By Cseca Gazzolo, 2019 Spiritual Life Coordinator in Tsaile, AZ
Sharing a meal is a universal experience. We might cook, clean, or prepare the food; we might host the dinner; we might build the very house in which we eat — or, we might be a guest, warmly welcomed by friends old and new. Regardless of our role, it is a joy to gather in community and be nourished. At Sierra Service Project, we strive to ensure there is a place at the metaphorical table for everyone, from our youth and adult volunteers, to our local site partners, to the community members we serve alongside.
This year at SSP, we will continue to foster this spirit of invitation, generosity, and love for our neighbor with our summer theme: A Place at the Table.
With Jesus’ ministry as a guide, SSP strives to create an environment in which every individual feels welcomed, heard, and included. In our modern world, youth and people on the margins often feel they don’t have ‘a place at the table,’ or that their voices are undervalued. At SSP this summer, we invite you to come as you are, bringing all your thoughts, emotions, doubts, and beliefs. Together, all will gather to create, enjoy, and be nourished by the meal – literally and metaphorically.
“We invite you to come as you are, bringing all your thoughts, emotions, doubts, and beliefs.”
As an organization, SSP prioritizes the voices of historically marginalized groups, and we envision a world in which everyone has a place at the table. From the native peoples of the Spokane Indian Reservation and Navajo Nation, to multigenerational immigrant families near the San Diego-Tijuana border, we seek to elevate the voices of our hosts, learning from and listening to those we serve. During our summers, we have the privilege to be guests in these communities; to sit at their tables and hear their stories.
We all come to the table with diﬀerent gifts. We honor these gifts as valuable in their own right, and know that when we gather in community, we are greater than the sum of our parts. Even those who feel they have nothing tangible to give are invited to share their gifts of spirit and togetherness. Sharing of one’s self and story is equally impactful and celebrated – sometimes, just showing up is enough. Similarly, through serving others, we will learn when to give, and when to take time for ourselves. We want to encourage young people to share their needs, and know it’s okay to lean on community for support.
“In the spirit of the ‘moveable feast,’ we aim to carry the community we create at SSP and stories we learn back home with us.”
One tradition SSP will draw from this summer is that of the ‘moveable feasts’ in the Christian calendar. These are liturgical feasts that, as the name implies, can be moved to diﬀerent days depending on the year. In the spirit of the ‘moveable feast,’ we aim to carry the community we create at SSP and stories we learn back home with us, living out the values we cultivate at SSP in the ‘other 51’ weeks of the year.
As we grow in assurance of our own place at the table, we also ask more of ourselves — more empathy, more forgiveness, more active declarations of love for all people — and empower volunteers to pull up a chair for those who don’t yet have a seat, by advocating for and with these communities upon returning home.
You have a place at the table. We invite you to join the table at SSP this summer, and discover together how we might make this table big enough for the whole world to share.
Editor’s Note: Cseca Gazzolo will be returning to SSP summer staff for her second year as a Spiritual Life Coordinator in 2019. She is one of seven people on this year’s spiritual program planning team, which includes SSP staff, clergy, and youth leaders from throughout the Western United States. Join her by serving in Tsaile, AZ this summer!