A man with pierced ears, a shaved head and is covered in tattoos, is hoping to become a vicar next year.
George Bearwood, a former Satanist, heroin addict and punk musician, is training for the priesthood with the Church in Wales.
The 56-year-old’s image was so different back in the day that even his wife, a vicar herself, admitted she thought he “looked like a serial killer”.
He said his past experiences and appearance made him more approachable for many living on the edge.
George, who found God “after looking in all the wrong places”, hopes to work with prisoners, addicts and the homeless, reports Wales Online.
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The changed man said: “The way I look is useful in many senses. I can talk to people who might be mistrustful, because I am more like them – people with alcohol and drug issues and people on the edges of society.
“I have a lot of friends in the music business and in urban tribes because that’s my background.
“It’s very important if the church is going to appeal to a secular culture. You have to represent the people you want to include."
George was never baptised and left religion behind at the age of 11 when his parents joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
By the age of 13, he was taking drugs and touring with bands two years later while he was still at school.
In the early 1990s he played keyboards and was the second singer for a band called Judda.
Then he also made remixes for musicians including German punk singer Nina Haagen – at the time he was known as Andrew Yoshiro.
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He said: “Punk changed my life because I was destined to go and work in a factory and punk came along and it said you could be anyone you wanted to be.
“I left school at 16 but missed most of years four and five because by that time I was touring with bands in places like Germany.”
For nine years in the 1980s and early 1990s, George worked for the Discovery Channel in the US and it was through the music scene that he met Satanists and joined their cults.
He continued: “I am a former Satanist, for me being a Satanist was more a way of being who you are, it’s selfish but freeing. I got into it through music.
“People get the wrong idea about Satanists and think they hate God and have upside down crosses, but the reality is not that. It is about anarchism and Paganism.
“I was involved with cult religions like 'Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth' and the Church of Satan. I joined when I was 15 but renounced it all when I became an atheist at the age of 30.”
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By the time he turned 30, George stopped abusing drugs after taking heroin for 10 years.
He added: “I had a drink problem and was a heroin addict for 10 years. I first took heroin when I was 15 or 16 and overdosed by mistake when I was 26. That made me rethink my life. I stopped drinking and heroin aged 26. I went cold turkey by myself with the help of friends.
“I carried on taking other drugs like acid, cocaine, speed and ecstasy but stopped altogether at the age of 30 and have been teetotal for 30 years and clean for 26.”
For the next nine years, George worked in the music industry, then one day out of the blue, a voice urged him “go to church”.
Six months later, he was stuck in traffic where he spotted a sign to an Anglican church saying there was an organ recital. He spoke to the vicar and eventually told him he wanted to become a priest.
George started attending church regularly, was baptised and gave up his music industry job to work as a verger.
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Five years later in 2008, he got through the selection process to train as a vicar with the Church in Wales at St Padarn’s in Llandaff but dropped out feeling it wasn’t for him.
Then he returned four years later and was accepted to start again.
Now finishing his training, George also met his wife Rev Alexier Mayes, vicar of St Mark’s and St David’s in Connah’s Quay, on the course.
The couple have been together for 10 years and married in 2018 in front of guests at St Asaph Cathedral.
He concluded: “The church is more open and accepting now of people from different backgrounds.
“It’s very important if they are going to appeal to a secular culture. You have to represent the people you want to include.”
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