Caretaker For The Lord

Caretaker For The Lord


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Most of the trick to a good documentary is a good subject. Here it's a church, St. Luke's and St. Andrew's, or rather the communities it serves and the way that they are served.

Jane McAllister's film is touching, thought-provoking, gentle, but not glossing over what is a difficult time for an ailing institution. The focus is on the church's caretaker, Tommy Hadley, and while mention is made of the minister it's a different congregation that we focus on.

Copy picture

There's soup, for a start, sweeping of floors, mopping, yoga, karate, a ladies' dance class and a line-dancing. This year the Church of Scotland will close 50 churches. Concerns about 'economic viability' are one thing but the opinions of the clergy are cutting.

"We don't like the minister", runs his sermon, though all we see are his hands. He might be right. There are complaints about a lack of engagement, a lack of discussion, a desire on one part to leave as soon as possible. Yet downstairs, mop, brush, soup pot bubbling, there is another community. Some moments are comic, others touching, some heart-breaking - a wall of photographs, and the litany "died, died, in a home, her and her sister died"...

The church is in Glasgow's East End, a short distance from the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, the original home of Dali's Christ Of St John On The Cross, not far from the notorious Barras. Built in 1836, it's an amazing building, but the empty gallery used for storage and the numbers of folk in its halls suggest that even as other congregations have been folded into its own it has ceased to play so vital a role as before. By being in the middle of a community it still retains importance but in a more secular era its nature has changed.

With excellent sound work, a keen eye and, yes, a good subject, this is a lovely piece of documentary. There could be more, more context, but it's a narrowly focused slice of life. It opens with the noises of a door being unlocked, but it closes with the threat of them shutting. Well judged, well made, well done, and commended to you.

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2011
Share this with others on...
A documentary about the community in a neglected Glasgow church and their struggle for survival.
Amazon link

Director: Jane McAllister

Year: 2009

Runtime: 17 minutes

Country: UK

Search database: