Summer 2020 Theme: Grounded

Summer 2020 Theme: Grounded

By SSP’s 2020 Program Planning Team

Rev. Lea Booth, Rev. Katherine Doar, and Rev. Don Callison (SSP volunteers and clergy); Sarina Levin, Cseca Gazzolo, and Veronica Russell (SSP staff)


SSP’s Theology

In the Sierra Service Project community, we believe each person receives God’s grace freely.

We seek to extend that grace without condition to everyone we meet, including compassion for ourselves. We aim to practice collaborative service by Jesus’ example, partnering with those on the margins to create inclusive spaces for all people. We believe every person is valued, carefully fashioned in God’s image, and worthy of love.

We recognize that connecting in community allows for the possibility of a transformational experience, and together, open ourselves to grow and be led by the Spirit.


Summer 2020 Theme: Grounded

During this unfamiliar season, nurturing communities of belonging has become more important than ever. To that end, we eagerly announce the SSP summer 2020 theme: “Grounded.”

When life happens, the depth and health of our roots impact how we react, how we thrive, and how we survive. When faced with the stresses of life, our roots may struggle to hold. Branches may wither and struggle to produce fruit. Still, no matter our age or life experience, our ability to be grounded in life, friendship, love, and community shapes both who we are and who we want to become.

“No matter our age or life experience, our ability to be grounded in life, friendship, love, and community shapes both who we are and who we want to become.”

Grounded in beloved community, expressions of service, and God’s grace, we explore how we are planted and nurtured. We observe without judgment or expectation how we grow, the fruit we bear, and how that fruit nourishes others.

As we tend to the unique ecosystems of our SSP and individual communities, the “Grounded” theme invites reflection on the metaphor of a plant’s life cycle, the conditions lending themselves to growth, and how we might spread seeds of hope in a new world. 


Going Deeper: Grounded

Those from the Methodist tradition might be familiar with the question “How is it with your soul?” As the SSP community considers groundedness while gathering safely online, we will rephrase this timeless question, reflecting instead, “How is it with your soil?” 

Meeting from home over the course of five days each week this summer, we will explore the life cycle of a seed and the various environments in which plants either thrive or struggle. As humans, we often need similar nutrients to plants: water, food, sunlight, and an ecosystem or community we can rely on.

From the first stage of a seed being buried in the ground, to the often laborious process of waiting for evidence of growth; from roots seeking out nourishment from the soil, to its sprouts reaching towards the sunlight; we will all explore what we need in order to survive and thrive, both as individuals and a community during this season.

“As we practice ‘creation care’ during this season, tending to ourselves, our communities, and our environments, we have an opportunity to connect more deeply with God and each other.”

The Bible is rich with land-oriented parables and stories, which we will explore as part of this “Grounded” metaphor. Perhaps this brings to mind the long, arduous process of the Hebrews journeying in the desert, in search of the promised land they can call home. Maybe the parables of Jesus addressing the patience required for reaping a harvest, or the mysterious ways a seed of ‘good news’ is sown, float to the forefront of your thoughts.

No matter the story or scripture that speaks to you, the Christian narrative is peppered with parallels between humanity and nature; fertile history and text that adds richness to our lives. As we practice “creation care” during this season, tending to ourselves, our communities, and our environments, we have an opportunity to connect more deeply with God and each other. 

“May we be rooted in grace, compassion, solidarity, courage, and hope.”

If you look closely at the “Grounded” theme image, you’ll see five native plants, connecting SSP and our partner communities inextricably with one another. While we are unable to express service and love for one another in person during this time, we are invited to learn from these resilient plants which, amidst all conditions, find creative ways to thrive and support one another.

May we be rooted in grace, compassion, solidarity, courage, and hope. We invite you to become “Grounded” in community and God’s love alongside us, and can’t wait to see the unexpected ways we grow this season, together.

Editor’s Note: The SSP summer 2020 online program is available to anyone who wants to participate, between June 22 and July 17! Join us in building faith and strengthening community from the safety of your home. T-shirts with the “Grounded” theme design are now available for pre-order on the SSP online store. If you cannot participate but would like to donate to support our program and the communities we partner with, you are invited to give online.

