Working the edges (Thomas Brauer)

Thomas BrauerThomas Brauer is working the edges.

I'm involved in a mixed economy church setting in Alberta, Canada, and am working to plant a fresh expression of church called the Project. This is currently based out of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Edmonton.

Two years ago, members of Holy Trinity and I began plotting how we might be of service to the Fringe Theatre Festival – the world's second largest such event. Holy Trinity is located within blocks of the festival grounds and for years the church has served as a venue for Fringe productions.

I made the announcement on a Sunday morning that I would be leading a project to serve the festival, and would welcome as much input and support as possible from the congregation. Together, we discerned who was involved in the festival – we used the language of 'stakeholders'. We knew there were artists (foreign and domestic), festival staff and volunteers, vendors, commercial service providers, neighbourhood residents, and patrons. In all, this was several hundreds of thousands of people (the 2010 Fringe served well over 400,000 patrons, with another 1,400 volunteers, several hundred performers and artists, and several dozen staff, not to mention the 20,000 people who live or work in the festival area).

It was clear that we couldn't serve them all, but it was necessary to now discern the needs of the various stakeholders. Through long discussion, we settled on serving first the artists and patrons that would be coming to Holy Trinity as a venue. We also thought we could manage serving festival patrons who might need a place of rest and peace.

We began plotting how we might be of service to the Fringe Theatre Festival – the world's second largest such event

In the end, we decided we had resources and opportunity enough to offer the artists volunteer support during shows, thereby relieving them of the onerous task of finding their own volunteers for box office and ushering duties. We provided clean and comfortable green-room space for the artists (a green-room is a room for actors to relax in before and after a show), as well as food and drinks for them. And we simply went out of our way to be as welcoming as possible to both artists and patrons.

Over and above show time support, we also offered the Green Room Teahouse where we served tea and fresh scones with clotted cream and jam. In setting up something called Father Tom's Lemonade Stand, we found a wonderful way to meet people in the community. Our third offering was 'solace' – a contemplative arts installation in the nave and chancel of the church which provided a place of rest and peace, and an opportunity to (re)engage with Christian spirituality.

One of the most gratifying results of these activities was seeing how many people made one or more of them a daily part of their life for the ten days of the Fringe. This year, our second year, we saw almost all of last year's visitors return, and they brought friends. We ended up serving over 400 scones in ten days. A lot of work, but well worth it.