The Reverend George William Wood passed away at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 18, 2021. He was accompanied to the threshold of eternity by his five children as they surrounded him with love and prayer. George was 90 years old and had been in home hospice care for a few months. He lived a long and full life.
George was born in West Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on May 24, 1931, to Ethel and Albert Wood. As a 17 year old, he was convinced that God was calling him to preach the Gospel and he enrolled in the College of the Bible in Glen Iris, Victoria, where he completed a four year course of academic study in Bible and Theology. As a student minister, he was appointed to preach at Black Rock Church of Christ where he met Amy Elizabeth Marie “Betty” Bennett. They were married on January 24, 1953. In 1952, at 21 years of age, George was ordained into the Christian Ministry by the Churches of Christ.
While in his mid-20’s and in the early days of his ministry, George made a decision that would shape the course of his life. An outstanding Australian Rules Football player, he had been recruited to play for one of the professional teams in South Australia: the Norwood Football Club. After playing several games on Saturdays to great acclaim (in Australia, a preacher playing league football was newsworthy), limping down the aisle on Sunday mornings (preaching to an overflowing congregation), and suffering signs of severe stress, his doctor said he would have to choose one or the other. It was either the Ministry or Football—but not both. To the benefit of countless lives, he made the choice for which he always believed he had been chosen.
During these years, George and Betty had five children (Philip, 1953; Meredith, 1955; David, 1956; Elizabeth, 1958; Jenny, 1961). He served congregations in South Australia and Western Australia as well as preaching at churches across Australia.
In 1966, George was invited to travel to the United States and Canada as an evangelist with the Billy Graham Association. As a result of that six month around-the-world excursion, he received a call from Central Christian Church in Wichita, Kansas, to serve as an Evangelist at large. In January, 1969, he and Betty, after selling almost everything they had, packed up the rest in seven large crates and, with their five children (and seven suitcases), boarded a ship to sail from Fremantle, Western Australia to New York harbor. At the conclusion of their month long journey by sea, they traveled by plane to their final destination: Wichita, Kansas. After 15 months as a traveling Evangelist, in May, 1970, he was called to be the Senior Minister of Central Christian Church where he served until 1981.
Under his ministry, Central became recognized locally and nationally for its rapid growth and innovative ministry. In a relatively short period of time, the congregation grew from a few hundred to over two thousand members. To accommodate the exponential growth, in the late 1970’s, land was purchased and construction of a new facility began that would move Central’s location from downtown Wichita to its current location on the city’s northeast side.
In the years that followed, George served congregations in Wichita; Oklahoma; South Perth, Western Australia; Denver, Colorado; and rural Kansas. In 2000, he returned to Central Christian Church to serve as the Minister to Seniors. On Sunday, November 21, 2010, after 58 years of ordained ministry, he preached his final sermon, resigned his position at Central and formally retired from pastoral ministry.
In 2012 he suffered a stroke which significantly impaired his mobility—yet he remained strong in body and spirit. In 2018, when living alone was no longer viable, he moved into the home of his eldest daughter, Meredith. It was there that Meredith, along with her husband Eric and their children, cared for him with great love and genuine affection until the day he died.
George loved to ride motorcycles and horses; he played sports (especially football, cricket, and tennis) with great passion and a natural skill; he loved being a pastor, a preacher, and counselor; his sense of humor never left him; his faith remained as strong and true for him in his latter years as it had been in his teenage years when he first felt God’s call upon his life. His love for God and passion for the Gospel remained his deepest source of meaning and life. The words of the Apostle Paul provide a fitting epitaph to George’s life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
George is predeceased by his partner in faith and life, Betty, in 2004. He is survived by his five children Philip (Cathy), Meredith Mork (Eric), David (Jennifer), Elizabeth Chen (Matt), and Jenny Wadley (Dane); his 18 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
A Funeral Service for George will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, September 24 at Central Christian Church (2900 N. Rock Road, Wichita, 67226). A live-stream of the service will be available via the Central Christian Church website: www.ccc.org Following the service, the family will travel to Hillside Cemetery in Sedgwick for a private interment. The family is grateful to the staff of Central Christian Church and the Cozine Memorial Group for their indispensable assistance in making these arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in memory of George to “His Helping Hands” (1441 E 37th St North Wichita, KS 67219). To give online, go to ccc.org/hishelpinghands