Spiritual Sandwich: Easter Thoughts on Uncertainty

Spiritual Sandwich: Easter Thoughts on Uncertainty

By Cseca Gazzolo, 2018-2019 Staff Alumna

On Good Friday, we stared death in the face. Like wheat scattered from the chaff, we dodge one another on park paths and in grocery store aisles, smiling or staring suspiciously from behind masks. Hand sanitizer stings the nicks from chopping vegetables for a home-cooked meal, and we are running out of recipes. The news warns of a long wait. With hospital beds over-crowded, test kits rationed, essential workers collapsing at their jobs, and the economy that depends on them collapsing with its own straggling breaths, this is far from over. The air is stale. 

Funerals are always somber, but now they are lonely. The bereaved cannot comfort one another; they can only look on from behind a car window as their loved ones are lowered into the ground, murmuring a Hail Mary or a Mourner’s Kaddish with the rest of their pod. In hospitals, spouses and children look on as loved ones draw last breath, and they cannot touch. 

The news warns of a long wait…The air is stale.

Good Friday in Galilee looked very different. Throngs of people gathered—many sick, surely, but germ theory was still several millennia away—to watch a young rabbi die on the cross. There was movement. There was touching. There were shouts of anguish and taunting. The air was warm, and alive, and wretched

But in the midst of all this lingered uncertainty. What would become of Jesus’ followers? Where would they go? Who would they turn to? Where was their God now, who the Messiah had so faithfully proclaimed was all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving? Though he knew his fate, though his heartbeat told him with every iamb that he was savior of the world, even the Son of Man cried to his heavenly parent: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 

My God, why hast thou forsaken us? In this moment of death, we are uncertain why this plague has been cast upon us. We are uncertain when things will return to normalcy, or if they ever will. We are uncertain what will happen to our jobs or houses or paychecks or the family member coughing in the next room. We are uncertain whether our cities or countries will survive this—whether we ourselves will survive this. We may turn to God. But in our turning, silently in the darkness of the woods or aloud for our congregations to hear thousands of miles away, we Christians must ask, why has my loving God allowed this to happen? 

God drives us to doubt. This is a principle often lost in the Christian tradition. We beat out doubt with reassurance, singing those hymns more loudly so we might drown out the pain of the world. But doubt is a part of our faith. During his ministry, when Jesus was asked a question, did he rebuff? Sometimes. Even Jesus got irritated—after all, God made him fully human. But most of the time he told a story. And those stories were far from clear; often they only invited more questions. We are called to interpret our faith for ourselves, and to have just that: faith, which is not the absence of doubt, but the acceptance of ambiguity

On Easter Sunday our savior is resurrected. What we thought was impossible, the miracle beyond all miracles, happens. Jesus rises before the eyes of Mary Magdalene and calls his beloved disciple to him, sharing the good news. And like an anti-virus, she spreads this news to all his followers so they might become their own spiritual vectors. Whispers of life anew echo throughout the Christian community. Christ is risen, alleluia, they say in quiet. Two millennia later, we shout it aloud. 

Just as doubt is a part of our faith, so is hope

Easter is about joy. It is about radical, ecstatic, unbridled happiness as we see our savior brought to life once again, conquering death. Does that mean the uncertainty is gone? I do not think so. I think hope is quite a different thing from certainty. Just as doubt is a part of our faith, so is hope: a promise — not immediate, not in this moment, but the knowledge of what will come — that someday, all of us will be freed through God’s love. If we walk with Christ, caring for the poor, clothing the needy, sheltering the homeless, welcoming those on the margins, and loving our neighbors as well as ourselves, we will someday create the kin-dom of God. We do not know when, and we have been arguing over precisely how to do so for as long as this religion has been around. This is not certain. It is hoped-for. 

I took a walk on Easter Sunday. I chatted with God — She and I were overdue for a walk-and-talk, and thankfully it was mid-forties and the streets were relatively empty and we could converse unbothered. I thanked Her for how I had been blessed. When I found out I had to pack up and leave my college within three days—as a senior, the only physical place I had ever felt I unequivocally belonged, the place I had hoped-for in those dreadful high school years—I felt something I can only describe as grief. I counted my blessings, and I continue to count them. I still have my health, as do those around me. But the place where I learned and lived, the place where I chose happiness and where I cultivated friendships that felt more like sisterhood, was lost to me. So I grieved. And I was pulled, unceasingly and inextricably, to those people I loved. Those bonds are nothing short of holy. God has told me so. 

