Why start a Sycamore group in your church or community?

Many churches and chaplaincies are longing to share their faith with others and welcome people into their own communities. This page explains the key elements of Sycamore and how it can help you reach out to others.

Sycamore is both a tool for evangelisation and a way of re-shaping how your community understands itself and its mission to share the Gospel.

On the one hand, Sycamore is simply a course that you can run very easily in your local church or chaplaincy. It will, God willing, help the guests who come and inspire the Sycamore team as they work and pray together.

On the other hand, it’s about changing the mentality of the whole community: becoming a place of genuine welcome and outreach, where people can be themselves and explore things at their own pace, where they can grow in friendship and ask the questions that really matter to them.

The point of a lifeboat, as Fr James Mallon says, is to rescue those outside in the water and not to make those inside feel comfortable. It’s the same for the Church.

It’s Jesus himself who said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

KEY ELEMENTS OF SYCAMORE

Here are some of the key elements of Sycamore that will help you consider whether it’s a good option for your community:

Sycamore is an informal course about the Christian faith and its relevance for life today. It gives people space to meet others, share ideas, explore their beliefs, and think about questions that really matter.

Each Sycamore session involves a short film and time for discussion. There’s no pressure and no commitment. People can be themselves without any fear of being judged. There’s a real sense of community, a spirit of friendship, some great conversation, and often some delicious food. Everyone is welcome.

The high-quality films are engaging, thought-provoking, and accessible to those with little or no religious background. They explore the richness of the Christian tradition from a Catholic perspective, connecting the core Christian message with a vision of the sacramental and moral life. They will also appeal to people from different Christian traditions and backgrounds. The films are presented by Fr Stephen Wang, a Catholic priest with much experience in teaching and media work, and they also include vox pop street interviews and testimonies from ordinary Christians.

Sycamore is first of all a stand-alone enquiry course and a tool for “primary evangelisation”. It seeks to share what is at the heart of the Christian faith with those who have not heard it before or with those whose understanding of Christianity is very limited. It creates a space for honest and open discussion about faith and about life in general. It helps people, if they wish, to respond to what they have heard by taking the first steps of faith.

But Sycamore can also form part of a wider programme of faith formation, catechesis or sacramental preparation. Series 1 (available now) explores the basics of Christian faith. Series 2 (in development) will go deeper into the Creed, the Church, Christian living, prayer, and the sacraments. There are supplementary materials and alternative session outlines for those who are using the films as part of a teaching or catechetical programme.

You choose which “pathway” is best for your situation. Sycamore is a modular course and there are different “pathways” through the films, depending on the needs of your participants and the time you have. You might choose, for example, a ten-week enquiry course or a shorter seven-week introductory course. When Series 2 is complete there will be different catechetical pathways through the films (e.g. a twenty-week RCIA course or a twelve-week Confirmation course).

Sycamore has been created for parishes, schools, university chaplaincies and beyond. It develops leaders, builds community, creates genuine friendships, and helps the wider Christian community to become more open and welcoming. Discussion questions are built into the films so that the sessions can be run very easily.

Why “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 films, supplementary resources and training materials for group leaders are available online at sycamore.fm

Sycamore is a UK Charity (“Sycamore Roman Catholic Charity”, CIO Number 1182843). All of the funds that we raise through subscriptions and donations are used to further the work and mission of Sycamore.

HOW IS SYCAMORE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PROGRAMMES?

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

Our first answer is simply: “There is lots in common!” There are so many wonderful programmes and courses available from groups such as Word on Fire, CaFE, Ascension, Evangelium, Alpha, Augustine Institute, the CTS, Spirit Juice, Grassroots, Nua; and there is lots of overlap in content, methodology and style between Sycamore and many of these programmes.

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:

  • it has grown out of a Catholic community working in a university context where Christianity and the language of faith are not well understood;
  • at every stage, it tries to connect the core Christian message (“kerygma“) with a more systematic vision of Christian teaching  (“catechesis“), so people are being introduced to the wider Catholic tradition from the very start;
  • it will be a comprehensive programme that will encompass all four pillars of the Catechism (10 sessions 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 sacramental, moral and spiritual teaching of the Church;
  • there are different “pathways” through the programme so leaders can choose which modules are appropriate for their group: they can 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;
  • there are printable handouts and online follow-up resources for participants: these summarise the teaching element of a given session and provide references to the YouCat etc for further reflection (these resources will be built up over time);
  • carefully formulated discussion questions pop-up at three points within each film, so there is more space for honest sharing within the group (and less pressure on leaders to have to “keep the conversation going”);
  • the main presenter is a British Catholic priest who has his own particular style!