There are ten sessions and ten videos that accompany them. They can be used individually, but Sycamore works best when it is run as a course and people are encouraged to come over a number of weeks. Ideally, all ten sessions should be used, but a shorter course can be designed if that is appropriate.
The key to a successful Sycamore group is hospitality, welcome and genuine friendship; and good food. Yes, the input and the learning are important. But far more important is the experience of being welcomed into a loving environment, where the participants can relax and be themselves, where they can get to know other ordinary people (who happen to have a deep Christian faith), where they can ask questions and share opinions without the fear of being judged, where they can enjoy meeting people for the sake of the individual friendships and the experience of community. And where they can have a great meal together!
Sycamore can be run as a 10 week course, or as an 8 week course with a retreat day (in which case the sessions on Faith and Prayer are used in the retreat day).
The video input is very short – between 15 and 25 minutes. But there are four moments in each video where a discussion question is put on screen, and the video is paused for 5 to 10 minutes of group discussion. So a session can last between 60 and 90 minutes depending on all the variables.
The video input is mainly a talk by Fr Stephen Wang, interspersed with discussion questions and interviews (“vox pops”) with random people answering these questions. The talks are a mixture of stories, anecdotes, Christian history and Christian teaching. This is not a comprehensive catechesis about each topic, but enough to stimulate thought and discussion, and to communicate the very core of Christian thinking about each topic, from a Catholic perspective.
The discussion questions are designed so that anyone can enter into discussion, even if they have no background knowledge of Christianity. The aim is to allow open discussion, and not to make people feel awkward by seeming to test their knowledge. The first question is always a simple icebreaker. The following questions try to go a bit deeper.
Some of the questions work well, and some of them need improving. We have added some supplementary questions onto some of the videos when you hit the PAUSE button for discussion.
For more information about how to run Sycamore, see the links below: