Seventy persons applied and the Rev. April Gutierrez was the first choice of the search committee. She has begun her ministry as chaplain of Adrian College.
Michigan Conference Communications
For the Rev. April Gutierrez, coming to Adrian College as the new Campus Chaplain has the feeling of coming home. April grew up in Adrian and graduated from Siena Heights University with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. After involvement in higher education and working with students in a variety of settings, she arrived at Adrian College this month to assume her new appointment as the Campus Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life. She said, ‘When I saw the posting, I just knew it was right for me. It’s the only position I applied for.”
She was, however, not the only person to apply. Out of over 70 applicants, the search committee, which included representation from the Michigan Conference as well as Adrian College, selected April as their first choice. President Jeffery Docking said, “Rev. Gutierrez rose to the top of a very competitive field of candidates. She was the unanimous choice of our student interviewers who found her to be wonderfully approachable, very articulate, and highly aware of the spiritual, academic, and social challenges facing this generation of undergraduates. Many of us in the administration were impressed by April’s highly informed theology, ecumenical approach to campus ministry, and desire to create a more compassionate and loving world. She brings a wealth of experience and talent and is a great fit for Adrian College. “
April comes to Adrian after three years as the pastor of Berry United Methodist Church in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago. In her tenure there, she says the 110-year old congregation “…moved from a culture of scarcity to abundance. I focused on the ministry of justice and joy in the belief that hope and grace are core to Christian fellowship.” Prior to her appointment at Berry UMC she was involved in the Urban Villages, a church plant with four sites across the city of Chicago, while she earned a Masters of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is now working on a Doctor of Ministry in spiritual direction at Garrett. Gutierrez is a licensed local pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church and will be transferring her clergy membership to the Michigan Conference.
When asked what drew her to Adrian she replied, “In part, it was President Docking and his innovative leadership. I’ve been watching the exciting things that have been happening at Adrian in athletics, academics and campus renovation and I wanted to be part of it. Also, because Adrian is my hometown, I have been impressed with the college’s commitment to the local community which is not always the case.”
April says her commitment to student ministry is based in her conviction that the college years are a critical time for self-reflection, for challenging assumptions, and for discovering what it means to be a faith-filled person. She wants to “create space for prayer and dialogue, for asking questions and unpacking assumptions, then helping students discover direction for their lives.” In her work at Loyola University of Chicago and Loyola Marymont, she developed the “Immersion Experiences” for students in missional settings and cross-cultural opportunities to help them see the connection between faith and service. Her personal dedication to social justice aligns with Adrian College’s long-standing commitment to the cause of human trafficking, based on the college’s founder Rev. Asa Mahan’s outspoken witness for the “intrinsic worth” of all persons and the abolition of slavery.
When asked about her plans, Chaplain Gutierrez identified five initial goals: first, providing spiritual leadership for students including support for existing student-led groups; second, seeking ways to connect with and pray with other groups, athletic teams and the rest of the campus; third, reestablishing the weekly chapel services; fourth, creating retreat opportunities, and fifth, discovering opportunities for co-sponsored experiences which can integrate the chaplain’s office into other areas of campus life and the greater Adrian community.”
The chaplain position is a cooperative agreement with the Michigan Conference where one of the areas of focus is young adult ministry. In making the appointment, Bishop David Bard said, “I am delighted that the Rev. April Gutierrez has come to be the Chaplain at Adrian College. April is coming home, and she brings with her wonderful gifts, graces, and skills for this unique ministry. Her hiring also represents a wonderful affirmation of the on-going relationship between Adrian College and the Michigan Conference, and our mutual commitment to keep that relationship strong.”
As she begins her new ministry at Adrian, Chaplain Gutierrez says, “I’m delighted to join the faculty and staff of Adrian College and look forward to walking with the students as they grow in faith and the desire to serve.”