What makes Sycamore different?

We are often asked: “What makes Sycamore different from other evangelisation and catechetical programmes?” Here are some answers…

There are so many wonderful programmes and courses available from groups such as Word on Fire, CaFE, Ascension, Evangelium, Alpha, Augustine Institute, the Catholic Truth Society, Oremus, Spirit Juice, Grassroots, Nua, the Association for Catechumenal Ministry, etc.

If you ask us what makes Sycamore different, our first answer is simply: “There is lots in common!” There is lots of overlap in content, methodology and style between Sycamore and many of these programmes: it’s almost inevitable when the common aim is to share the heart of the Christian faith.

Having said that, Sycamore has a certain style or approach and this reflects the fact that it has grown out of a particular context. Here are some of the factors that have influenced the development of Sycamore. None of them is unique to Sycamore!

  • A COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAMME: Sycamore will be a comprehensive 20-session programme that will encompass all four pillars of the Catechism (10 sessions produced and available so far; 10 more to come soon). It leads people from initial curiosity to an encounter with Jesus Christ and his Church, and then to a vision of the doctrinal, sacramental, moral and spiritual teaching of the Church. See the “Pathways” page here for a full list of sessions.
  • FROM CORE MESSAGE TO SYSTEMATIC TEACHING: At every stage, Sycamore tries to connect the core Christian message (“kerygma”) with a more systematic vision of Christian teaching (“catechesis”) that helps people to understand the Catholic tradition and the call to a deeper Christian discipleship (“formation”). Of course the balance varies, and there is more kerygma in the early sessions and more catechesis and formation in the later sessions. But there is a conviction that you can’t separate them entirely and that it is possible to integrate kerygma, catechesis and formation in a single programme.
  • ACCESSIBLE LANGUAGE AND STORIES: Sycamore has grown out of a Catholic community working in a university culture in central London where Christianity and the language of faith are not well understood. It does not assume a religious “literacy”, and it knows that even people raised in Christian families and schools are often unfamiliar with Christian terms. It tries to use ordinary language and stories that will be accessible to people without a faith background, and to avoid Christian jargon. It wants to be “more Radio 2 than Radio 4” (this will mean something to British readers).
  • MULTIPLE PATHWAYS: There are different “pathways” through the programme. Leaders can choose which modules are appropriate for their group. They choose from a whole range of pathways/courses; for example, an enquiry group, RCIA, Confirmation, 6th Form General RE, adult formation, an Advent course, a Lent course, etc. Some pathways are available now, and more are in development for a launch in the new year. See the current list here on the “Pathways” page.
  • ONLINE PARTICIPANT RESOURCES: There are online follow-up resources for participants (see the “Session Guides” here): these remind participants of the discussion questions, give summaries of the teaching element of a given session, and will provide prayers, scripture quotations and references to the YouCat etc for further reflection (these resources will be built up over time). There are also printable handouts available for subscribers to download for their group sessions.
  • FOCUS ON DISCUSSION: Carefully formulated discussion questions pop-up at three points within each film, so there is more space for honest sharing within the group. At each pause-point there is a main question and three follow-up questions, so it is easy for leaders to facilitate discussion and “keep the conversation going”;
  • SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES: Sycamore started as a resource for university students but very soon it was being used by parish groups as well. It seems to speak across generations. The new films have been developed so that they are accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, and the documentary style seems to suit very diverse audiences from mixed-age evangelisation and RICA groups to young adult formation.
  • BRITISH CATHOLIC CULTURE: The main presenter is a British Catholic priest who has his own particular style and who enjoys introducing people to the amazing riches of our British Catholic culture and history.