Prof. Hillberg’s core teaching and research interest is exploring how experiences on the underside of power structures shape Christian experiences, beliefs, and practices in communities that experience discrimination.
Prof. Hillberg began her theological studies with an M.A. in Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, with a focus on medieval Christianity. Her burgeoning interest in combining scholarship and activism prompted her to write her thesis on the agendas of the wealthy in medieval English church windows, challenging the popular idea that medieval stained-glass windows served as “Bibles for the poor.” During her time at Xavier, she also published an article on Rev. Everardus Bogardus’s ministry to enslaved Africans in 17th-century New Amsterdam, exploring the fraught dynamics between enslavers and enslaved peoples in conversion to Christianity (De Halve Maen, Journal of The Holland Society of New York 81, no. 3, 2008).
She received a Mellon Doctoral Fellowship from Northwestern University in 2008 to pursue a PhD in Religious Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her interests in theology and contemporary justice issues prompted her to focus on contextual Christian theologies, which she interprets broadly as the study of how Christians on the underside of power imbalances today practice Christianity and shape beliefs in God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the saints based on their experiences of flourishing in the face of injustices. In particular, her doctoral work in gender and sexuality studies leads her to explore the varied ways that gender influences contextual Christianities.
During her doctoral work, Prof. Hillberg was particularly drawn to the theological perspectives and religious experiences of communities outside of the realms of academia, using an ethnographic approach to collaborate with Christians who have gained important theological insights entirely outside of the academic setting. Her dissertation, entitled “¡Bendecidos, Encendidos, y en Victoria! An Ethnographic Study of Latina/o Immigrant Charismatic Catholicism,” explores the theological perspectives of working-class and undocumented Charismatic Catholic Latinx immigrants in the U.S. Her specific topics of inquiry include the gendering of conversion narratives (addiction recovery for men and healing from depression for women) and the use of Charismatic Catholic conversion as a transformative strategy to provide resources for Latinx flourishing in the U.S. She received offers for dissertation fellowships both from the Louisville Institute and the American Association of University Women. Also while at Northwestern University, she received the Graduate Award for Excellent in Undergraduate Teaching for her course in Christian contextual and liberation theologies. She has published several articles, including her most recent, “Depression, Psychotherapy, and Healing Amongst Hispanic Immigrant Charismatic Catholics in the United States” in DeGruyter’s Open Theology, published in 2016 under her previous name, Lynn Jencks.
Her current research focus is on completing a dissertation-based book. In the future, she envisions combining her contextual theological studies of Latinx Christians and her background in historical Christianity to explore the native “contextual” theologies of indigenous peoples and enslaved peoples when they first encountered missionary Christianities in Latin America. She is also interested in studying how Native North Americans - historically and today – adapt the Christianity of their colonizers to their own experiences and visions.
When not in the classroom or absorbed in research, Prof. Hillberg enjoys hiking, sewing, drawing, and traveling.
TESP 4: The Christian Tradition
TESP 22/TESP 114: Latinx Immigrant Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianities
TESP 68: Creativity, Self, and Religion
TESP 124: Theology of Marriage
TESP 190: Celtic Christianity; Santa Clara University