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Retreat Speakers

Malcolm Guite

Poet-Priest Malcolm Guite is Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge and teaches at the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He lectures widely in England and North America on Theology and Literature and has published poetry, theology, and literary criticism and has worked as a librettist. His books include: Mariner, a spiritual biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (February 2017), Parable and Paradox (2016), The Singing Bowl (2013), Sounding the Seasons (2012), Theology and the Poetic Imagination (2010) and Faith Hope and Poetry (2006). Malcolm has edited two poetry anthologies for Lent and Advent: The Word in the Wilderness (2014) and Waiting on the Word (2015).

Malcolm has a particular interest in the imagination as a truth-bearing faculty and continues to reflect deeply on how poetry can stimulate and re-awaken our prayer life.

Malcolm enjoys sailing, walking, old books, live music, riding his Harley Davidson motorbike and all the varieties of the British countryside and weather. Malcolm is also part of the rock band Mystery Train, regularly performing gigs at Grantchester, Cambridge and other places around Cambridgeshire.


Dr. Rachel E. Johnson [Chartered Librarian]

Until December 2012 Rachel worked as the Research Librarian at the University of Worcester, UK. The Research Collections at Worcester include a significant collection of nineteenth century children’s literature and contemporary multicultural children’s literature.  researchcollections@worc.ac.uk

Rachel remains Associate Staff with the International Forum for Research into Children’s Literature based at the University of Worcester, UK. Her research is predominantly in the field of nineteenth century children’s literature with a specialism in George MacDonald and G.A. Henty.  Her publication, A Complete identity: The Youthful Hero in the Work of G.A. Henty and George MacDonald deals with the construct of the 19th century western hero.

Having recently moved to Cambridgeshire, and failing to retire as planned, Rachel is now working part time as Assistant Librarian (job-share) at Tyndale House Library, a research library in Cambridge, UK specialising in Biblical Studies http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/, and in her ‘spare’ time, volunteers at Homerton College Library, Cambridge, UK where she is working with a special collection of historical children’s literature.

Involvement with her family, including two young grandchildren, church, and other activities, are ever present delights.

Contact:  wanderinglibrarian56@gmail.com

Margaret A. Coombs MPhil

Margaret and her husband, Martin, a retired Anglican Vicar, live in multi-cultural, multi-faith, East Oxford and attend St Mary & St John Church.  Her son, Daniel, is an artist and art lecturer and her daughter, Anna, is artistic director and founder of an innovatory African and African Caribbean theatre company, serving south west England.

Margaret studied classics at school and sociology at London University. Joining the London Samaritans instilled in her the importance of respecting the humanity of all people, regardless of their problems. This guided her subsequent mental health work.  Qualifying as a psychiatric social worker at the LSE brought a wonderfully varied mental health career in England and overseas. She has also lectured, engaged in research projects and chaired proactive committees. Highlights include action-research as a community care rights adviser, learning from Oxford Survivors and sharing patients’ concerns, as a mental health act commissioner.  Retirement in 2008 and meeting with transatlantic Charlotte Mason enthusiasts inspired her to develop her 1984 post-graduate thesis on Education for Parenthood by the PNEU into her new biography, Charlotte Mason Hidden Heritage and Educational Influence, Lutterworth, 2015.

John Thorley, PhD

John came from the mining and industrial area of South Yorkshire. The secondary school where he went taught a broad curriculum including classical and modern languages, which became a life-long interest for him. He went to Durham University in the north of England, where he studied Greek and Latin. He then taught for ten years before taking posts in Cumbria, first as an Education Officer, then as a School Inspector, then as head of a large secondary and community school in Carlisle, and finally as Principal of Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside. In his last two years at Ambleside the College merged with Lancaster University to become the university’s Faculty of Education, of which John became Dean, while still remaining Principal of the College and Professor of Education.

Since retiring from his full-time post, John has catalogued the Charlotte Mason archive held in the Armitt Library on the College campus. He has also continued his interest in Latin and Greek by teaching Greek and Medieval Latin to post-graduates at Lancaster University and by teaching Greek History at the University of Cumbria. Until recently he taught every summer at an annual conference in Greece on Homeric Studies, run by a European Classical organisation, EUROCLASSICA, of which John was president in 1991-1995. John has published books on Athenian Democracy and Medieval Latin, and articles on Roman History, New Testament Greek, medieval Cumbria, and Charlotte Mason.

John attends his local Anglican church, he rings church bells in the traditional English style, he walks on the hills of Cumbria and elsewhere, and he retains an interest in education, though now mainly at a safe distance.

Deani Van Pelt, PhD

Deani Van Pelt, PhD, a former associate professor of education and Director of Teacher Education at Redeemer University College in Canada, author of many studies in education policy for the Fraser Institute and Cardus, worked for several years with an international team to digitize the Armitt's Charlotte Mason Collection thereby making it accessible to a new generation of scholars and practitioners. She is passionate about good educational design and believes we still have much to learn from Charlotte Mason. 

Kerri Forney

Just like so many others, Kerri Forney was introduced to the life-giving principles of Charlotte Mason through the reading of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake.  She and her husband, Scott, along with their five children (ages ten to twenty) are growing in their ability to live out these principles in Franklin County, NC.  Besides being involved with the Charlotte Mason Institute in various capacities and leading a monthly CM study group for parents in North Raleigh, she and some of the kids regularly enjoy rescuing used, living books wherever they can be found for the purpose of finding new homes for them.

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