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'I'm a vicar by day and barman by night'

by Reuters Journalist

A beer-loving vicar reaches out to his flock by working in a pub and joining locals for a pint of his favourite lager - called HELL.

Reverend Gary Ward splits his time between running All Saints Church and pulling pints down the road at The Crown Inn in Claverley, Shrops.

The 56-year-old works two nights a week at the village local with his pay going towards raising money for new heating and lighting at the church.

After each shift, Rev Ward - who wears his dog collar behind the bar - sits down with locals and enjoys a pint of his favourite lager - a German brew called Hell.

The dad-of-two said: "I’d done some bar work as most of us have some years ago before I was ordained helping me pay for college.

"It was about six or seven years ago the pub down the road was needing a member of staff for New Years’ Eve as they had just lost a member of staff.

"I had a practise with the pumps and they gave me the job and I met loads of people I wouldn’t usually meet.

“The landlord then gave me two regular shifts a week which I just love doing.

"Whenever there’s an act or band on I also help out, I usually do between 5pm - 7pm.”

Rev Ward had a string of jobs before becoming a man of the cloth, including being a prison health worker, and even treating serial killer Fred West when he was in jail.

The vicar is now battling Parkinson’s disease but that hasn’t stopped him leading services and serving thirsty locals.

Rev Ward, who has been vicar in the village for 13 years, added: "I don’t get paid for working in the pub and I don’t want to, it’s part of my ministry.

"The money goes straight into the church's coffers.

“I’m doing it because it’s part of what I’m doing. It’s usually a couple of evenings for an hour or two, or if it gets busy. All I do is stand behind the bar.

"I meet a lot of people who wouldn't normally cross the church threshold.

“After a while chatting with people it moves onto a deeper conversation.

“We haven’t gained loads of extra people to the church, but where it has helped is weddings and christenings. It’s making connections.

"It’s making the church and the village whole, and not separate. It’s together.

"If I say to them ‘you’re always welcome’ it doesn’t make it quite so difficult to step over the doorstep on a Sunday morning.

“More people come have come to services. They’ve met me and aren’t as nervous to step over the doorstep.

"It’s a wide range of people from youngsters to older folk, it’s just having those conversations.

“They might not connect with me, but that doesn’t matter. You leave it up to God."

Rev Ward says his most popular drink he serves is a 4.5 per cent German pale lager aptly named Hell and says the tipple is his favourite drink.

He said: "I often say to people that Hell is genuinely my favourite lager, it was the world’s number one.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic drink.

"I should be on commission for the amount of Hell I sell. People think it’s highly amusing because the vicar drinks Hell. It certainly breaks the ice.

“It means blonde in German, blonde light beer.

“I think working in the pub helps people see that vicars are just normal.

"We drink, some smoke, we enjoy the football. We’re no different other than we think we’re called by God.

"I was a midwife for ten years. I looked after Fred West in prison as a health care prison officer and now I’m a vicar and a barman.”

The Crown Inn's landlord Ken Lavender said: "Gary's brilliant behind the bar. The locals love it when he joins them for a pint of Hell and a chat."

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