Au Revoir, Revd Dr Malcolm Guite

The Revd Dr Malcolm Guite in conversation, Lent Term 2020

The Revd Dr Malcolm Guite is stepping down as Chaplain at Girton College. He has been a much-valued colleague for nearly two decades, first as acting Chaplain and then as incumbent Chaplain for 17 years. It is a half-time position, so that as well as being inspired by Malcolm’s ministry, the Fellows, students and staff at Girton have, over two decades, enjoyed the fruits of his myriad writing, poetry, teaching and musical projects.

Tributes to our outgoing Chaplain have poured in over recent weeks. One observation, from a Girton Fellow, sums up the mood: ‘This motorbike-riding, Grateful Dead-quoting, Bob Dylan-singing, Priest, poet and mystic is one in a million

The disruption associated with COIVD-19 has precluded a formal leaving ceremony though, ironically, it has enabled some fragments of a farewell to be captured online. You can, for example, listen to Revd Guite’s last full term of Sunday services on the subject of The Lord’s Prayer here, each offering an opportunity to listen to the Chapel Choir, to Fellows, students and staff reading from scripture and poetry, and to a series of thoughtful sermons. One sermon, uniquely, is much the same from year to year; it is for graduands on the day of General Admission. That service too has been preserved for posterity and is available here.

For a glimpse more broadly of Malcolm Guite’s role within the College, please drop into the GirtOnline Garden Party where you can, in our ‘live at 5pm’ playlist, hear a short tribute from the Mistress. She remarks on how comforting it has been to everyone in College – people of all faiths and of none – to have the Chaplain’s support when times are tough. His wisdom, compassion and kindness, his inclusive, ecumenical use of the Chapel, and his availability to individuals in times of great need, is something that will long be remembered here at Girton. Throughout the ups and downs, those engaging with the Christian faith have enjoyed a lively programme of Chapel activity with a different thought-provoking theme each term, aptly complemented by words and music. An imaginative calendar of activity from candlelit compline, to the rousing advent carol service and a distinctive approach to celebrating the Ascension is all part of Malcolm’s legacy.

Malcolm Guite on Ascension Day

Malcolm Guite on Ascension Day

In the best of times at Girton, Dr Guite has taken an active role in small group teaching, built his reputation as a scholar (with expertise spanning Samuel Taylor Coleridge, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein) and been a leading light of the Poetry Society. He has published 11 books, including four collections of original poetry, and later this year his collection of prize-winning poetry at Girton (co-edited with Grevell Lindop) celebrates ten years of the the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. It is no surprise to learn that one of the reasons for Dr Guite’s slightly-early retirement is to consolidate and build on his world-leading reputation as a poet, and to develop his wider portfolio as a writer and sought-after speaker.

For his part, Malcolm Guite has underlined his gratitude to Girton, as a place and a community that taught him much and allowed him to flourish; ‘to put down roots and bear fruit’. An element of that flourishing that is legendary is Malcolm’s musicianship. His group ‘Mystery Train’ has made numerous guest appearances in College, at the annual ‘Booze, blues and chocolate’ party, at the Mistress’s suppers for students, and of course at the Girton150 Festival event Kaleidoscope (a performance you can pick up here).

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Guite will remain part of the Girton community, having been elected as a Life Fellow of the College. However, here is his ‘Outro’ as Chaplain. This beautiful song, with words and music by Malcolm himself, and based on a passage from the book of Hebrews, is about the possibility, even (perhaps especially) in a place like Girton, of encountering ‘Angels Unawares’.

Published: 7 August 2020