Vicar finds a safe space to talk about death and dying at the local pub

The King's Ditch where Rev Vic Van Den Bergh meets with locals once a month to talk about death

Pubs are more often associated with escaping sorrows rather than confronting them head on but a vicar in Tamworth, Staffordshire, is meeting members of the community at his local each month to answer questions about death and dying and offer support where needed.

The 'Dying - in the Ditch' group takes its name from the pub, the King's Ditch, where it meets once a month for discussions around bereavement. 

The meetings are the initiative of Rev Vic Van Den Bergh, resident minister at the town's St Francis church. 

He has a broad ministry in the community, with schools, cadets and veterans' organisations being some of the groups he works with.

He started 'Dying - in the Ditch' two years ago to help people in the area needing support with a bereavement or simply questioning the meaning of life and death. 

Rev Van Den Bergh guides conversations over a pint of beer using the Church of England's Gravetalk conversation cards. 

Gravetalk is a Church of England resource designed to take the edge off what can often be difficult conversations around death with the help of 52 questions covering 5 key areas  - life, death, society, funerals and grief.

One participant said, "There was good beer, good company, good conversation and in the middle of it I dealt with the loss of someone special in something that felt safe and normal!"

At times, the 'Dying - in the Ditch' group has gone beyond a safe place for support and conversation, and Vic has found himself helping with the planning of funerals and connecting with local undertakers. 

The topic may seem gloomy, but Rev Van Den Bergh says the group is helping people to think about death and dying in a gentle - and positive - way.

"The Church needs to go out into the community, our mission is to be where people are and to answer their questions," he said.

The next 'Dying - in the Ditch' meeting takes place at the King's Ditch in Tamworth on May 20.