So I grieved. And I was pulled, unceasingly and inextricably, to those people I loved.

With gratitude I asked God to continue to bless me, with the love of those I call family or friends or a mix of both. And I asked Her to grant me the strength to extend a hand (with six feet distance, of course) to my neighbors, not-yet-friends but nevertheless beloved, bonded to us all by the golden chord of God’s love. She reminded me to take heart. This too shall pass, though it will leave wreckage in its path; the wound will heal, and we will rebuild, never the same but whole in a different way. 

The flowers still bloom, the wind still whistles, the birds still sing. Dawn is coming. We know not when, but we know it comes.

Editor’s Note: If one of your unique gifts or interests includes sewing, please consider channeling your efforts to make masks for residents of the Navajo Nation, one of the communities SSP serves with. See SSP’s Facebook for details on mask patterns and where they should be sent.

Coloring Pages Part 2 – Quotes & Lyrics

Coloring Pages Part 2 – Quotes & Lyrics

By Megan Walsh, SSP Executive Director

Every week, we make time during our staff meeting to reflect on the latest Spiritual Sandwich. Despite being apart, we have found that this has helped us stay connected and grow together as a team. While we colored, we chatted about creativity, processing emotions, and the value of creative endeavors whether it be cooking, writing, drawing, or anything else. Here are our works in progress from our Coloring Pages Part 1 (Sites).

Coloring Pages Part 2 (Quotes & Lyrics)

These pages highlight some of our favorite songs in the SSP songbook and quotes. Help us compile a book by sending us a drawing from your favorite song! Thank you to former youth volunteer and SSP photographer Anna Kerr-Carpenter for her contribution this week, the lighthouse in Tijuana.

Join us in adding color to our lives. Hang a completed coloring page on your wall, mail it to a friend, or snap a photo and share it moments after it is completed.

Editor’s Note: We would love to see your finished creations! Use the hashtag #SSPcolors when you share to social media. If you are feeling extra creative or inspired, draw your own SSP-style coloring page design and send it to us!

Spiritual Sandwich: Pray In Place

Spiritual Sandwich: Pray In Place

By Cate Lycurgus, 2007-2010 Summer Staff Alumna & Adult Volunteer

This winter I lost my father, who I had lived with and cared for over the last six years. Being fairly isolated, the all-too-familiar chronic fear for those I love and their health, on top of community and societal concerns, can threaten to overwhelm me.

Grief-in-place on top of shelter-in-place has been challenging, and it is easy to succumb to despair. I often combat despair through writing, and so have taken up a poem-in-place practice, drafting one piece everyday. Sometimes it is praise, sometimes it is witness. Sometimes though, all I can do is cry out, beginning, “Dear Lord, Dear Lord, Dear Lord…”

For centuries, people have been crying out to God. In Psalm 116, David writes:

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord…”

– Psalm 116:1-4 (NLT)

Take a moment to consider:

  • What is something weighing on your heart today? From where do you cry out? Try writing your own prayer or poem as a way to express your heart’s concerns.
  • In the waiting, can you hear the pain or cry of another amidst your own darkness? Are there places, people, or situations of loss or injustice that need your ear?
  • Scripture says God has heard our cries and complaints (2 Samuel 22:7). How have you seen evidence of this in your life? If you have not, how might you be on the lookout for this?
  • If you feel moved at some point this week or in the near future, write a prayer of thanks or praise to accompany the lament you’ve written about. What blessing might accompany the pain you’ve lifted up?

I’ve included one of my prayer-poems below. God can handle our honest aches and is big enough to handle them.

Editor’s Note: SSP has been the launchpad for countless young adult leaders like Cate, who have gone on from staffing at SSP to serve communities via ministry, nonprofit work, and more. Consider supporting our efforts to foster the development of young people by donating to SSP’s Leadership Development Fund.


Subscribe to SSP News


SSP Content Submission Form

We are asking SSPers of all backgrounds to submit creative content so we can share a library of resources for community building in this season!


SSP Content Submission Form


  • Mrs. Goat and her Seven Little Kids
  • Adam from the HQ Staff and his wife, Sac FUMC musician Laureen, sing two SSP standards, “God Bless the Grass” and “Garden Song”
  • "We will rebuild, never the same but whole in a different way." Read more of staff alumna Cseca Gazzolo's Easter reflection on our blog. Link in bio!

Follow SSP!