It’s good to hear about Sycamore starting up in different parishes such as Cannock and Hoddesdon this autumn. At Newman House Student Chaplaincy we are training a new group of Sycamore leaders to begin the programme later in the month.
For us, this is just one part of our outreach and evangelisation project for the new academic year, which includes street leafleting, visiting student halls of residence, and opening the doors of the chaplaincy and offering free coffee and cake (see the photo above and the welcome banner).
Of the many projects, the free cake seems to be working the best…
It was great to be in Basingstoke yesterday to introduce the Sycamore programme to some of the RCIA catechists from the Diocese of Portsmouth. The Diocese has been promoting the programme from the very beginning, and encouraging parishes to use it either as an evangelisation tool and enquiry course, or as the introductory part of an RCIA course. The participants were full of enthusiasm for the Gospel and how they can share it with others. See the images from the Dominican sisters above.
Sr Carolyn Morrison writes about how the Sycamore programme has been used in Oxford as part of their Year of Mercy:
“The parish of St Anthony of Padua, Oxford: Explaining the Catholic faith through the media of film and small informal group discussions using the Sycamore Programme”
After attending the National #Proclaim15 conference that was held in Birmingham last July I was greatly inspired to do something in the way of proclaiming the Word of God for the Year of Mercy in my parish. So I invited one of the Parish Counsellors to the convent and we decided to ask some people from our parish to a few small group sessions using the #Proclaim15 resources. On the last session I showed a clip from one of the Sycamore films as a taster and suggested that it might be something we could do at St Anthony’s. The suggestion was greatly welcomed and as a result we are now currently running three Sycamore Programmes all at the same time.
They take place in three very different settings and with three very different audiences:
The first one takes place in the Parish Hall of St Anthony’s of Padua on a Thursday evening. The attendance so far has been between 30 – 38 parishioners. The feedback from them has been very positive and quite amazing. One parishioner said that ‘It is really community building: I have spoken to people that I have known for years for the first time’. She went on to say that she had seen them at Mass lots of times but never got beyond giving a smile and saying hello. Another parishioner brought along his wife who has not been to Mass for 12 years. She is now attending Mass with him. He is delighted!
The second is held at the Catholic school of St Gregory the Great with two classes of Sixth Formers. It is run as an after school activity as a form of spiritual preparation to a mixed-faith group of teenagers going to Taize in May. The group consists of Catholics, two Muslims, an atheist, plus several non-Catholics. They particularly like the ‘Vox Pop’ interview parts. They also say that it’s good for their ethics classes as they have learnt a few facts that they can argue with.
The third one is run by the women’s prayer group and takes place in the comfort of one of their homes. They say it is very relaxed and the questions give them a sense of direction and keep them focused.
As one of diocesan delegates for Birmingham #Proclaim15 team I have been invited to do a workshop on how to run a ‘Sycamore Programme in Your Parish’ at the Mini Proclaim Day for the Southern Deaneries in Oxford which will take place in the John Paul II Centre, Immaculate Conception Church, Bicester on the 30th April 2016.
English subtitles have been added to the first six Sycamore films. You can click on the [CC] button to activate them online, or follow the links to the dedicated Vimeo subtitled videos to download them. We hope to have the last four films finished in the next couple of weeks.
We are delighted to announce that the English subtitles are just being finished for the ten Sycamore videos. There are many reasons why having English subtitles will be a great help for the programme and for many users:
- Many participants do not have English as a first language, and so having subtitles makes the films easier to follow and understand
- Some of the audio quality is below par, especially in the interviews, and the subtitles will help people to follow the responses without straining to hear
- Some people just like having subtitles to read even if they are following the audio without trouble!
Subtitles will be available in two formats:
- If you watch the normal Vimeo video, there is a blue “[CC]” button in the bottom right-hand corner which allows you to choose the English subtitles. E.g. see FILM 1 here.
