If you looked at the Rev. Robert Allan Hill’s annual report of his activities on his blog, you would think that ministry is all about the numbers.
Hill is the dean of Marsh Chapel and a professor of New Testament and pastoral theology at Boston University. In 2016 he preached 51 times, sermons that are broadcast live on WBUR in Boston to a listenership of 50,000 to 100,000. There were 21 special services, 15 guest speaking events, 918 pastoral visits (not including his daily, 45-minute walk across campus), five baptisms, five weddings, seven funerals, and oversight of six university chaplains, 25 campus ministers and 26 religious life groups. He also taught courses on the New Testament, served on doctoral committees and found time to write.
Yet, behind those numbers is a minister and preacher who dreams, hopes and works for a better world. Hill will serve as the chaplain-in-residence at Chautauqua Institution for Week Seven. His theme is “Toward a Common Hope.”
Hill will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title is “The Sermon on the Mound.” At 5 p.m. Sunday, he will share his faith journey at Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy. He will preach at 9:15 a.m. Monday through Friday at the morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon titles include “Marks of the New Age,” “Exit or Voice?,” “Sweet Chariot,” “Forgiven” and “Theological Temptations.”
His preaching is supported by funding provided by Chautauquans Gary and Willow Brost.
In May 2017, he posted excerpts from sermons he had preached in Marsh Chapel on The Huffington Post. One of them, “A Common Dream,” outlined his hopes for the world, a world where issues like climate change, nuclear proliferation, health care, hooliganism, family strife and calling in life could be resolved by the “spirit of the better angels of our nature.”
It also outlined a “dream not of this world, but of this world as a field of formation for another, not just creation but new creation, not just life but eternal life, not just health but salvation, not just heart but soul, not just earth, but heaven.”
As dean of the Marsh Chapel, Hill preaches most Sundays in addition to overseeing all university religious life and guiding pastoral care for the communities. Hill also works with the administration, meeting with the Deans’ Council and the University Leadership Group.
According to his Boston University webpage, his “passionate interest lies at the intersection of Scripture and life, especially in the work of preaching.” His pastoral theological perspective focuses on “the special needs of the church” in the 21st century, with an emphasis on the northeastern United States. His views regarding the present condition of the church and future prospects for ministry have provided a “complementary perspective” for recent northeastern leadership of the United Methodist Church.
Hill is the author of 13 books and numerous articles, sermons and essays. He has written three collections of sermons and a book on Methodism, along with his latest book, Pastoral Preaching.
Hill has been preaching since 1976. An elder in the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church, he has served in 10 local churches, various conferences and held membership on the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
He serves on numerous conferences and boards, including the board of visitors of Harvard Memorial Church, and the board of ministry of Harvard College. He is an active member of the Boston Ministers’ Club and the New Haven Theological Discussion Group, and attends annual and regional meetings of Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion.