God moves in mysterious ways. In the late 1990s, the Rt. Rev. Robert Rowley, then the bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, met with the Rev. Barbara Akin, then the vicar of Church of the Epiphany in Grove City. They were having a discussion about her successor and joking around about who his successor might be. Little did they know that his successor, Barbara’s student intern Sean Rowe, was filing papers in the next room, and that her successor, Geoff Wild, was living in Australia deciding whether he was an atheist or not.
The now Rev. Geoff Wild, a native of Australia, has served as the vicar at Church of the Epiphany in Grove City for seven years and in recent years has also served as the vicar of Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg. However, the road to ordained ministry was not always an easy one.
Fr. Geoff describes growing up with uninvolved parents. As a young person, he drifted and in College he found alcohol. He spent twenty years drinking and using drugs. At one point, his then-wife wanted a divorce and Geoff recognized that he was harming his family. Finally, a friend took him to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and it was there that Geoff realized he was lonely. He got sober but didn’t follow all of the 12 steps, in particular the step about developing a relationship with your higher power. He remained lonely in sobriety. He became mean and miserable and, at times, even suicidal. Six years later, his marriage was over.
Even though he had been raised as an Anglican, he stubbornly refused to develop a relationship with a higher power. And then, as he says, “One night I got found by God in the form of a big white Ford wagon.”
One rainy afternoon, Fr. Geoff was out for a run and got hit by that big white Ford wagon. It put him in the hospital for three days. While he was in the hospital, he looked around him and saw the devastating affects of alcohol and drugs. The person next to him had tried to jump off a building because he thought he could fly. Another person could only talk about drinking beer and a third was drunk and waiting to go back to his homeless shelter. Geoff asked himself, “What is wrong with this picture?” And his answer was: “Me.”
He began in earnest to try and develop a relationship with his higher power. He started following the 11th step in the AA 12 steps, meditation. Around this time he also met Cheryl (now his wife and better half) and, to please her on a trip to the U.S. to visit her, he accompanied her to church. There he found “words that spoke to me.” He continued with his meditation and one day asked God, “Are you there?” To his surprise he received the reply, “Of course I am.” It made all the difference: “That loneliness I had felt all my life didn’t have to be there because God was there.”
Following his conversion, Geoff moved to the U.S. to be with Cheryl and started attending Church of the Epiphany, Grove City. One day Barbara Akin asked Geoff if he wanted to be a priest. He was somewhat taken aback because, when he was young, one of the things he thought about was becoming a priest. He took his time to think, meditate, and pray about it and 18 months later was able to answer yes. That was in 2003 and, in 2008, Barbara Akin’s successor that she had discussed with Bishop Rowley so many years previous was ordained by Bishop Rowley’s successor.
25 years ago, Fr. Geoff only wanted to stop drinking and using drugs. Life hasn’t always been easy for him, but sobriety and a relationship with Jesus Christ gave him far more than he believed he deserved: “Stopping [drinking] was the best decision I made in my life, but it wasn’t enough. It is the relationship with Jesus Christ that has made the difference.”
Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania