Why join a group

Maybe you’ve heard about a Sycamore group near you, or been invited to join a remote group – and you’re wondering whether to go and what to expect.

Here are four reasons to come, together with some details about what you can expect.

COME FOR THE FILM

Each session involves a short, thought-provoking film about the big questions of life and the central beliefs of the Christian faith. The films are beautifully produced in locations around the UK. They capture the beauty of the English countryside, the energy and excitement of our cities, and the seagulls of Brighton beach!

The main presentation is by Fr Stephen Wang, a Catholic priest and popular speaker. There are street interviews with people from very different backgrounds, giving a fresh perspective on the big questions. There are guest speakers sharing their experiences. And every few minutes a question pops up on the screen to get the discussion going.

COME FOR THE CONVERSATION

At a typical Sycamore session, conversation just happens! Sycamore is an opportunity to meet other people, share ideas, explore your beliefs, and think about questions that really matter. Everyone is welcome. There’s a real sense of community and a spirit of friendship. This is true for remote groups as much as physical groups.

There’s no pressure and no commitment. If you are shy, you can take a back seat. If you are full of ideas and questions, this is a space to share them. You can be yourself without any fear of being judged.

COME FOR THE FOOD (OR FOR A REMOTE DOUGHNUT)

Many of the Sycamore groups start with a delicious free meal. Or at least with a coffee and a doughnut! Sycamore is a chance to relax with others over a meal or a drink – it’s not just about deep discussions. For once, you can stop rushing, and just enjoy sitting down for some good food and some good conversation. And if you are in a remote group then you can bring your favourite snack and show the others what they are missing…

COME FOR THE ADVENTURE

Yes, it’s a risk, stepping into the unknown. Most of us hate uncertainty and like to stay in our own routines. But why not take a risk and try something new? “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. There are so few opportunities to meet new people, to step back from the rush of life, and to make space to think and talk.

You’ve got nothing to lose. At the very least, you get a free meal and have some good conversation. And maybe it will be something more, and perhaps even the beginning of a life-changing adventure.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

“An amazing experience”

“The questions asked were incredibly relevant”

“Interesting and thought-provoking discussions”

“It’s nice to hear other people’s stories and also reflect on our own”

“The videos are intelligent and engaging. I have got so much from them”

“I finally found an opportunity to think about my life!”

“I appreciate the opportunity to explore my thoughts in a space that felt open and welcoming”

“I really enjoyed looking at the big Christian issues from a very normal and relaxed perspective and asking real life questions about faith”

BUT WHAT DOES A SYCAMORE SESSION ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE?

If you want a bit more detail about a typical Sycamore session, then keep reading. Things are a bit simpler when you meet in a remote group, but the same principles apply:

  • LENGTH: The length of the course will vary, depending on the context and which Sycamore “pathway” your group is following. Typically, it might be 8 to 10 weeks, but the shorter courses could be 4 to 6 weeks, and the longest programme can run for many months. You can check with the church or community that is running your local sessions.
  • TIMING: There will usually be a regular time to meet each week. The sessions might last anywhere between 40 minutes (with a quick cup of coffee as the film starts) or up to two hours (if there is a long meal and a long discussion). The publicity or the group leader should tell you clearly what time your session starts and finishes, so you can plan your day.
  • ATTENDANCE: It’s great if you can come to the first session and go through the course from start to finish. But you are welcome at any time, so if you turn up for the first time at one of the later sessions – that’s fine! You can come and go as your time allows. Of course the commitment will be stronger if you are involved in a formal course at your parish, e.g. if you are using Sycamore to prepare for one of the sacraments.
  • COMMITMENT: If you are joining an informal enquiry course, then there is no pressure and no commitment. You don’t need to sign up and the Sycamore team does not need your contact details. If you want to stop coming at any time – that’s fine.
  • PARTICIPATION: You can participate in the discussions as much or as little as you wish. If you want to just listen then that’s fine. There is no “forced sharing” and you won’t be put on the spot.
  • EXTRA GUESTS: If you enjoy your first session and want to bring others with you for the next session, they are very welcome! If there is a sign-up policy for a remote group then you can share those details with them.
  • COST: Sycamore sessions are completely free to attend. There might be a donations box to help cover the cost of the food and venue.
  • STRUCTURE: A typical Sycamore session involves: (i) a meal or a drink, or some online conversation to get things started; (ii) a short film; (iii) some informal discussion in small groups; (iv) a clear finishing time so you know when you can leave!
  • SPECIAL EVENTS: There might also be a day or even a weekend set aside for a time of “retreat” – to have some extra time to reflect and share together.
  • RESOURCES: There are free online resources available for those who want to review what they have done in the sessions or go deeper into certain topics. These are called “Session Guides“, and they link with the session you have just done. There are also some general resources to help people explore Christianity.
  • FOLLOW UP: The church or community running Sycamore will often have some follow up events or groups for those who have enjoyed coming to the initial Sycamore meetings. Remember to ask the leaders if you are interested.
  • WHAT IF YOU CAN’T FIND A COURSE TO ATTEND? Sycamore courses are run by local churches and communities, and resourced centrally by the Sycamore charity. The central charity does not coordinate local groups, so if you cannot find one to attend the best thing is for you to ask your local church to start a group or to start one yourself! You can find out more information about the benefits of running a Sycamore group here.

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