Using Prayer Beads

What are prayer beads (and how are they different from the rosary)? And how do you use them as part of a regular prayer practice?  The Rev. Geoff Wild explains in this sixth segment of our series on Personal Prayer:

Stay tuned for part 2 of this video, where Cheryl Wild will demonstrate how prayer beads are made.

Other videos from this series: 
Personal Prayer Part 1 – Developing Your Personal Prayer Practice
Personal Prayer Part 2- Praying with Icons
Personal Prayer Part 3 – Praying the Daily Office
Personal Prayer Part 4 – Walking the Labyrinth
Personal Prayer Part 5 – Centering Prayer

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down!

You are most likely familiar with the children’s rhyme and game “Ring Around the Rosie” with the final line being the title of this article. One would never think this might apply to an Episcopal priest, but stranger things have happened!

On Ash Wednesday, the priest (Fr. Geoffrey Wild) and I were sitting in our allergist’s office waiting for our injections. An elderly friend and his daughter walked in and sat with us. The friend asked me if my husband would be distributing ashes at a service that day, and I told him he would be. The friend said he didn’t know if he could make it out to the church. The priest-husband offered to get the ashes out of the car and impose them in the allergist’s office. The friend then asked if his wife could be given ashes – oh, and, by the way, she was in the emergency room of the hospital in the same building as the allergist’s office. Geoffrey said he would be happy to do so, so we departed and went to the ER to see our friend’s wife.

I work in Mercer, PA, and Geoffrey drove me to work. He then went to a local nursing home to see one of our congregation members and impose ashes for her. She picked up the phone and called the charge nurse to let her know that Geoffrey was there. After he imposed ashes on the lady and her daughter, he turned around to find a line of folks of “all sorts and conditions” waiting to receive ashes, which he then imposed. The charge nurse told Geoffrey that there was a Roman Catholic priest who would appreciate ashes but who was unable to leave his bed. Geoffrey went to the man’s bedside and imposed ashes for the Catholic priest.

Next Geoffrey drove to Foxburg where he imposed ashes in the church there. Quite a bit of snow and ice were around that day, and Geoffrey slipped and fell on the sidewalk that leads from the church to the parish house. He brushed himself off and continued on his way.

His final stop of the day was at Church of the Epiphany where he held a Eucharist with, of course, imposition of ashes. Following the service, he joined my daughter and me for dinner at a local restaurant. As we were finishing the meal, he said to me, “I think I need to go to the ER!” I thought he was most likely in atrial fibrillation again – but no! He thought he had broken his wrist in the Foxburg fall!

We sat in the ER (where Geoffrey had visited our friend’s wife earlier in the day) Following x-rays, we learned that his wrist was severely sprained but not broken. He received pain medication and a wrist wrap, and we were finally on our way home at 11:00 pm. At that point, he was in a great deal of pain. Strangely, he said, the pain did not start until we finished dinner and he had completed his priestly duties for the day! His wrist continues to be black and blue from that fall!

We marveled at how this day unfolded as he traveled from place to place, doing God’s work. We laughed about the big line up of people at the nursing home and the Catholic priest receiving ashes from an Episcopal priest. Most of all, we thanked God for the many opportunities he gives us for ministry. Geoffrey will forever remember this day, a day when “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” became very real for him.

Cheryl Wild attends both Epiphany in Grove City and Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg, where her husband, Geoffrey, serves as vicar. She is also a member of the diocese’s Commission on Ministry.

A Wild Ride

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 Fr GeoffChurch 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