- But if you need to download the video with subtitles, then you can choose the special video that has subtitles embedded in the video itself, which will then be downloaded. E.g. see FILM 1 (with CC subtitles) here.
At present (5 Jan) only the first film is available; but the others should be finished in the next couple of weeks.
This comment came from Grace:
Hi, I am writing from India. I really like the concept and videos but my concern is the same as the one mentioned above – about the difficulty of people in some countries to understand the accent. I would really be happy if we could have sub-titles to begin with. I want to use this with a group of young people so do let me know!
She is not the first to ask about subtitles. When we used the films here in London at the University Chaplaincy Centre a few of the international students were saying that subtitles would help. And it’s interesting that whenever the students put on a DVD just for their own entertainment they usually switch the subtitles on because they are coming from so many different backgrounds and it makes it easier to follow even if their English is very good.
What do you think? Will adding subtitles make Sycamore easier to use?
It is good to see people posting about the Sycamore groups they hope to start over the next few weeks. We have copied a couple of responses below to give you a taste of what is happening.
See the Register Your Group page for updates. And if you are even just considering running a group, why not share your information in the comments at this page, or in the Facebook Users Group here.
This is from St John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth
We used Sycamore as the first stage in our RCIA process. We run 12 ‘enquiry sessions’ for anyone who wants to know more about Christ and the Catholic faith. These repeat each term all year round. Each session is just an hour long, with refreshments, followed by the video and discussion. At the end, we finished with a personal testimony of coming to know Christ from someone in the parish.
We found Sycamore to be perfect for our audience. It was non-threatening and helped people relax. By the end of the sessions, they had heard the kerygma and many felt convicted enough to make the decision to become a disciple of Christ and follow him in his Church.
I would definitely recommend it for the first stage of RCIA!
This is from a London school teacher
I will use Sycamore as a secondary RE teacher across the Year groups that I teach from 11 -18, particularly as we look at topics such as ‘Does God exist?’ And other units in philosophy of religion and ultimate questions…. This can be useful in a formal setting such as in Yr 9 when students need to critically evaluate God’s existence as well as in more informal settings in General RE in the sixth form which can be more of a faith sharing experience…also some topics are very useful for explaining ‘Why yet church matters’ … Which can link to many RE schemes of work.
A new USERS AREA has been added to the Sycamore site. This points you to the various ways that you can register your group, give feedback, and get involved in ongoing discussion via the Facebook Users Group. See the main page here; and see the links below copied from the page itself.
- Register your group: For those who are running a group or thinking about starting one
- Facebook Users Group: For those actively involved in running a group, to share ideas and questions with each other via Facebook
- Feedback: To leave feedback and suggestions for the Sycamore team, to help the development of the project
- Discussion Questions: A full list of the questions that are used in each of the Sycamore films, so that group leaders can see what is coming up in each discussion and if necessary prepare supplementary questions to broaden or deepen the discussions
- Prayer Resources: Sample prayers and prayer templates that can be used by the Prayer Teams
We have just set up a SYCAMORE USERS GROUP on Facebook. This group is for anyone involved in running Sycamore in their parish, school, chaplaincy, etc. It is a place to share experiences, ask advice from each other, offer suggestions about how to run the programme effectively, and give feedback to the Sycamore team.
If you are actively involved in running a Sycamore group, or if you are just thinking about how you might use the Sycamore resources, please take a look at the Group here and do join up if you think it might interest you.
There is a danger of setting up too many online presences for any programme, but it does seem that Facebook is a better way of keeping a dynamic conversation going than a static website – even if the website has good comment facilities. So we hope the website will be the main source of information, and the Facebook site will be more like an ongoing conversation for users. Let us know what you think.
The photo is a group from Newman House Catholic Chaplaincy, many of whom were involved in the launch of Sycamore in January 2015.
Sycamore has a new Facebook Page – see here. If you are on Facebook please take a look and LIKE it to help publicise Sycamore.