Sycamore is a 10 session programme, and if possible it is best to use all 10 videos, because one leads to the next, and each builds on the input and discussions from previous weeks. You may, however, need to cut down and just select a limited number of sessions that will work for your group.
If you are using 10 sessions, you can run this as a 10 week course, or as an 8 week course with 2 sessions put into a retreat day: using Film 7 (the gift of faith) and Film 8 (the power of prayer) as the foundation for the day.
The whole programme is designed to be used in this way. It is certainly the ideal. But one reason for not running a retreat day is if you know (from experience) that few will come, and you do not want the main weekly participants to miss these two crucial sessions about faith and prayer.
How to run the retreat day:
- It is not difficult! But it does need clear promoting at the start of the Sycamore programme, so that it is firmly in everyone’s diary.
- It is certainly a big commitment, for both the team and guests to set aside a day, but it is worth it.
- WHICH DAY? It will probably be a Saturday in the second half of the course. The ideal is the Saturday between session 6 and 9. But it does not matter too much if it comes after session 5 or 9 or 10. The order at this stage is not too important, but don’t have it before session 5.
- VENUE? If possible, somewhere different from your normal meeting place: a retreat centre or convent or monastery, or another local parish/chaplaincy/school with an attractive meeting space, and if possible with a church/chapel. The more attractive the better – the beauty of the room itself, the space/garden, the surrounding countryside, the church, etc. Make the venue as accessible as possible in terms of travel. If it is over an hour away probably few people will come or it will reduce the timetable too much.
- TRAVEL: If it is not easily accessible, then do offer travel support from your usual venue.
You can plan the retreat day in whatever way you wish. You should feel completely free about doing whatever you think would help people; whatever people will enjoy the most – based on your time and venue and resources, and how well people know each other by this stage, etc. There is no formula.
The main thing is that you have two videos that you can use to run two ‘normal’ Sycamore sessions within this day. Using these videos gives you a structure and two core elements. You already know how to run the videos and the discussion groups, so everything else is a bonus.
You need to decide: the timetable; how much free time and social time to have; what to do about food (cooked lunch? Packed lunches? Bring and share?); whether to have some time of prayer/silence; what kind of prayer/silence; any other activities or input or sharing etc?
A typical timetable might look like this, but this is just to give you ideas – it is very flexible:
9.30 Team meets to prepare venue, food, IT etc; and to pray together for the day. The dedicated prayer team might be meeting at the same time, at the same venue, or perhaps back at the usual church or venue for Sycamore.
10.30 Informal start time for guests: tea/coffee; name badges
11.00 Welcome from leaders
11.05 Group discussions – introductions, ice breakers, etc
11.15 Session 1 = Film 7, the Gift of Faith
12.30 Lunch + coffee
13.30 Quiet time
14.00 Session 2 = Film 8, the Power of Prayer
15.30 Prayer time
16.00 Wind up and finish and goodbyes
16.15 Team tidy up and de-brief, review, prayer
QUIET TIME: This might be just some free time where you encourage people not to talk, but to have space for themselves. This is much easier if you have a garden, or some countryside to walk in, or a church to sit quietly in. You might have a place with some meditative music. You might have some inspiring and helpful scripture quotations printed onto pieces of paper or card for people to choose and meditate on; or some prayer books; or some candles to light; etc…
PRAYER TIME: This might be some more quite time, or a more formal time together in the church, in a time of gentle led prayer, e.g. some music; two or three inspiring scripture quotations; one of the leaders to go through a short guided meditation from the gospels; or to offer a prayer for the group, and ask people to join in in their hearts if they wish; or to invite people if they wish (without any pressure) to perform an action as a sign of their desire to grow in faith and prayer, e.g. to light a candle at the front of the church; e.g. to write their hopes and intentions on some paper and bring them to the front of the church as a sign of entrusting these to God.
You might, instead, and if there is enough space to make this work, want to have e.g. prayer teams of two people in far corners of the church/space, and invite those who wish to sit with one of the teams, in their own time, and have a moment of prayer together; explaining very clearly beforehand how this will work (that there is no pressure to do or say anything; but that it is simply a chance to ask for spiritual help in any area of life, to ask for prayer, and to have a team pray for you). If this is a Catholic context, with a priest involved, then this priest might be available in a similar way for prayer and conversation in another part of the church.
For more information about how to run Sycamore, see the links below: