new Christian group. Join Rev. Dr. Allen Hilton as he offers pastors and leaders and everyday Christians help with their high-degree-of-difficulty task in these atomized American days.
The course is designed to move disciplined exegesis directly toward the issues of faith formation that face pastors and other church leaders as well as other everyday Christians. The exegetical approach will be socio-historical, with the goal of imagining life as a first-century Thessalonian Christian in Paul’s communities. The pastoral and faith-formative approach will bring practical and spiritual questions into view, with the hope of helping participants “take home” insights and practices that will assist their ministry and spiritual growth.
To serve these purposes, the five class sessions will feature…
- close daily reading in the text of 1 Thessalonians, one chapter per day (this will be the main pre-class reading assignment for each day);
- context work with the 17th chapter of Acts and relevant sections of 2 Thessalonians and Paul’s other letters;
- daily opportunities (in and outside of class times) to engage with Dr. Hilton and with one another in ways that spark imaginative interpretation and application to the issues of our time;
- video and audio clips, excerpts from sermons and blogs, and other “show and tell” moments into which participants will be enthusiastically invited; and
- daily written journal reflections to give staying power to questions, contemplations, and lessons learned.
Particiants will likely find these ancient Thessalonian Christians and their founding apostle to be, in turns, both wildly exotic and very much like us. This course will offer the opportunity to look and listen over ancient shoulders as the fledgling first-century group hears Paul’s letter read out to them, then bring aha moments and new understandings back into their complex daily twenty-first-century lives of faith.
Rev. Dr. Allen R. Hilton (“Allen”) is a speaker, teacher, writer, and leader who helps people connect and understand one another across lines of political and racial difference. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit House United Movement, flying or Zooming 35-40 weeks per year to help churches, universities, seminaries, pastor teams, denominations, and corporate teams collaborate and build community. His book, A House United: How the Church Can Save the World, is a manifesto for the movement.
Dr. Hilton is no stranger to YDS or its summer education program. After an M.Div. at Princeton Seminary and a Ph.D. at Yale University, he taught New Testament at YDS from 1999-2004. He is also no stranger to the issues congregations and individual Christians face. After his time at YDS, he entered full-time pastoral work, joining the pastoral teams of large churches in CT, WA, MN, AZ., and in his current role he preaches 20-30 Sundays a year. Along with his House United book, Dr. Hilton has also published Illiterate Apostles: Uneducated Early Christians and the Literates Who Loved Them (The Library of New Testament Studies, 541); a church Bible study curriculum called The Greatest Story: Jesus (for Augsburg Fortress); and In Search of the Early Christians: Selected Essays by Wayne Meeks (edited in partnership with Prof. Meeks and Dr. H. Gregory Snyder for Yale University Press). He now lives in Austin, TX with his beloved wife Liz and their teen sons Sam and Isaac.