For 10 days every August, an extensive network of community-builders from the three congregations at Holy Trinity Anglican Church (HTAC) provides next level hospitality to performing artists and their audiences.
A team of 60-80 dedicated volunteers shows its passion and support of the arts community as part of the parish Fringe Festival ministry. This year the HTAC parish - offering three stages, a lemonade stand, tea room, concession and an outdoor play and cheer garden - is home to 16 live theatre and musical productions during the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.
“Most of these shows have received a rating of 4-5 stars,” says the Ven. Chris Pappas, rector of HTAC. “They are funny, life-affirming and bring joy and entertainment to the larger community.” Friendly front-of-house volunteers and staff greet patrons as they line up for shows amidst the beautiful flower gardens along the church’s walkways. The parish’s youth members run a popular lemonade stand from 11 am to 2 pm every day. Who can resist a homemade cookie and refreshing glasses of lemonade even when the sun doesn’t shine?
Families attending the children’s performances each morning have an opportunity to participate in crafts and activities provided by Kompany Theatre in the Play Garden. Later in the day volunteers transform the multi-purpose tent into a Cheer Garden and invite customers to quench their thirst with something stronger.
“It is really a warm and friendly gathering place for community before or after shows,” says Pappas. “People sit and talk and it is a lot less expensive and more welcoming than the Fringe beer tent.”
Guests who are fortunate to have tickets to a show between 1 and 5 pm are met entering the church by the aroma of freshly baked scones wafting up from the Holy Trinity Tea Room.
“We’ve been busy this year, especially on the cold days,” says Tea Room Coordinator Morgain Hollinghurst who busily brews and pours tea for guests alongside longtime volunteer Freda Clemmons. “RJ (Chambers), our front-of-house manager, has been encouraging patrons to come down and warm up with a cup of tea.”
Ruth and Allen Benbow, members of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Edmonton and Fringe volunteers for the past 11 years, took advantage of a break from their own front-of-house duties to sample scones, fruit preserves and clotted cream served on fine china.
“This wonderful ministry has made the church more approachable,” says Ruth.
Fringe Committee Chair Marguerite Trussler says she sees the Fringe ministry’s impact on the surrounding community expressed through the “artists’ creativity and the appreciative response of audiences to their work.”
“One of the biggest challenges we face as a church and faith community is being insular,” says Trussler. “Through the arts we have an opportunity to live our faith out in our community, rather than behind closed doors. An aspect of this ministry I really enjoy is going up and down the line-ups talking to people.”
During the Fringe, Trussler, who serves as Chief Ethics Commissioner for Alberta, is a regular presence at the church after 4 o’clock and on weekends. As a member of the parish since 1974 and the warden responsible for arts ministries, Trussler’s involvement with the Fringe took off four years ago when she helped her daughter’s opera company, Pop Goes the Opera, stage a show at Holy Trinity.
“They do a show every year (this year’s offering is “Gianni Schicchi”) and my daughter (the director) always finds a spot for Fr. Chris,” she says.
In addition to providing audiences with a warm welcome, church volunteers show their support for the theatre community by bringing food which they contribute to a communal food table for cast and crew members.
As if tempting Fringe goers with scones, lemonade and cold beer were not enough, Fr. Chris each year invites the community to a free barbecue at the “Clergy Grill.” On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in the churchyard, Pappas and his team, including Marguerite Trussler who arrived after work to do an interview and a quick check of the grounds; the Rev. Allan Bonertz, honorary assistant priest and Aeneas Pappas, Chris’ son, served free souvlaki arepas with tzatziki and coleslaw to 240 people. In Pappas’ words, the event was “spectacular.”
While the Fringe is a 10-day festival, Holy Trinity remains true to its mission of “Making Christ visible through the arts” throughout the entire year. The parish has an arts administrator and committee. It is home to The Trinity Players, a community-based, amateur theater group. It hosts a Concert Series, ArtSpirit Festival, Open Stage, Script Salon and Trinity Gallery. In addition to providing space for theatre groups, musicians, poets and visual artists, the parish partners with the Edmonton diocese’s outreach youth coordinator Clark Hardy to offer the Trinity Youth Project – an opportunity for young people (ages 15-24) who face challenges to create and sell art.
You can check out the complete Fringe line-up at Holy Trinity and more information about the parish’s arts ministry at http://holytrinity.ab.ca/arts/the-fringe/ .