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Honest to Greatness – Part 3 – Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez, Interim Director of Justice & Compassion Ministries

authenticityWith microphone in hand, Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez addressed the crowd of 1,000 people as a clergy speaker saying, “Somos un pueblo de esperanza (We are a people of hope)!”

On May Day 2014, Interim Director of Justice and Compassion Ministries of the California-Pacific Conference, Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez, led a strong group of Cal-Pac Clergy and Laity in the ministry of presence at the May Day March in Los Angeles, CA, which sought to amplify the voices of low-wage workers and their fight for dignity and respect, speak against the moral crisis faced by immigrant families and the need for immigration reform and a stop to deportations, and keep accountable elected officials for advancing Immigrant and worker rights.

Rev. Gutierrez, as staff person assigned to the Justice & Compassion Essential Ministries Team (JCEMT), supports Cal-Pac churches and leaders in engaging in ministry with the poor. The work of the JCEMT involves Missionary Coordination, Disaster Response, Hunger, and twelve additional task forces in advocacy for a variety of justice and compassion issues. The EMT was formed in 2012 with the denominational focus of engaging in ministry with the poor in mind. “I am called to support our churches and leaders in engaging in ministry with the poor.  It is this relevant, meaningful ministry that will revive the United Methodist Church.  God cares for the poor especially, and when the church is engaged with the poor we are on the side of God,” she comments.

may-day-march-2014Recently, Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez and Erin Foellmi partnered with Campus Ministry for the Young Adult Border Immersion. 12 young adults traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to experience first hand life at the literal margins of contemporary American and Mexican society. Rev. Gutierrez partnered with the young adult leaders of this experience to ensure that the participants would be able to engage directly with issues along the border, witnessing homeless encampments of deported people on the Mexico side and attending a vigil with the family of a man who had been beaten by the border patrol on the United States side. “It is through direct engagement with people whose lives are different than our own that we experience God’s love for the world. These participants will then take this experience with them back to embolden the local church in disciple-making and help transform the world,” she said.

Rev. Gutierrez’ work also involves the now available Justice and Compassion Grants, formerly known as “Block Grants,” for local churches and United Methodist affiliated agencies that are engaged in ministry with the poor. With these grants, United Methodist leaders in Cal-Pac will be able to start or sustain ministries out of their local churches that offer Jesus’ love to their hurting communities. A good example of a grant-funded program is the Healthy and Just Cooking Project of United University Church in 2013, a much-needed program for low income families in South Los Angeles to share healthy recipes and exercise together as part of a broader cooking and nutrition program.

After 9 years with the California-Pacific Conference, beginning in 2005 as the Director of Urban Ministries, Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez will begin an appointment with a local church on July 1, 2014. She says, “I am excited for the passion and experience that Rev. David Farley, as the incoming Director of Justice and Compassion Ministries, will bring to the role. He is a true gift to our Conference. While I will miss witnessing the diverse, life-changing ministry I currently get to see throughout the Annual Conference, I am looking forward to the blessed challenge of serving the local church where the core mission of the United Methodist Church is carried out.”

[tw-button size=”medium” background=”” color=”” target=”_blank” link=””]Download the 2014 Justice & Compassion Grant Application[/tw-button]