The Sycamore Story

Sycamore began life at Newman House University Chaplaincy in central London. Since then it has grown into a resource that has been used throughout the world.

Newman House is a chaplaincy for university students in central London, run by the Diocese of Westminster. In 2014 a group of young people, led by Fr Stephen Wang, wanted to develop a programme that would make Christianity more accessible to their fellow students.

The goal was to provide an introduction to the Christian faith for those who knew little or nothing about it, and to create a welcoming atmosphere where people could relax and feel at home.

The Sycamore course was developed over the next year. A first set of films was produced on a budget and put online to share with others. The first strapline was “Sycamore: Thinking about Life and Faith”.

Why the name “Sycamore”? In the bible, Jesus comes to the town of Jericho. A man called Zacchaeus is so curious about Jesus that he climbs a Sycamore tree to get a better view. When he finally meets him, they begin a conversation, and his life is changed forever. The Sycamore tree seemed to be the perfect image of something that helps others to get a wider perspective on life and faith.

It soon became clear that many others were interested in the resources, not only those in university chaplaincy. Sycamore was being used in parishes and schools across the UK and beyond. It seemed to resonate not just with young adults but with people of every age.

In 2018 the Sycamore team decided to re-write the course and re-make the films, this time with much higher production values, and taking into account all the experience and feedback that had been shared from groups across the world.

We widened the team to include catechists, teachers, priests, parents, theologians and people with expertise in media and communications. We set up a UK charity (CIO Number 1182843). We developed a new logo and a new strapline: “Sycamore: What do you believe?” And we discovered an amazing film production company called Higham & Co.

After some significant fundraising, the new resources and website were developed from summer 2018 to summer 2019. They were then launched in June 2019.

Sycamore owes a huge debt of gratitude to the many Christian programmes and resources that have inspired us and from which we have learnt so much. These include:

We also owe an even bigger debt of gratitude to the many groups and individuals who have helped fund the 2019 re-launch of the Sycamore programme, including:

  • The Assumption Legacy Fund
  • The Cardinal’s Appeal (Diocese of Westminster)
  • The Sisters of the Holy Cross Charitable Trust
  • The Archdiocese of Southwark
  • The Archdiocese of Cardiff
  • The Archdiocese of Liverpool
  • The Diocese of Plymouth